Information Warfare: Deception Campaign Crushed

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September 20, 2007: In what can only be described as a further collapse of the claims that Marines carried out a massacre at Haditha, the company commander of the Marines involved in the firefight has had charges against him dropped. These charges centered around an alleged failure to follow up on the reports of the firefight in which civilians and insurgents were killed. In essence, an attempted media offensive by insurgents has not only fallen apart, it holds the potential to discredit those in the anti-war movement who latched on to those claims.

Like the Battle of Jenin in 2002, Haditha was a firefight where civilians were caught between terrorists and troops engaging them. The goal was, if defeated in the actual battle, to make the public relations aftermath so messy that the public would demand retribution against the United States. The attempt to make Jenin such a case backfired when investigations showed that more terrorists than civilians died. Haditha was a little different for two reasons: One, more civilians than terrorists died, and two, the terrorists got lucky because some discrepancies (arguably due to the fog of war) were seized upon by the media.

That said, upon a closer review, the claims of a massacre (and a cover-up) have gone nowhere. If anything, the only thing that has been determined was a mishandled aftermath that left enough room for the phony claims to require an investigation. But in pushing the investigation, and trying to use it to advance an anti-war agenda, some politicians and the terrorists were banking on at least a court-martial. With the dismissals, that is not likely to happen, and at least one politician who has echoed claims of a massacre was recently confronted over that in a video that is making the rounds among the blogosphere.

Still, the terrorists have not emerged empty-handed. The claims of the massacre were trumpeted, and that will aid recruiting for a while. At least one foreign press outlet still refers to Haditha as a massacre, which will still lessen the sting of the dismissals. As such, a larger talent pool for future attacks is likely.

However, the U.S. military will be learning its lessons from this media battle. Lessons learned will be passed along, down to the smallest units. That will make it much harder for future phony claims of massacres to stick. In essence, one can really only try to exploit an incident like this once - and the fact that this media offensive is failing will make it harder to use it in the future. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 

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