Wow, thanks to the Department of Defense, we no longer have to worry about such pesky issues as the facts on the ground or that perpetually irritating thing I like to call the truth. No, no, no. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that any longer.
The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The documents state that the U.S. campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners. U.S. authorities claim some success with that effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists.
For the past two years, U.S. military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicize Zarqawi’s role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the "U.S. Home Audience" as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign.
Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi’s role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign, which has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings and at least one leak to an American journalist. Although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents in Iraq have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers," Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and then was one of the top officers handling Iraq intelligence issues on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an Army meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., last summer.
In a transcript of the meeting, Harvey said, "Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will — made him more important than he really is, in some ways."
"The long-term threat is not Zarqawi or religious extremists, but these former regime types and their friends," said Harvey, who did not return phone calls seeking comment on his remarks.
What’s a little government-pushed propaganda among friends, eh? The fact that what they were pushing was not true, and they knew it, but still hoped to get the media here in the United States to push the themes — which they did — by using surrogate media outlets in Iraq to feed video and other information — well, we oughtn’t ask too many questions about that, right? Because our servicepeople and their families, let alone the American public, ought not be able to make decisions based on the truth of how things are going, now should they? (For some backstory on this, I covered some previous bits on psyops propaganda plants here.)