Information Warfare: Using Lies For Ammunition in Pakistan


October 28, 2005: There's a vicious Information War taking place in northern Pakistan, as Islamic terrorists try to undo the damage done to their image by all the Western aid pouring into the earthquake ravaged region. The Pakistani Army has apparently done a poor job of coordinating relief efforts following the October 8th earthquake, and many remote areas have received little or no government assistance, though many NGOs have managed to provide some aid. This is fueling anti-government sentiment, but apparently not playing into the hands of the various Islamist groups who have been holding out in these areas. Although the radicals have actually issued calls for the local people to reject aid from non-Moslems, the destitute inhabitants are happy to receive anything they can, regardless of its origin.

Local opinions of the U.S. have been favorably influenced by American relief efforts. Although the area is religiously very conservative, with strong Islamist sympathies, many people reporters spoke with expressed positive comments about the U.S., including a willingness to consider the possibility that American intentions in the Middle East are not anti-Moslem. This is an extremely important development, as the U.S. has not been doing well in the "Info Ops" side of the war.

Naturally, some of the people interviewed expressed very hostile opinions, ranging from the belief that the U.S. was using relief flights to cover the establishment of secret bases on Pakistani soil, to a conviction that relief supplies are tainted with "un-Islamic substances" (i.e., pork). The charge that the U.S. is seeking secret bases is often made by anti-Americans, and not just in the Middle East. On the other hand, the charge that the U.S. is trying to taint relief supplies with unclean substances is unique to the Moslem world, and often repeated in Islamist propaganda. While the charge is untrue, the Islamists can point to "evidence" that suggests the opposite.

U.S. relief supplies in the past occasionally were inappropriate for Moslems - and, indeed, persons of some other religions as well. For example, MREs often contain pork, prohibited to Moslems and Jews, or, beef, forbidden to Hindus. As a result, there's been a tendency for MREs procured for use in humanitarian relief are increasingly vegetarian. Even then, care has to be taken to insure that no seasonings or additive contain "unclean" substances (in this regard, it's worth recalling the uproar in India some years ago when it was revealed that McDonald's French fries were processed with a seasoning derived from beef). In addition, the Islamists are able to quote wild statements made by some American extremists urging the U.S. to do things like spray Moslem villages with pork fat as part of the war effort. While statements like this get little circulation in the U.S., they provide valuable ammunition for the Islamists.

In an effort to counter the favorable impressions being created by earthquake relief aid being delivered by the U.S. and other "infidel" nations, Islamist radicals have undertaken a major propaganda effort. In recent days rumors and "news stories" throughout Pakistan and in some other parts of the Moslem world have been charging that in the guise of delivering relief assistance, women and children are being kidnapped by human traffickers for sexual exploitation, their body parts, or adoption by non-Moslems. This follows charges by Al-Qaeda leaders that the U.S. and other infidels are blocking relief efforts by Moslems, a thinly disguised attempt to cover up the fact that most Moslem countries have not been overly generous.


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