December 8, 2001: Headlines: COS - Aghanistan: Psychological Warfare: Intelligence Issues: Times Online: RPCV David Champagne is "information warrior" in the 4th Psychological Operations Group

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Afghanistan: Peace Corps Afghanistan: The Peace Corps In Afghanistan: December 8, 2001: Headlines: COS - Aghanistan: Psychological Warfare: Intelligence Issues: Times Online: RPCV David Champagne is "information warrior" in the 4th Psychological Operations Group

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RPCV David Champagne is "information warrior" in the 4th Psychological Operations Group

RPCV David Champagne is "information warrior" in the 4th Psychological Operations Group

The troops who battle for hearts and minds
From Martin Fletcher in Fort Bragg, North Carolina
THE home of the 82nd Airborne Division has any number of elite special forces fighting in Afghanistan, but, from a cluster of squat, utilitarian buildings in the heart of this vast army base, an unusual type of soldier has been waging a different sort of war.

They are fighting for hearts and minds, with words not weapons. The “information warriors” of the 4th Psychological Operations Group (POG) are tasked with breaking the Taleban’s will and stirring the Afghan people to revolt.

They are multilinguists, academics and PhDs whose motto is Verbum Vincet — The Word Conquers. Since the war began, POG’s 1,200 members have been working around the clock. They have broadcast 800 hours of radio transmissions into Afghanistan and dropped 18 million leaflets.

“Attention Taleban!” begins one of the radio messages broadcast from two £50 million EC130 Commando Solo aircraft circling the Afghan skies. “You are condemned. Did you know that? The instant the terrorists you support took over our planes, you sentenced yourselves to death. The Armed Forces of the United States are here to seek justice for our dead.”

To ordinary Afghans, the message is one of reassurance: “It is not you, honourable people of Afghanistan, who are targeted, but those who would oppress you, seek to bend you to their will and make you their slaves.” They are told to “stay away from mili- tary installations, government buildings, terrorist camps, roads, factories or bridges. We do not wish to harm you.”

At the heart of POG’s “psy-ops” war is a three-man think-tank comprising two Afghans, who cannot be named for security reasons, and a middle-aged civilian analyst, David Champagne, who brings a passion to the job. He fell in love with Afghanistan when he spent three years teaching there as a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1970s and was so appalled by the Soviet invasion of 1979 that he abandoned an academic career for the POG because that was the only way he knew of helping.

This brains trust faced a formidable task of conveying multiple messages to a people who are 70 per cent illiterate, speak several languages, have no television or newspapers and have little knowledge of what happened in America on September 11 to justify the bombing of their country.

A need for pictures was agreed, but leaflets featuring the World Trade Centre were ruled out — “they don’t have skyscrapers”, Dr Champagne said. After some discussion, POG produced a leaflet advertising the $25 million (£17½ million) reward for Osama bin Laden because although that sum was almost meaningless to the ordinary Afghan, it wanted to counter the largesse distributed by bin Laden to buy tribal loyalties.

The team honed in on the Taleban’s vulnerabilities. After two cruise missiles destroyed the regime’s Voice of Sharia radio station on October 8, the Command Solo planes began broadcasting Afghan music on the same frequency — music having been banned by the Taleban.

“We try to give them upbeat music because there’s been 20 years of misery there,” Dr Champagne said. Between the songs on Information Radio, POG inserts messages in Pashto and Dari, Afghanistan’s main languages.

The leaflets have also exploited the Afghan people’s loathing of foreign invaders after centuries of occupation by, among others, the Moghuls, the British and the Soviet Union. One shows bin Laden in Arab clothing holding a chained mastif with the head of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taleban leader. “Who really runs the Taleban?” asks the caption. The reverse side shows the Saudi extremist playing chess with Taleban pawns beneath the words: “Expel the foreign rulers and live in peace.”

The leaflets look simple, but each one requires meticulous preparation. POG is determined to avoid cultural pitfalls and blunders, such as the mistranslated leaflet dropped over Somalia in 1993 that said that “slave nations”, not the United Nations, were coming to help the starving. None quote the Koran. “That’s like the Pope quoting the Old Testament to a Jewish rabbi. We don’t want to preach Islam to Muslims,” Dr Champagne said. The leaflets avoid the word “surrender” — a shameful notion to a warrior race.

On occasion POG has had to win over its military masters. Generals objected to the chessboard leaflet until POG explained that chess was invented in Central Asia.

During the Gulf War, tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers surrendered clutching POG leaflets promising them fair treatment. In this war, success is much harder to measure. Conditions have not permitted any market research, but Colonel Jim Treadwell, POG’s commander, is confident: “We are making a difference.”

When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:

This Month's Issue: August 2004 This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?

Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."

In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.

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Story Source: Times Online

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Aghanistan; Psychological Warfare; Intelligence Issues



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