Captain Jeffrey Poole, the Marine Public Affairs Officer, sends the Belmont Club this explanation of Information Operations:
Marine Corps Doctrine defines the goal of Information Operations as to ‘influence a target audience’ while the goal of Public Affairs is to ‘inform a target audience’. When people hear the term IO they think of some sinister manipulation of the truth; however, the 2nd Marine Division’s IO campaign is designed to distribute information local Iraqis need to know such as rules for approaching a checkpoint, what sets you need to take when approach by a convoy or patrol, also basic news. As Bill Roggio pointed out when he went on an IO patrol with an Army PsyOps team, they were busy posting handbills of where the polling sites for the elections would be located.
Public Affairs, on the other hand is strictly information designed to educate a target audience. All my press releases conform to the Associated Press Style Guide for journalists. These rule don’t allow for editorializing, deceit, or lies of omission or commission. Phrases such, “huge weapons cache discovered”, “operation will deal a huge blow to the insurgency” will not be found in our releases. Nor will any demonizing of insurgents or terrorists.
The Courier Journal of Louisville, Kentucky describes lays out it misgivings about relationship between the military and the media from one correspondent's point of view. What follows is excerpted.
Just the process of working on that story has revealed many things to me about my own country. I'd like to share some of them with you:
- Lesson One: Many journalists in Iraq could not, or would not, check their nationality or their own perspective at the door.
- Lesson Two: Our behavior as journalists has taught us very little. Just as in the lead up to the war in Iraq, questioning our government's decisions and claims and what it seeks to achieve is criticized as unpatriotic.
- Lesson Three: To seek to understand and represent to an American audience the reasons behind the Iraqi opposition is practically treasonous. ... "Dexter Filkins, who writes for The New York Times, related a conversation he had in Iraq with an American military commander just before we left. Dexter and the commander had gotten quite friendly, meeting up sporadically for a beer and a chat. Towards the end of one of their conversations, Dexter declined an invitation for the next day by explaining that he'd lined up a meeting with a "resistance guy." The commander's face went stony cold and he said, "We have a position on that." For Dexter the message was clear. He cancelled the appointment."
- Lesson Four: The gatekeepers -- by which I mean the editors, publishers and business sides of the media -- don't want their paper or their outlet to reveal that compelling narrative of why anyone would oppose the presence of American troops on their soil.
- Lesson Five: What it's like to be afraid of your own country. ... "Once the story was finished and set to come out on the street, I was rushing back to the States -- mostly because we could no longer work once the story was published -- and I found I was scared returning to my own country. And that was an amazingly strange and awful feeling to have. Again, you could call me paranoid, but the questions about what might happen to me once in America -- where at least I would have more rights -- kept racing through my brain."
The imperative was to tell all sides to the story, including the enemy's.
Implicit in the model of Western warfare is that the warrior should never seek to persuade. That job has been assigned to the diplomats and civilians -- including the press. The most subversive thing imaginable is a military as good with words as it is with guns. That division of labor has been coextensive with the origins of uniformed armies. As old as the distinction between men in uniform and franc tireurs. Men under discipline might be allowed the occasional inarticulate "hoo-ah" but politics was to be left to civilians. But in the second half of the 20th century a strange thing happened. The neat division between uniformed and un-uniformed combatants collapsed; and the firewall between man-at-arms and man of letters disappeared. For example, the man who conceived the screenplay of the Battle of Algiers was Saadi Yacef, himself was a combatant in the Algerian War. The Village Voice has this interview with him.
It's been almost 50 years since Saadi Yacef, revolutionary hero of the Algerian war of independence, leapt across the terraces of the Casbah in Algiers, fleeing from French forces. (Later, he'd play a character very close to himself in the legendary film he co-produced, The Battle of Algiers, which was based upon his memoirs.)
He got to star in his own play. The Western warrior was only allowed to die upon his shield. There was in the enemy camp no distinction between the uniformed combatant and civilian, no line between the word and the deed; and they considered this a natural state of affairs. For the journalist at the Courier Journal there was the conviction, sincerely held, that a hard wall should separate the men who kill and the men who convince; between the profession of journalism and that of arms. And so Dexter Filkins had no problem with the unnamed American military commander until that commander had the temerity to stray into territory that was Filkins' and Filkins' alone. "We have a position on that", the commander said. And the problem of course, was that the commander should have no position on that, whatever the cost in lives, whatever the consequences.
The problem was less acute when as in the past Hollywood and the newspapers could be relied upon to fight the information war. Bugs Bunny made fun of Hitler. Humphrey Bogart outwitted Major Strasser. Gary Cooper played Cloak and Dagger. But when journalism decided that convincing the enemy was not their department; that their function was more akin to providing check and balance they left a huge hole in the US military's capabilities, which all of a sudden found the enemy had abilities (think Al Jazeera) in an information-critical world it could not match; and whose members, since they wanted to live, keenly felt the need to redress. For example, they wanted to counter the idea that it was a holy thing to blow up women and children; wanted to promote the notion that democracy was a good in and of itself. They wanted to 'influence a target audience' not simply in Iraq, but throughout the world. In a world where the military was not allowed to use its full force they sought to compensate with the power of words. And that proved the most forbidden act of all.
If there is any evil greater than war itself it must surely be to make war without meaning it; to recruit allies without intending to stand by them; to send men into battle without purposing victory; to embark on campaign of arms that we ourselves do not believe in; and to kill in preference to persuasion. But maybe there's a greater. One writer at Slate argued that a worse danger is the conceit that any message is worth persuading others to believe. "The notion of evil has become profoundly maladaptive. Today, saying our enemy is 'evil' is like saying a preventable tragedy is 'God's will': It's a way of letting ourselves off the hook for crimes committed in our name. Not incidentally, it's also a way for our enemies to let themselves off the hook." They don't need to be let off the hook; they were never on it.