The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan
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Dirty Little Secrets
The Information War Against the Iraqi Leadership
by James Dunnigan
November 17, 2002
Although no one in the Department of Defense has announced it, for the past year or so, a clever Information War has been waged against the Iraqi military. There are many parts of this campaign that are visible. For example;
- There have been an ongoing series of military exercises held in Kuwait. There's a lot of traffic between Iraq and Kuwait. Not all of this is legal, but the travelers talk, and the stories of the Americans troops getting ready spread to the Iraqi army.
- Earlier this year, the U.S. government casually asked for bids from NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) for contracts to provide humanitarian services in central Iraq. For years, such contracts were given out for northern Iraq. That's the Kurdish area that has been kept free of Iraqi troops and secret police by American and British airpower, and the Turkish army. Seeing America lining up NGOs to pass out food and medicine in Baghdad sends a chilling message to the current rulers of Iraq.
- In early November, president Bush declared that "there would be consequences" for Iraqi generals that committed war crimes. There followed a flurry of news articles on war crimes trials for Iraqi generals who used chemical or biological weapons or used Iraqi civilians as shields (Iraqi anti-aircraft weapons are regularly placed in residential areas to make it harder for American bombers to destroy them without causing civilian casualties.
- The United States announced that it was going to provide military training for 5,000 Iraqi exiles. Many of these men already had such training in the Iraqi army, but this new program was to familiarize these anti-Saddam Iraqis with how the American military operates, so the exiles could provide translation and liaison support for invading American troops.
- America is also training Iraqi exiles in the techniques of running a government, and dealing with the unique conditions of post-Saddam Iraq (corruption, remnants of the secret police, tribal animosities.) This was only revealed recently.
- U.S. Army Special Forces have been training for this sort of thing since the late 1940s and are preparing to deal with setting up government in an area "with a large Arab speaking population.) But about a third of Iraq's population doesn’t speak Arabic, and the Special Forces have been working with the non-Arab Kurds of northern Iraq for over a decade. This has been known by the Iraqis for almost as long.
- The United States has continued to work with Iraqi exile groups to form a consensus on what form the post-Saddam government would take.
- American diplomats have worked with officials in Arab states to get the message across to Iraqi generals that "the Yankees are really coming to Baghdad this time" and that perhaps it's time to consider where your loyalties really lie.
- The CIA and Department of Defense are working with hundreds of Iraqi defectors to collect the phone and fax numbers of senior officials in the Iraqi government. This contact list would allow quick communication with a large number of key Iraqi government and military leaders if an invasion was undertaken. Nothing like the personal touch. Unfortunately, the fact that this word of this program got out will probably lead to Saddam ordering all those phone numbers changed, and then changed again. But knowledge of the program also sends another message to Saddam and his cronies that they have yet another reason to be nervous.
The purpose of this Information War campaign is to weaken support for Saddam among his key subordinates. There has always been a lot of debilitating paranoia in Saddam's inner circle, and making this situation worse will not make the Iraqi military any more effective if war comes. Moreover, this tactic is an ancient one, that has worked many times in the past. It worked recently in Afghanistan, and there's no reason why it won't work in Iraq as well.