Sunday, June 08, 2008

The other side's "message force multipliers"

In what should be a worrying sign for anyone looking for evidence of preparation for covert military operations against Iran, the Pentagon's Central Command (in charge of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) has revealed that it is part of a government Task Force for Irregular Warfare (news story, transcript) --

[BRIGADIER GENERAL ROBERT HOLMES] Regionally, we look at influences of extreme actors that are malign, that would provide from within their borders, exporting either violence or activities that would be disruptive to their neighbors. And clearly, you know, in my mind, Iran fits that bill. And now this is not to say that as a military person that I'm stepping out of my lane into a political lane, to say that it's state-sponsored. But I will not do that.

What I will say is, is that in the battlespace, if you see malign actors, and it's clearly marked with Iranian influence in terms of tactics, techniques, procedures, equipment, training manuals and such as that; if you find bad stuff in the wrong places, then you've got to call it like you see it. And we clearly continue to see that and continue to watch that.

Apparently the tactics of these malign actors include disputing US claims about civilian casualties --

Taking a very serious look at civilian casualties, over the last year, we've seen an adversarial information operation or communications tactic with regard to civilian casualties. We saw it at the use of the Taliban in Afghanistan. And now I've seen, in my mind, this began to emerge in Iraq, as we see a challenge of a very insular discrepancy in what we see in open-source reporting, with regard to civilian casualties, and then what is actually in our operational reporting ... In some cases, they are called media emirs or they're called media facilitators. And these folks know -- I mean, they are savvy to manipulating media. We know that. And we also know that they're connected to stringers, they're connected to Internet blog sites

So if stringers or bloggers are the source of information about civilian casualties that differs from what the Pentagon provides, the former might be part of an enemy "information operation". On a day when an Afghan reporter working for the BBC was shot dead, it can't help to know that challenging the official version of events might put one under extra scrutiny from more people with guns. In fact, the threat extends more widely than just the sources of the pesky reporting --

The media outlets that our adversaries has used that we would see them network may not necessarily be as upright or as -- let me see if I can choose the right word -- as steadfast in the principles of journalistic truth.

This is all within the tradition of the incessant White House complaints about al-Jazeera, one of the many questions for a post-Bush inquiry to sort out is whether al-Jazeera was deliberately targeted by US forces as a result of such talk. But anyway, the purpose of the task force is to get malign actors out of the battlespace. Doesn't the GWOT imply that the "battlespace" is the whole world?

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