Friday, April 13, 2007

The Psy Young Award Goes To...

Swopa caught a curious little bit of real time revisionism from today's news wire [emph. his]:

An insurgent umbrella group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq claimed Friday one of its "knights" carried out the parliament suicide bombing in Baghdad's Green Zone, and the U.S. military revised the death toll sharply downward to one dead.

. . . In a statement Friday morning, the U.S. military said "after further research and consultation with government of Iraq officials" it had determined that only one "civilian" had been killed in the attack [and not 8] and 22 were wounded.

Now that's some impressive use of the ol' abacus. Maybe the revised number is accurate. Let's hope so, since that would mean fewer tragic outcomes.

This "good news" revelation does seem awfully suspicious though. The US military, and the Iraqi government officials that they "consulted" with, each have an interest in downplaying the scope of the attack. The media attention has been intense due to the spectacular nature of the strike which took place in the Green Zone, reaching what is supposed to be the safest, most secure part of Iraq. With such a rapt audience focusing on the vulnerability of the Green Zone (with all the inherent symbolic value), the Iraqi government officials and their US counterparts might just be seeking to minimize the damage for their respective domestic audiences.

It's classic PR, with a political angle. And it's nothing new, really. The art of deception and the management of information has been a part of warfare and statecraft since there were wars and states, respectively. As we all know - or should know - the US military is no different, even if its not the most flagrant abuser of the truth in this regard either.

Nevertheless, military officials will deliberately lie during times of war (and sometimes peace) with some frequency as part of discrete psy-ops missions, and to win the "information" war more generally speaking. Which says nothing of other motivations for duplicity such as pressure from civilian leadership to affect political will and to facilitate certain unrelated strategic objectives.

Here is yet one more of the countless other recent examples - this from the same Mark Bowden article that I cited earlier in the week. Watch the clever two-step by General Caldwell as he revises some of the less flattering details surrounding the air strike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:

Caldwell initially said that a child was killed in the bombing, but altered his statement the next day to say that no children had been killed. In the Compound, pictures from the blast site showed two dead children, both under age 5. [emph. mine]

So his earlier admission of one child fatality was later revised to none, when in fact there were two. Got that?

Still, what amazes me given this seemingly obvious state of affairs is the number of people that claim that we should, by default, trust military sources. If Caldwell said it, it must be true. Each time and all at once. This blanket trust, it is argued, should be applied even with respect to strident claims of "certainty" when the underlying conclusions are based on dubious intelligence regarding things like the supply of "EFPs" and the training of Iraqi insurgents by the Iranian government.

Next week, another shocking revelation: Politicians and national leaders also sometimes lie. I know, I know. You doubt me now, but I'm putting together a brief.

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