Information Warfare: Phony War


May 22, 2007: The U.S. Justice Department recently indicted an anti-war activist who claimed he was a soldier who had participated in atrocities during the liberation of Iraq. In this case, the anti-war activist not only had been making phony claims about massacres, he also is accused of defrauding the government out of over $10,000 in veterans benefits. It is yet another example of the aftermath of a phony claim not getting the reports those lurid initial claims of massacres got.

There have been several major claims of massacres. The most notable was the 2002 Battle of Jenin against Israel. After the battle, the Palestinian Authority claimed a massacre had occurred. The mainstream media and human rights groups quickly echoed their claims. However, further investigations showed that not only had the body count been exaggerated, but that most of those confirmed killed were, in fact, terrorists and not civilians.

Claims of a massacre at Haditha in 2005 have also become much more murkier. Testimony from an intelligence officer and a liaison officer indicated that at least eight of the 24 killed in Haditha were insurgents. The initial Haditha investigations uncovered some apparent discrepancies in the Marines' stories, and a criminal investigation by NCIS was launched. This, and claims from human rights groups in the media, led to some criminal charges being filed earlier this year. Currently, the Haditha matter is being addressed through the military justice system. Contrary to earlier claims by an anti-war Congressman, there has been no cover-up.

Phony claims of massacres have not been the only false claims aimed at the U.S. military. Al-Qaeda terrorists that have been captured are instructed, in their training manuals, to immediately and loudly claim torture. This tends to draw the attention of human-rights groups - and they tend to lobby politicians. The media also tends to jump not only on the torture claims, but also other lurid claims, like guards at Guantanamo Bay flushing a Koran down the toilet. The Koran-flushing story triggered riots in which people were killed and injured. In virtually every case, the claims turned out to have no relation to the facts.

Phony claims by anti-war activists - including phony claims of military service - are not new. Several members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War were found to have never served in Vietnam. That said, these groups tend to get a pass from a media that is sympathetic to their agenda. Much of the outing of these phonies, and the placement of torture claims in context comes from bloggers.

Fighting false accusations from terrorists that get repeated by the media, human rights groups, and politicians is important, yet it proves to be difficult. Not only do these claims tend to undermine morale among the troops, they also have to deal with increased recruiting by terrorists, who often cite the claims from Western media and anti-war activists of massacres and torture. This allows the terrorists to train a new generation - a generation out to avenge atrocities that never happened. - Harold C. Hutchison (




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