The Pentagon and Propaganda

“WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two years after shutting what critics called a deceptive propaganda office, the Pentagon (newsweb sites) is embroiled in a new high-level debate over how to polish the fading U.S. image abroad, defense officials said on Monday.

The discussion, also involving the White House and State Department, has been sparked by increasing violence and deaths in Iraq (newsweb sites), the war on terrorism and a perception in much of the Muslim world that America is the enemy.

Pentagon officials said military commanders were concerned about blurring the lines between using misinformation to fool an enemy and providing accurate information to a U.S. and worldwide audience.

“The lines must always be what people focus on because they are not always clear,” chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita told Reuters. “There is a bright line of distinction between the age-old art of military deception and transmitting accurate information to the public in a timely manner.”

I am not so sure how I feel about this. On the one hand I think that it is important to be able to look ‘beneath’ the covers and have some transparency in the actions. But the reality is that there are lives at stake and the adversaries capable of watching CNN to see what is going on so that they can prepare for it.

“Other officials confirmed a New York Times report that some of the proposals of a now-defunct Pentagon office were being resurrected elsewhere in the Defense Department.

In February 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon had closed its Office of Strategic Influence, which critics had labeled a propaganda effort that could spread lies around the world under the premise of misleading U.S. enemies.

The office was secretly created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as part of a broader mission by the U.S. government to influence public opinion in the Islamic world.”

PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS

An October incident illustrated how traditional military public affairs operations can be mixed in with “psychological operations” intended to manipulate an enemy.

Three weeks ahead of the Marine-led offensive in Falluja, a Marine Corps spokesman, 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert, went on CNN to make an announcement suggesting the all-out assault had begun.

U.S. officials said Gilbert’s televised remarks were intended to fool rebels in Falluja into believing the offensive had begun in order to scout how they would defend themselves in a city that at the time was a sanctuary for the insurgency.

A military official, who asked not to be named, said the ploy may have “gained some tactical-level advantage” for Marines on the ground, but asked: “In the big strategic picture, what was the cost” to U.S. military credibility?

This official advocated “clearly defined lanes” between military public affairs operations, whose comments reach a broad U.S. and world audience, and information operations and psychological operations aimed at manipulating an enemy.

One defense official confirmed that Rumsfeld signed a secret order late last year called “Information Operations Roadmap,” a 74-page classified directive that the Times quoted officials as calling “a plan to advance the goal of information operations as a core military competency.”

“There’s a lot of interagency discussion on whether we need new institutions, or to revive old ones,” Di Rita said. He mentioned the Voice of America, the United States Information Agency, Radio Free Europe and other Cold War efforts.

Gen. George Casey, top U.S. commander in Iraq, last summer combined his public affairs operations with psychological and information operations into a unified strategic communications office.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, is concerned U.S. goals in Iraq and counter-terrorism could be undermined if people doubt the veracity of statements by military spokesmen and commanders, officials said.

Myers sent a memo on Sept. 27 spelling out his concerns to Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines chiefs and commanders worldwide about intertwining public affairs operations and information operations.

“PA (public affairs) and IO (information operations) activities directly support military objectives, counter adversary disinformation and deter enemy actions. Although both PA and IO conduct planning, message development and media analysis, the efforts differ with respect to audience, scope and intent, and must remain separate,” Myers wrote.”

There is a real need as well of working on the Muslim world to change their perception of US actions and acitivies. But I am not real optimistic about this. These are the same autocratic regimes that refuse to consider democratic reform because of the status of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

As previously stated I find that position to be ridiculous. You don’t stop trying to cure cancer because there is no cure for AIDS.

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