Saturday, October 02, 2004

MISREPS and Propaganda

Jdwill did some great research and brought up a very important point in a comment on my last post. Go read it before you read the rest of this. The quotes that jdwill found scattered throughout those media outlets are what we call "misreps and propaganda." We track them closely and our public affairs officials do what they can to control them. However, the job is a difficult one. Most of the reporting is done by journalists who are holed up in a cushy hotel somewhere in the "green zone." They all have multiple "info gatherers" who work for them. These "info gatherers" are local nationals who run to the scenes of explosions and gunfire, and use satellite phones to call in the breaking news. While at the scene, they'll interview people and bring the scoop back to the reporters. Typically, one "info gatherer" will emerge with a soundbite of choice. It may or may not be an actual soundbite, but most journalists will use it because it's sure to drum up controversy and increase sales/profits. So the news you're getting is filtered through a local national (who may have easily been a Saddam loyalist or had an uncle killed by US forces during Desert Storm or OIF), and then again through a profit-seeking news reporter who MOST LIKELY writes with an anti-war and/or anti-American slant (I say "most likely" because most of them just do). Some news outlets are worse than others. Al Jazeera was deemed to be an actual combat asset for the insurgency and was therefore kicked out of Iraq. Believe me, it hasn't stopped them from reporting numerous accounts of US forces killing babies, women, and elderly. Misreps and propaganda.

The news you get from me comes straight from the SIGACTS pages of our secure website. There are some things I can divulge from these pages and some things I can't, but I've never seen anything that comes even close to the anti-American spin that makes it into those papers. Of those 100+ enemy killed, there were few (if any) events that resulted in more than 9 enemy deaths at a time. This makes it very easy for our forces on the ground to call in an accurate report. For instance, MANY events from that day's fighting looked something like this (not a real SIGACT):

2/14 CAV PATROL engaged NW of city hall building w/ SA/RPG Fire. Minor damage to M2. 1 x CF WIA / 6 x EKIA / 5 x AIF DET / 3 x NEU KIA /6 x NEU INJ

Translation: a patrol of Bradley Fighting Vehicles was making it's way to or from the city hall building when it was attacked by at least 11 bad guys with small arms (SA) and RPGs. 1 US soldier was hurt (Coalition Force Wounded in Action- CF WIA), one Bradley (M2) received minor damage, 6 of the attackers were killed (Enemy Killed in Action- EKIA), 5 of the attackers were captured (Anti Iraq Forces detained- AIF DET), 3 innocent bystanders (neutrals- NEU) were killed, and 6 bystanders were injured . Three things I would deduce from a report like this:

1) There were probably more than 11 attackers, but some or most of them fled (got away).

2) Most (if not all) of the detainees were injured and needed immediate medical assistance. Our guys do a great job of getting them to a hospital right away. Once at the hospital, the doctors will treat them while telling a nearby "information gatherer" that it's not "immediately clear" if these new patients are "insurgents." That's probably because insurgents look a lot like civilians. They don't wear uniforms, they carry no Geneva Convention forms of ID, and they make every effort to look as much like "regular people" as possible. Of course they feel no sense of responsibility when nearby civilians get hurt or killed.

3) The bystanders who were killed and injured were probably hit by a stray enemy RPG round or sporadic enemy gunfire. Of course there's a small chance that it was erroneous ammo from US forces, but that's usually not the case. Unfortunately, most of those tragic deaths are blamed on us in the local papers. In fact, it's darn near ALWAYS a result of insurgents using human shields or just firing about in every direction. It's the world's most cowardly way to fight- "I'm going to shoot you, but if you shoot me back, you're likely to hit this child as well. Or I just might blow my grenade while surrounded by a huge crowd of people, including my grandfather." Their media (often quoted by respected international media outlets) chooses to ignore this tactic, and instead places the blame squarely on our soldiers. Could you imagine if our forces used a similar tactic? If our soldiers went around fighting with a "baby in a harness" on their chests? The outrage would ring throughout the world. Yet, this is essentially what the insurgents are doing and they get a pass.

So that's the world we live in, and our guys in Iraq are doing everything they can to change it...

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