Thursday, April 28, 2005


PSYOPS - defence related propaganda and the Iraqi war

I would bet that most of us wouldn’t think that a bombing was a psychological tool in warfare. We see it as a very simplistic thing, where there is a supposed military target and once it is either destroyed or captured, it is under control of the forces that have done the bombardment. Well, according to the Rand Organization, a non-profit group that is an offshoot from Douglas Aircraft, it’s all part of the big picture and important to correctly manoeuvre it. In case you are wondering, this is what Rand does:

“RAND's research agenda has always been shaped by the priorities of the nation. With roots in the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union, the early defense-related agenda evolved — in concert with the nation's attention — to encompass such diverse subject areas as space; economic, social, and political affairs overseas; and the direct role of government in social and economic problem-solving at home.

Today, RAND's work continues to reflect and inform the American agenda. While one part of RAND works to define the emerging epidemic of
obesity among Americans, another has just detailed future directions of the military aircraft industry. While one division analyzes the problem of substance abuse among high school students, another develops simple steps that individuals can take to protect themselves from the harmful effects of potential terrorist attacks.”

“Integrate Psychological Operations (PSYOP) with Strategic Air Attacks. To maximize the psychological effects of air operations against strategic targets, such operations must be closely integrated with a supporting PSYOP campaign. The thematic content of the PSYOP leaflets and broadcasts should directly or indirectly reinforce the psychological message or messages that the bombing is attempting to convey. This will require close coordination between the Air Force officers planning and conducting the air campaign, and the Army personnel who will be mostly responsible for the design and dissemination of the PSYOP messages.

In past conflicts, such close integration has sometimes been lacking, in that both the content and the dissemination of PSYOP messages have failed to support adequately the psychological objectives of the strategic bombing operations.”

But, just what IS PSYOP? In the extremely interesting article Mind Games by Lt. Col. Steven Collins, found on the NATO site, we learn this:

“Perception management includes all actions used to influence the attitudes and objective reasoning of foreign audiences and consists of Public Diplomacy, Psychological Operations (PSYOPS), Public Information, Deception and Covert Action. Of special interest in the case of Operation Iraqi Freedom are public diplomacy, the deliberate attempt to persuade foreign audiences of the content and wisdom of one's policies, intentions and actions, and PSYOPS, the use of activities, predominantly media, to influence and persuade foreign audiences.”

“While public diplomacy at the strategic level generated mixed results at best, the employment of PSYOPS within Iraq at the military operational and tactical level was more successful. The use of mass media like radio, leaflets, and targeted media like e-mails against key decision-makers, and loudspeakers during ground operations, seems to have had an important impact.

More than 40 million leaflets were dropped on Iraq before the first attack on 20 March, and another 40 million plus were dropped during the campaign. Some leaflets threatened to destroy any military formation that stood and fought, while others encouraged the Iraqi populace and military to ignore the directives of the Baath Party leadership. In retrospect, they did seem to have the effect intended.”

“During the conduct of the military campaign, the Coalition attempted favourably to shape the world-wide perception of the conflict by a variety of measures, including that of "embedding" reporters with military units scheduled to deploy. Although initially controversial, the decision to embed was, in retrospect, a brilliant move for several reasons. First, reporters who wanted to be embedded were forced to undergo a mandatory mini-boot camp, which gave many their first appreciation of the challenges faced by the average soldier. Second, embedding created an inevitable bond between reporters and the units they covered. And third, embedding made sense because it ensured the safety of the reporters and gave the world its first "real-time coverage" of a battlefield. Because of the fluid nature of Iraqi Freedom, many more reporters would likely have been killed and captured had they been allowed to roam the battlefield freely.”

The very, very interesting site Psywarrior has a section on the Iraqi war and the PSYOP campaign, complete with photos of the most popular leaflets. Here are a few examples of the text, (to see the images, you should visit their site, a treasure chest of information):

“Coalition forces support the people of Iraq in their desire to remove Saddam and his regime. The Coalition wishes no harm to the innocent Iraqi civilians.”

IZD-070 pictures an oil refinery with a father and child at the upper left. The text is “The oil industry is your livelihood! Your family depends on your livelihood.” The back of the leaflet depicts and Iraqi family looking at a burning oil refinery. The text is “If the oil industry is destroyed, your livelihood will be RUINED! Help to prevent the sabotage of the Iraqi oil industry! Your family depends on it!”

"The noble people of Iraq are not the target of Coalition military operations! The target of Coalition military operations is the ruthless regime!" The back shows four photos of happy Iraqi children at the left. Text at the right is "Do not interfere with Coalition forces. Stay in your homes. Coalition forces will establish a curfew for your protection. Stay tuned to information radio for updates."

"The Coalition does not wish to destroy your landmarks." On the left side, Coalition aircraft attack two Iraqi tanks on the road. The text is "The Coalition will destroy any viable military targets." Text on the back is "Coalition forces do not wish to harm the noble people of Iraq. To insure your safety, avoid area occupied by military personnel."

This is one I particularly adore:

“Coalition Forces respect and abide by the Geneva Convention. We will not tolerate mistreatment of prisoners of war or civilians.”


Australian handout IZL-006 depicts Coalition armor, helicopters, and vehicles on the front. The text is:
Coalition forces are here. Coalition forces will outnumber you. Leave now. You cannot win.

The back depicts a dead Iraqi at top and a destroyed building at bottom. Text on the back is:
Leave this area now. You do not have the capability to fight Coalition forces. If you resist, you will die.

On 15 June Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Ayers, Commander of the 9th PSYOP Battalion was quoted as saying:
The Army’s Psychological Operations force in Iraq is the largest in U.S. history. There are eleven PSYOP companies and almost 1000 PSYOP personnel in the country or in support roles in the United States.

Radio and loudspeakers are other tools. An interesting note:

“The Associated Press reported on April 23 that U.S. troops were blasting AC/DC’s "Hell's Bells" and other rock music full volume from a huge speaker, hoping to grate on the nerves of enemy gunmen.

Unable to advance farther into the city, an Army psychological operations team attached to the Marine battalion here sends out messages from a loudspeaker mounted on a Humvee. Among the selections blasted was Jimi Hendrix.

They've also used the loudspeaker to shout insults at the enemy in Arabic, including "You shoot like a goatherd," in an effort to provoke them into attacking. Other messages included taunts like, "May all the ambulances in Fallujah have enough fuel to pick up the bodies of the mujahadeen." The message was timed for an attack moments later by an AC-130 gunship that pounded targets in the city.

When the firing stopped, they played sound effects of babies crying, men screaming, a symphony of cats and barking dogs and piercing screeches.”

And that is only the PSYOP used to influence the Iraqis.. in a further post, the PSYOP used on those of us who are outside the arena.


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