From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Psyops or Pyschological operations are those which "alter the behavior of an enemy, without altering his beliefs" (those which alter beliefs are propaganda techniques). By contrast psyops are much more tactical and typically induce only shallow reactions or responses required only for a quite short time, e.g. the duration of a bombing campaign.

The related but broader term psychological warfare is now rarely used, as it calls attention to propaganda, information warfare, the use of cyberwar techniques to disable command and control systems (called "terrorism" when any not approved by the New World Order does it), and possible inducement to tacics such as assassination, sabotage, treason and other acts that nation-states do not generally wish to appear to approve of, although they do when the victim is "the enemy".

Psyops by contrast are narrow tactics that apply mostly to combatants and key political figures, intended to reduce morale and cause fatal hesitation or tactical error. They are not morally distinguishable from simple feint or misdirection or distraction on the battlefield, or the basic signals warfare that encourages the enemy to be in the wrong place at the right time.

However, the definition of the enemy sometimes includes non combatants miles from the frontline. Psyops also involve manipulating public opinion in neutral countries. In addition the line between psyops and torture can be exceedingly narrow as was demonstrated in the furore over Abu Ghraib. According to Spinwatch:

'Take the example of the photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib. These are said by most of the media and by the US military to be trophy photos taken by low level US military personnel. Some sections of the media paint a picture of Abu Graibh (and other US interrogation centres) as out of control. It is pretty clear that elements of this portrait are accurate and that the torture trail is much more extensive than just one prison in Baghdad. Last month it was reported that the US military had destroyed photos showing hooded and bound prisoners in 'mock executions' in Afghanistan. But if we peel back this layer we find a different story about the significance of the photos emerging.

This suggests that the photos are not 'really' trophy pictures and nor are they 'really' pictures of torture in the normal sense of the word. Certainly they capture images of the degradation of prisoners. But the question is what were the photos produced for? The answer it seems is that they were part of a psychological warfare strategy. Seymour Hersh revealed that this ran by the name of 'copper green'. Hersh writes: 'The government consultant said that there may have been a serious goal, in the beginning, behind the sexual humiliation and the posed photographs. It was thought that some prisoners would do anything–including spying on their associates–to avoid dissemination of the shameful photos to family and friends. The government consultant said, "I was told that the purpose of the photographs was to create an army of informants, people you could insert back in the population." The idea was that they would be motivated by fear of exposure, and gather information about pending insurgency action... If so, it wasn’t effective; the insurgency continued to grow.' Jon Ronson has traced more of this story in his book The Men Who Stare at Goats. He quotes an interview with Lyndie England, who was in the photos:

England : I was instructed by persons in higher rank to "stand there, hold this leash and look at the camera". And they took a picture for PsyOps and that's all I know ... I was told to stand there, give the thumbs-up, smile, stand behind all of the naked Iraqis in the pyramid [have my picture taken].

Q: Who told you to do that?

England : Persons in my higher chain of command ... They were for PsyOps reasons and the reasons worked. So to us, we were doing our job, which meant we were doing what we were told, and the outcome was what they wanted. They'd come back and they'd look at the pictures and they'd state, "Oh, that's a good tactic, keep it up. That's working. This is working. Keep doing it, it's getting what we need."

So the question is, what would it mean to say that the Abu Ghraib photos were 'genuine'? They do show abuse and humiliation and perhaps torture, but they are not just a record of torture, but an active part in the process of torture.'

The Information War

"The media center in Fayetteville, N.C., would be the envy of any global communications company," writes Jeff Gerth in the New York Times. [1] "In state of the art studios, producers prepare the daily mix of music and news for the group's radio stations or spots for friendly television outlets. Writers putting out newspapers and magazines in Baghdad and Kabul converse via teleconferences. Mobile trailers with high-tech gear are parked outside, ready for the next crisis. ... The center is not part of a news organization, but a military operation, and those writers and producers are soldiers. The 1,200-strong psychological operations unit based at Fort Bragg turns out what its officers call 'truthful messages' to support the United States government's objectives, though its commander acknowledges that those stories are one-sided and their American sponsorship is hidden."

Gerth discusses the relationships between the U.S. military and private companies like the Rendon Group and Lincoln Group. He also provides previously unreported details about Jeffrey B. Jones, "a former Army colonel who ran the Fort Bragg psychological operations group, to coordinate the new information war."

In July 2006 the U.S. military "removed two firms from a psychological operations contract aimed at influencing international public opinion," reports the Washington Post. "The firms, plus a third company (SYColeman) that will retain the contract, spent the past year developing prototypes for radio and television spots intended for use in Iraq and in other nations... The TV and radio contract, originally worth up to $300 million over five years, had been held by three firms since last year: the Lincoln Group; San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp.; and Arlington-based SYColeman, a subsidiary of New York-based L-3 Communications Corp. ... 'We learned that working with three companies increases expenditures in both time and money and does not provide best value to the government," said Lt. Col. David Farlow, spokesman for the military's psychological operations unit. Lincoln Group spokesman Bill Dixon said in a statement yesterday that the firm 'continues to win contracts' for Pentagon propaganda, but 'because confidentiality is vital to this work, the firm will not comment on the details of any contracts.' " [2]


  • Christopher Simpson, Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960 (Oxford University Press, 1994).

SourceWatch resources

Wikipedia (i.e. Publicly-correctible External) Links

External links