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Here’s a posting that brings bright new perspective to the recent accusation that General Caldwell called for Psy-Ops to target Congressmen visiting Afghanistan. The REAL issues may turn around what the contemporary roles of Psy-Ops and Public Affairs should be. Is it realistic to limit Public Affairs to informing, and not influencing, which has long been the dual function of public relations in the civilian world? And should Public Affairs role be limited to domestic audiences, and Psy-Ops to foreign ones? The answer to both, in the real world, appears to be “NO.”

Here’s the article:

I’m beginning to wonder whether we may have been taken in a bit by the Rolling Stone and a disgruntled psy-ops reserve officer. While the psy-ops folks in Afghanistan may well have been brought in to help prepare dossiers and background materials for VIP visits by senators and such, it may have been only to help, from a manpower standpoint, with the very normal and legitimate work along these lines by General Caldwell’s public affairs staff. Might the psy-ops lieutenant colonel just have been miffed to be asked to do this routine work, rather than the slight of hand stock in trade of brainwashing the enemy? I don’t know — we haven’t seen any specifics of any psychological manipulation, and the senators named have said they didn’t recall being manipulated out of their previously held convictions. The background information from other sources indicates that the role of psy-ops in the Afghanistan training command had already been minimized before these accused incidents took place. We need better-sourced information than the Rolling Stone has provided to date to believe ethical lines have been crossed by the military command. So, this jury remains out.

The Rolling Stone is at it again, and raising the question about whether Psy-Ops units charged with propaganda targeted at the enemy should also be “targeting” U.S. Congress people and other diplomats and leaders to influence their thinking about increasing funding or troop levels for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Normally Public Affairs units would prepare background briefing papers and message points and presentations to be used by commanders in their interface with such decision makers.

As an old Army public affairs officer, and a career PR person, I understand the role of Public Affairs in helping their commanders communicate with non-military leadership decision-makers, but I never encountered Psychological Operations staffs normally charged with propaganda to influence the enemy being drafted to use propaganda techniques to win over internal VIPS.

I don’t know enough to judge, but one wonders if some generals might have college paranoid fantasies they developed after reading the book 1984 bouncing around up in their festering base-camp minds and leading them to lose grasp of the distinctions between fact-based, rhetorical arguments and outright psychological manipulation.

Here’s the article prompting the current blaze of media angst:

January 2022

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