August 27, 2014
Reflecting on Rumsfeld
Posted on Oct 17, 2006
By Stan Goff
The current quagmire was not Rumsfeld’s original plan, in any case, so his doctrine, developed in advance of the failed occupation, is now a stranded foreign body enveloped in a phagocyte. His network-centric doctrine was conceptualized as the combination of pinpoint application of death-from-above technology, based on intelligence that is called a “product,” and commando actions that emphasize quick strikes, based on surprise, speed and violence of action to minimize their exposure. It all sounds good on paper, but the anthropological reality is different.
U.S. forces, even the hardest of the hard core, cannot long sustain operations abroad without a huge logistical tail. At bottom, they are products of a pampered and pasteurized society, and they are very fragile. You can put all the muscles you want on a U.S. soldier, and a local E. coli will bring him crashing down like a tall tree. Bottled water only for these guys. This is a contradiction of imperial warfare, a kind of reverse social Darwinism that is seldom discussed or fully understood in its ramifications.
Four to five days is the maximum that U.S. troops can stay in the field without bringing in helicopters or ground cargo transportation and exposing the choppers, the trucks and their own positions. This, in turn, means they must have bases for logistics and stand-downs between missions. So the most agile forces available to the U.S. will in short order always bring with them a massive, expensive and well-appointed fixed installation (subject then to sustained surveillance as a potential target).
With the exception of highly choreographed, high-publicity operations (carefully planned to ensure “maximum force protection”) and essential sustainment operations (resupply convoys, e.g.), U.S. forces in Iraq (and more frequently now, Afghanistan) are already kept largely behind the installations’ concertina wire. Conventional troops have bunkered down into progressively hardened positions as glorified guards with rising divorce rates and diminishing morale.
Square, Site wide
The management of American perceptions of the war has been an uphill battle for the administration. The whole process has been a repeating cycle of raising expectations, having them shattered, the redefining the war. With each cycle, the credibility of the administration has been further battered.
That is why the administration tried to hide the photographs of flag-draped coffins. That is why the administration covered up the cases of military fratricide (friendly fire deaths). That is why the administration buried the dozens of reports of rape committed by American soldiers against other American soldiers. That is why the Abu Ghraib scandal struck as hard as it did. That is why killers like Marine 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano and the perpetrators of Haditha are exonerated or investigated until they fall out of the public memory.
In October 2003, Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo was the commander of the 2nd Battalion/503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, stationed in Iraqi Kurdistan, when hometown newspapers across the United States received 500 identical letters to the editor. All the letters were from Caraccilo’s unit. Each letter was signed with a name from his battalion. Some members of the battalion were not available, so their signatures were forged.
The letter, in addition to giving sundry descriptions of New Eden, said: “After nearly five months here, the people still come running from their homes, into the 110 degrees heat, waving to us as our troops drive by on daily patrols of the city…. There is very little trash in the streets, many more people in the markets and shops and children have returned to school…. This is all evidence, that the work we are doing is bettering the lives of Kirkuk’s citizens.”
This Caraccilo letter swarm was conducted, coincidentally, at the same time the Bush administration had launched a massive publicity counteroffensive against critics of the war.
CIA Director George Tenet had just been forced to march into Congress and commit professional seppuku over the Niger uranium story, which had hit the floor and splattered into 16 embarrassingly malodorous words.
Caraccilo did as Tenet had done, and took the rap to protect the king. Bad judgment on my part, he explained, but I just wanted to “share that pride with people back home.”
As part of his confession, he preempted felony charges by stating no one was forced to sign the letter (before the question was even asked).
The press was even more accommodating than usual, taking down this lame story like a raw oyster. For more than a day, few bothered to ask, “How curious it is that this ‘letter campaign’ coincided with the PR counteroffensive of the National Command Authority?”
Rumsfeld had openly declared his intention to manage public perception, and even attempted to develop a perception management agency, the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI).
On Feb. 19, 2002, more than a year before the American military entered its Iraqi quagmire, The New York Times ran a story about the OSI. The purpose of said office was “developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations ... to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries.”
Amid the publicity about this publicity management organization, the OSI was killed.
Rumsfeld, in a fit of arrogant pique at reporters in November of the same year, railed at them:
By 2003, the Pentagon propaganda program had been repackaged, and a secret 74-page directive emanated from Rumsfeld’s office, now struggling with the catastrophic cascade developing in Iraq, where key advisors had assured the administration a year earlier of the “cake walk.” That directive was the “Information Operations Roadmap” (IOR). Using the almost painfully dissociative wordsmithing of good military bureaucrats, IOR was described thus:
IOR was neither new nor innovative. Rumsfeld and one of his sycophants merely renamed what had been going on for some time, even before Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld’s new “doctrine” was just one more part of the Rumsfeldian “revolution.”
Perception management is about killing empathy, and replacing it with some cultural entertainment convention. Our society has been trained to want to be entertained, and entertainment is the highest form of happiness. It costs a lot of money to entertain us, and it costs a lot of money to snuff out our empathy.
Perception management programs are extremely well planned and employ an army of public relations experts and professional spin-masters. That is why they are hugely expensive.
Just as Rumsfeld has hired more than 20,000 private mercenaries to fill in the gaps in Iraq and to conduct activities that escape congressional oversight, the Bush administration (like the Clinton administration before it) has hired private contractors whose sole purpose in life is to reconstruct the war in Southwest Asia as a story—using story conventions with which the American public is familiar and comfortable—that resonates emotionally and mythically.
The Rendon Group has been around through both the Clinton and Bush II administrations. It is not the only PR outfit feeding at the public trough for the purpose of shoveling bullshit at the very public who signs its checks, but Rendon is emblematic. Rendon stage-managed much of the run-up to the current quagmire in Iraq. The company was largely responsible for the organization of the Iraqi quisling regime that was originally intended to take power—dubbed by the Rendon Group the “Iraqi National Congress,” complete with the changed regime head and convicted embezzler Ahmed Chalabi.
Said one unnamed State Department official in a moment of anonymous candor, “Were it not for Rendon, the Chalabi group wouldn’t even be on the map.”
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