November 22, 2004
Netwar: The first battlesBy Douglas Hanson
Never before did a wartime President, in the heat of a hard—fought re—election campaign, have to contend with such a massive and unbalanced onslaught of negative press coverage as George W. Bush. The media treatment was not only slanted to the left, but much of it was plainly propaganda designed to call into question our leadership team's ability to govern the country in a time of crises. The legacy media may have thought they were merely playing hardball politics in order to get their guy into the White House. But the downright deception and the deliberate withholding of important information from the American people tested the boundaries of legitimate journalism.
David Brooks documented in the New York Times what many had already suspected: that the CIA was involved in a campaign of pre—meditated press 'leaks' in order to affect the American people's perception of the Iraq War, weakening support for carrying—through to victory, and placing GW's eventual successful re—election bid in doubt. Senator John McCain spared no sensitivities when he labeled this the behavior of a 'rogue organization.'
Sabotage from his own intelligence apparatus made GW's re—election struggle into a battle in the War on Terror. His ultimate mandate placed President Bush in a position of strength to fight the internal war with some of the very agencies that are sworn to protect and defend the country, but who instead have chosen to oppose the President politically. Therefore, stories such as the Abu Ghraib prison abuses, GW's Texas Air National Guard service, and even stories on the Iraq War itself, must be placed in the larger context of an information war (IW) to fully appreciate how some of the most pivotal battles in the war were fought and won right on the home front.
A recent unclassified study by the Army's Intelligence and Security Command predicted, in a conceptual sense, what we have witnessed in the information war during the political campaign. In concert with the guerilla war in Iraq against Coalition forces, the leadership of global Islamofascism has executed a well thought—out IW campaign, since they realize that the armed forces of Western civilization cannot be defeated on the battlefield. In fact, their physical losses in Iraq over the last 18 months have necessitated a huge 'investment in propaganda operations.' In this regard, they have adopted the same campaign playbook as our North Vietnamese adversaries over 30 years ago.
Al Qaeda (AQ) understands well the concepts of information warfare (IW). They not only want to achieve information dominance, but also understand that Psychological Operations (PSYOPs) are a critical part of IW, so that they can influence the target population's emotions and objective reasoning. But IW is normally waged within the confines of the theater of war and consists of targeting the enemy's command and control apparatus and attempting to influence his soldiers involved in the fight. The new IW is different.
If AQ wants to target a civilian population beyond its normal area of influence, that is, outside of the Middle East and Central Asia, it must establish its own network of groups who share in AQ's goals and objectives, and capitalize on the efforts of independent actors whose own goals and activities also unwittingly serve AQ's ends. Simply put, AQ understands and practices Netwar, which according to the Army Intelligence and Security Command study is,
Information—related conflict at a grand level between nations or societies. It means trying to disrupt or damage what a target population knows or thinks it knows about itself and the world around it. A Netwar may focus on public or elite opinion, or both [emphasis mine]. It may involve diplomacy, propaganda and psychological campaigns, political and cultural subversion, deception of or interference with local media, infiltration of computer networks and databases, and efforts to promote dissident or opposition movements across computer networks.
The Netwar battlefield is not confined to the internet, it involves using the entire array of communication and information infrastructure of 'open societies' to achieve victory over the US and the Coalition. Misdirection is a key tactic. Understand that the Islamofascists have, in fact, chosen Iraq as the key physical battlefield for the global jihad. This is why they have staked their Netwar campaign on operations to portray Operation Iraqi Freedom as a 'distraction' from the War on Terror. We are hurting them badly, and they want the American left, the EU, the UN, and other actors of the so—called international community to make it stop. To this end, some of their key operational concepts include:
In the words of the Arnold Schwarzenegger character in the movie Predator: This is pretty sophisticated for a bunch of half—assed mountain boys.*
The media's bias, the withholding of information, and their occasional use of blatant disinformation was almost certainly the result of their personal and political animus toward George Bush. But its effect was to aid and abet AQ's IW battles against the US and the Coalition. AQ, in other words, exploited the natural contentiousness of a democratic society, put on steroids this year by the blind anger and ethical carelessness of the hate—driven leftists in the American media power structure.
The most obvious success of Al Qaeda's Netwar is that it sowed seeds of doubt in the American public's mind about the coordination between terror elements of Saddam's former regime in Iraq and AQ's support of terror operations against Coalition forces. We were told daily of the increasing popular "insurgency,' even as evidence mounted telling us that Abu Zarqawi had taken up residence in Fallujah, and that the 'militia' in Najaf was actually composed of street thugs and criminals, many released by Saddam just prior to the war, and not the everyday man protecting his beloved Muslim shrines.
It didn't help matters that prior to the recent Coalition offensives in the Sunni Triangle, all of the major wire services and other major US media had withdrawn their brand—name embedded reporters from Coalition units, and relied instead on correspondents with Arab surnames. Apparently, the major combat operation to seize Iraq in 2003 was important to cover, but for reasons unknown, reporting on the so—called 'insurgency' and Iraqi reconstruction was relegated to the local second stringers.
However, we have already seen the first return IW shots fired, not only by the new media and the bloggers in the US, but also from our own service members stationed in Iraq. As the Soldiers and Marines returned to the States, or increasingly started blogs online, the American public slowly but surely began to understand the real situation in the country. Also, more Americans were going directly to US military websites to get a better idea of ground truth in the War on Terror.
Then the battle shifted to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. In this case, the US Soldier's technological sophistication was exploited by a few service members who used digital media to satisfy their perverse desires, and then ended up providing AQ's propaganda machine with material to further isolate the US public from their civilian and military leadership. Coincidentally, the expertise to conduct disinformation operations of this nature resides with the intelligence units and Other Government Agencies (OGA) who were themselves eventually implicated in 'setting the stage' for the prisoner abuse.
The target of this disinformation was SecDef Rumsfeld, and his supposed enactment of policies that institutionalized a standard operating procedure leading to prisoner abuse. As the left—leaning members of Congress geared up to oust the SecDef, the bloggers and the new media injected a healthy dose of common sense and a wealth of military experience into the fray. Naturally, GW stood firm and refused to allow the press, some retired officers, and the enemy to dictate Rumsfeld's career path.
By the time John Kerry reported for duty at the Democratic National Convention, most people who remembered anything at all about the war in Southeast Asia wanted to put Vietnam behind them But not John Kerry; and certainly not the enemy IW operators, anxious for the American public to liken Iraq with Vietnam, as a bloody cause that would end in ignominious failure.
To attempt to draw a contrast with Kerry's purported heroism, the left resurrected the old accusation that GW somehow had received preferential treatment getting into the Texas Air National Guard, and had then not performed the required duties to achieve an honorable discharge. Neglecting the stark reality that John Kerry had not signed his Form 180 to release all of his records, these new accusations were hypocritically based upon phony documents which were quickly deconstructed by document experts and historians in the blogosphere. Thanks to our Net Warriors, the Rathergate phony document fiasco was revealed as an obvious piece of disinformation propaganda, foisted on the American people to depict the President as a 'draft dodger' in the hopes that we would turn our back on the Commander—in—Chief. Another IW attack was thwarted.
The same can be said for the phony missing explosives story. Not only was this last minute attempt rendered useless by the desire of CBS News and the New York Times to out—scoop each other, ruining the last minute timing planned by CBS, experts in the blogosphere were joined by US Soldiers who were on the scene at Al Qaqaa to thoroughly debunk the assertions of the legacy media, thanks to the extra few days the New York Times' premature scoop of CBS allowed them. In addition, the American people were further reminded that the memo describing security lapses at the bunker complex was conveniently 'leaked' by a UN agency that has worked at cross—purposes against the US for years by turning a blind eye to the rogue nations developing WMD.
Which brings us to the last days before the election, and the election itself. By now the left was getting frantic. An average of polling data just before the election was showing a Bush victory, and the new video of Osama Bin Laden, promising peace and prosperity to Blue states and death and destruction to Red states, certainly didn't help matters for the Democrats. If one listened closely to some of bin Laden's words, a reasonable person might ask if he were parroting the talking points of the DNC. Clearly, this was bin Laden's last ditch attempt at PSYOPs on the American electorate. Most Americans thankfully took it as a challenge, and concluded that we were not going to be dissuaded from our decision by threats. John Kerry, after thinking about it for more than a week following his defeat, blamed the bin Laden tape for his loss.
On the day of the election, the left, according to Dick Morris, deliberately sabotaged the exit poll methodology and results in order to suppress the Republican vote. In the early afternoon, these polls were predicting a Kerry blow—out, when all previous polls had predicted a very close race. Morris makes a case in The Hill that only confirms what anyone with a dash of common sense already knew, considering that all the errors were in one direction only. The exit polls were not the result of honest mistakes, but were a deliberate attempt to suppress Republican voter turnout and to boost the hopes of the Democrat Party faithful. If there is a better example of Psychological Operations (PSYOPs) in recent history, I can't think of it.
But it failed because the Democrat political machinery committed grave errors by violating two key principles of information warfare: disinformation must be believable to the adversary, and one must protect friendly forces from the effects of the Netwar attacks.
The new media was the first to report the 'leaked' results of the initial exit polls. The Drudge Report showed some stunning figures: Kerry up by 20 in Pennsylvania, tied in Virginia, and six other states that later Bush would win by solid margins were showing Kerry ahead. This was so out of whack with previous polling data that its validity stretched the imagination. The new media and the bloggers reacted swiftly, not so much by immediately refuting the numbers, as by counteracting what was plainly an emotional and psychological ploy to depress Republicans and to motivate Democrat voters. Eventually, word got out that the exit poll percentages were obtained using suspicious polling methodology, and for the Republican Party faithful to stay the course and get out and vote regardless of what the exit polls were showing.
But the unintended consequence of this Netwar battle was the result of the left's failure to protect their constituents from the effects of this disinformation. They had previously conducted operations with specific leadership targets in mind: the President, Rumsfeld, and their immediate advisors. Now, they were targeting the American voters with a shotgun blast of false poll results. Their desperation had caused them to abandon precision strikes in favor of a carpet bombing campaign, without providing shelters for the Democrat foot—soldiers.
Once the actual election returns became known, the effect on the Democrat electorate was devastating. What had been cheerful optimism for a victory on the part of the candidates, their staffers, and the Democrat voters, turned to the agony of defeat later that night. The damage caused by this 'information fratricide' was huge, and was due not only to the left's sense of invulnerability and entitlement, but was also due to the efforts of the new media and the bloggers in fighting and defeating our adversaries in one of the culminating battles of this stage of the Netwar. The self—discrediting arrogance of the left in the post—election period, deriding the majority of voters as "stupid" residents of "Jesusland" states, is in part a product of their emotional crash after assuming victory was in hand.
This last year has witnessed just the beginning of intense fights in the ongoing Netwar. After all, it's the only hope for the terrorists' cause. The outcome of our Armed Forces conventional battles against Islamofascism will never be in doubt, but the Netwar battles in the ether are just as critical in fighting the War on Terror. Witness the immediate distribution of the videotape showing the US Marine shooting the terrorist in a Fallujah mosque, without providing context or any empathy concerning the stresses of combat on our Marines and Soldiers. Of course, broadcast of the beheading of innocent civilians never seems to make the nightly news. Expect more of the same as the terrorists become more desperate.
The re—election of President Bush has, at least in the near—term, signaled America's resolve in carrying the War on Terror to the enemy and on to our final victory. And we must never forget the role our hometown Net Warriors play in this fight and their ultimate weapon: the truth.
*The sophistication of the terrorists' IW campaign further indicates that we are facing http://www.americanthinker.com/articles.php?article_id=3945&search=Hanson state—run military and intelligence service proxies rather than a loose network of uneducated desert nomads motivated solely by religious fervor.
Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent