Controlling Information in Iraq, or Controlling Information About Iraq

GWU’s National Security Archive compiles a lot of information as it becomes public and makes it available online. Sometimes you have to wait quite a while -decades – before information becomes declassified, sometimes stuff is available quickly.

They just released the following:

In January 2003 Defense Department planners recommended the creation of a “Rapid Reaction Media Team” to serve as a bridge between Iraq’s formerly state-controlled news outlets and an “Iraqi Free Media” network, according to a White Paper and PowerPoint slides that were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and are posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive.

The Pentagon team would portray a “new Iraq” offering hope of a prosperous and democratic future, which would serve as a model for the Middle East. American, British, and Iraqi media experts would be hand-picked to provide “approved USG information” for the Iraqi public, while an ensuing “strategic information campaign” would be part of a “likely 1-2 years . . . transition” to a representative government. A new weekly Iraqi newspaper would feature “Hollywood” along with the news.

Defense Department planners envisioned a post-invasion Iraq where the U.S., in cooperation with a friendly Baghdad government, could monopolize information dissemination. They did not account for independent media outlets, the Internet, and all the other alternative sources of information that are available in the modern world. The U.S. media campaign has not been able to control the message – but its execution was privatized, and contracting has made it a profitable enterprise for those able to capitalize on the Pentagon’s largesse.

Information warfare is nothing new. But like many other things, it seems to me that this administration has, in practice,done things a bit differently than they have been done in the past, at least in the US.

Consider… for the past few years, despite obvious evidence to the contrary, the administration kept insisting that all was well in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the MSM bought into it. (The MSM is still pretty convinced that things are going well in Afghanistan.) But who was this intended to fool? The Iraqis? By June of last year, how many Iraqis could possibly have failed to notice the condition that Iraq was in. But there were still a lot of Americans that still hadn’t accepted reality, and there’s still a core 30% that apparently still won’t.

Put another way… this information strategy has targeted Americans, not Iraqis. And for a long time, it worked very well.

I wonder how Arabs felt in 1967 when they discovered that not only were they not “pushing the Jews into the sea”, their armies were actually losing.