Information Warfare: September 23, 2004

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American troops in Iraq have some unlikely weapons, courtesy of the local customs One useful local custom  is the Iraqi tendency to believe in what we would call Urban Myths. The first one U.S. troops encountered was the widespread Iraqi belief that bulky American armored vests actually contained an air conditioning unit, otherwise how could the Americans deal with the sizzling heat of Summertime Iraq? The real secret was lots of liquids and, in many cases, special undershirts that rapidly removed sweat. Another favorite Iraqi myth was that sunglasses, which nearly every American soldier appeared to wear, were special equipment that allowed U.S. troops to see through clothing. A variation on this one was the belief that the thermal imaging equipment found in M-1 tanks and M-2 infantry vehicles, could see through walls, as well as darkness. Actually, the United States does have some sensors in the works that can see through walls, but they are not regular issue yet (although some may have been sent to Iraq for a try out.)

The Iraqis never seemed to run out of these myths. Another one had it that American armored vehicles, which appeared invulnerable to RPG rockets, were actually protected by an electrical field that detonated the warheads prematurely. This myth was apparently widely held, as captured RPG rockets were sometimes found to have electrical tape placed on the front of the rocket. This was supposed to defeat the American electrical armor. On further investigation, some Iraqis said that this bit of battlefield wisdom was obtained from Palestinians, who had picked it up while fighting the Israelis. 

American troops can sometimes use these myths to their benefit. Threatening armed Iraqis with fanciful, and nonexistent, weapons can sometimes result in a surrender, instead of another firefight. Such exploitation of enemy beliefs is an ancient tactics.

 


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