Psychological Warfare

Laura Rozen has an excellent post on recent reports that the Pentagon has been paying millions of dollars to plant pro-American stories in the Iraqi press, along with even more reports that psychological warfare specialists are influencing international journalists. And, says, Laura, there’s more to come. It’s an outrage, to be sure, and possibly illegal, but hardly unexpected. For some context here, it’s worth revisiting James Bamford’s Rolling Stone piece on this very subject:

By law, the Bush administration is expressly prohibited from disseminating government propaganda at home. But in an age of global communications, there is nothing to stop it from planting a phony pro-war story overseas — knowing with certainty that it will reach American citizens almost instantly. A recent congressional report suggests that the Pentagon may be relying on “covert psychological operations affecting audiences within friendly nations.” In a “secret amendment” to Pentagon policy, the report warns, “psyops funds might be used to publish stories favorable to American policies, or hire outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize rallies in support of administration policies.”

The report also concludes that military planners are shifting away from the Cold War view that power comes from superior weapons systems. Instead, the Pentagon now believes that “combat power can be enhanced by communications networks and technologies that control access to, and directly manipulate, information. As a result, information itself is now both a tool and a target of warfare.”

Bamford notes that this sort of thing has been going on for a very long time—the Rendon group, hired by the Pentagon, worked to influence the press both during the invasion of Panama, and as part of its push to “sell” the first Gulf War to the American public—and that it’s definitely official policy. His piece is very much worth a read.