Land Minds

Weaponry isn't the only military component that has gotten more sophisticated in Iraq

Moral or otherwise, there is considerable question as to whether U.S. or Coalition-operated radio and television stations -- two key elements of PsyOps -- are actually working.

"To the extent that the Americans think they can control the informational environment, they're wrong," says Marc Lynch, assistant professor of political science at Williams College in Massachusetts. "Arab audiences are pretty sophisticated at decoding media messages. They lived with Saddam for 30 years and learned how to decode propaganda. I'm not sure American media strategy has taken that into account as well as it should have."

Sinan Antoon, assistant professor of Arabic literature at Dartmouth University, is a native Iraqi who lived there until 1991. This past July Antoon returned to Baghdad to shoot a documentary film in an attempt to provide Americans with a realistic portrait of everyday Iraqi life and perspectives.

Sergeant Cherie Bone (foreground) recently returned from a year on the front lines of Psychological Operations.
Jennifer Silverberg
Sergeant Cherie Bone (foreground) recently returned from a year on the front lines of Psychological Operations.
On loan to the U.S. Army, Superman and Wonder Woman warn Central Americans about the danger of land mines.
On loan to the U.S. Army, Superman and Wonder Woman warn Central Americans about the danger of land mines.

"We were promised by warmongers that all Iraqis would come out with sweets for the U.S. Army, and they didn't," says Antoon. "They were behind [U.S.] sanctions for thirteen years, which really destroyed the country."

Sergeant Hubbard disputes Antoon's assertion that U.S. sanctions are solely responsible for the rationing and infrastructure shortcomings that have fueled Iraqis' bitterness toward American and Coalition forces.

"That all predated Desert Storm by generations and generations," claims Hubbard.

Counters Antoon: "That's not true -- I lived there. Things were nice and dandy between Iraq and the U.S. in the '80s. I remember seeing Donald Rumsfeld on TV shaking hands with Saddam Hussein when he was Reagan's emissary. Yes, in the '80s there were some pressures because of war in Iran, but we did not starve. Before 1990, Iraq had one of the best healthcare systems in the world. But in '91 the whole infrastructure was destroyed. Because of sanctions, we couldn't rebuild it. Sanctions not only hurt the people, they strengthened Saddam."

As for the effectiveness of marketing missions carried out by Bone and her fellow PsyOps soldiers, Antoon is skeptical.

"What is creating negative feelings toward the U.S. in the Middle East are policies," says Antoon. "You don't sell it like a commodity, you have to change the policies. The U.S. has been an ally of Saudi Arabia -- a dictatorship -- for 50 years. So when people are told the U.S. is coming to support democracy, they don't buy it. Leaflets and radio programs are not going to do anything."

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