One big story of the last few weeks has the US military playing “mind games” with civilian leaders in order to get greater support for the war in Afghanistan.
Sometimes these mind games have been called brainwashing. Another name for them is psyops or psychological operations.
According to the US Department of Defence Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, “Psychological operations are planned propaganda operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of foreign governments, organizations, groups and individuals.”
Until now, there’s been very little public complaint about the use of psyops to influence foreigners. Not many — outside of intelligence services, those involved and their critics — have even been aware that such operations have been going on.
Psyop activities include electronic warfare, computer network operations, military deception and operations security.
This is in concert with activities to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversaries’ decision making while protecting America’s.
In short, US psyops amount to psychological warfare, which has a history that goes as far back as World War I.
What makes the latest use of planned propaganda operations a matter of public concern? According to Rolling Stone Magazine the military has been propagandizing civilian leaders.
The ritual relationship between the military and civilians in America has traditionally kept the military under the control of a civilian secretary of defence.
Recently, the US Army Times carried a story about how a psyops sergeant broadcast the following message to the Taliban in order to draw them out in the open by insulting them:
“Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be.”
The psyop soldiers responsible were trying to harass the enemy, a common practice used by psyop teams in the past and widely publicized during its employment in the 2004 battle for Fallujah in Iraq.
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