The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan
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Dirty Little Secrets
Saddam's Information Weapons
by James Dunnigan
March 21, 2003
Saddam Hussien has long known that his most powerful weapon in controlling the Iraqi people, influencing other Arab and Moslem governments and fighting foreign enemies, is the messages he puts out via the mass media. The Iraqi media is state controlled, and staffed by people who know how messages travel through Arab, Moslem and Western media. He has used his carefully crafted messages to portray himself as a champion of oppressed Arabs and the man capable of standing up against the Western infidels who would try and conquer the Arabs and oppress Moslems. To Westerners, this is all nonsense. It was the West that liberated the Arabs from centuries of Turkish domination and developed the oil fields that have improved the lives of so many Arabs. But that shows you how powerful media manipulation can be. Saddam says what he knows will play his way to Arab ears and eyes. He makes the most of America's relationship with Israel and invents grievances where he can't find real ones.
Now that Iraq is invaded, Saddam's media weapon is the only potent one he has. Militarily, all Saddam can really depend on is his Special Republican Guard. This unit, about 15,000 troops, are his bodyguards and control key weapons (missiles and artillery rockets, as well as chemical warheads for them.) As more Iraqi soldiers desert, it becomes clear that most Iraqi troops are not willing to die for Saddam. This includes many in the regular Republican Guard. Most Iraqis want Saddam gone. But there are thousands of Saddam loyalists who have been so seduced by Saddam's bombastic messages that they will fight to the death for him. These will be Saddam's information warriors until the end.
At this point, the best Saddam can hope for is to delay the invaders long enough, and cause enough Iraqi civilian casualties, to create a public opinion storm that would get the Americans to withdraw. This is highly unlikely. So Saddam's plan B is to use this fight to the death as a way to make him an Arab warrior and martyr of historic significance. Saddam can ugly up the fighting a lot. Parking military vehicles and weapons in residential areas (or oil field facilities) dares the US to bomb them. We have said we would. And dropped millions of leaflets letting Iraqis know this, in addition to ongoing radio broadcasts.
Chemical weapons are also an Information Weapon, without even being used. Just the possibility of Iraqi use of chemical weapons keep coalition troops responding to numerous chemical alerts. The same with long range missiles, especially SCUDs that could hit Israel or any other country that supports the invading coalition.
One of the principal targets for the initial coalition attack, as it was in 1991, will be the Iraqi electronic mass media. Once this is gone, the information weapon begins to turn against Saddam. The United States has already been running its own radio broadcasts into Iraq. The other major target is the Iraqi telephone system and known military radio transmitters that are used to stay in touch with the Iraqi military and secret police. The more numerous radio equipment with Iraqi military units and headquarters can be jammed. By making it difficult for Saddam to communicate with his commanders, it is more difficult for these commanders to be intimidated by Saddam. At this point, Saddam's decades of propaganda and media manipulation work against him. Commanders unhappy with Saddam, and there are many, are now easier to talk into surrendering. Media manipulation is a two edged sword, lies and threats eventually backfire. While many Arabs and Moslems will continue to believe in Saddam as a hero, once Iraqis are free to talk about the horrors his rule inflicted on them, the imposing façade will crumble. Tyranny cannot survive truth.