Information Warfare: June 27, 2005


An interesting battle, over words and meanings, is going on in Iraq. It's a contest, between the United States and terrorists over convincing the Iraqi people who is responsible for the many terrorist attacks. Now, normally, youd think the answer is obvious; the terrorists are responsible. Its not so simple in the Middle East. Conspiracy theories, blame shifting and unwillingness to take responsibility are all local quirks that produce some odd, to Westerners, results. 

Take the terrorist attacks in Iraq. Many Iraqis blame the Americans. The reasoning goes as follows. Since the United States came in and removed Saddam and his police state, which previously prevented terrorist attacks by terrorizing the entire population, the United States is now responsible for preventing terrorist attacks. According to this line of reasoning, the Iraqi police and Iraqi people are not responsible, because they are just poor dumb Arabs, while the Americans are possessed of superior technology and skills, and should be able to use some magic, mojo, or whatever, to make the terrorists go away. 

Of course, if you come out and call the Iraqis poor dumb Arabs, and incapable of defending themselves, they will rather harshly deny the charge. But if you bring up the terrorists, well, then Iraqis will start talking about how the terrorists do have a point, as they are trying to drive foreign invaders out of an Arab country. If youre confused by now, so are most Iraqis. The terrorists would like to see the Americans blamed, for ultimately causing the terrorism, or not being able to stop it. The United States wants Iraqis to acknowledge that the Sunni Arab and foreign terrorists are at fault, and that the Kurds and Shia Arabs should  go after these thugs. In reality, that is what is happening. While hanging out at the coffee shop, Iraqi cops might blame everything on the Americans, but on the job, they go after the terrorists, with guns blazing, and fire in their eyes. 

The United States psychological warfare (PsyWar) people have gotten better dealing with the twisted logic found in Iraq. Its not that American PsyWar operators were not familiar with this situation before 2003, they were. Its just that dealing with it at the same level as hostile Iraqi, and other Arab, propagandists, takes some practice. Thus the information given out, by Americans, in Iraq, in Arabic, sounds rather other-worldly to Western ears. But it works to get more Iraqis to pay attention to whos actually behind the terrorist mayhem, and not the imaginary magical powers American troops are supposed to have.


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