Iraqi TV announced that US troops have captured Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
“That is false,” said an aide to Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmit, the deputy chief of operations. “I can tell you that Zarqawi has not been arrested. We just checked with the unit.”
Note that Kimmit claims that Zarqawi has not been “arrested”. Maybe he can tell us that the terrorist leader has not been arrested, but isn’t telling us that that terrorist leader hasn’t been shot dead? Or maybe he’s being totally up front with us.
As in: “I can tell you that Zarqawi has not been arrested [since lying to the press during a war is not only permissible but of paramount importance].”
There are, of course, many options here. Maybe we didn’t catch him and Iraqi TV just blew the story. Maybe we did catch him, and we don’t want everyone to know that we caught him until we can get some info out of him. Maybe we didn’t catch him, but we want people to think that maybe we did.
In fact, why don’t we announce the capture of some insurgent leader who is still at large? His followers will probably spend a while making sure that everything is still hunky-dory. Announce it again a couple of weeks later. Keep doing so at irregular intervals. The slight confusion may allow us to track down elements of the organization or tip us off to plans. Then, if/when we DO catch him, some of his followers are bound to dismiss it as just another joke.
Obviously, this would hurt credibility with people we want to impress, as well. But I point it out to illustrate the fact that this war we are engaged in consists of a lot more than Marines, GPS-guided bombs, and Special Forces raids. There is, of course, the “war” to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi and Afghan people. There is the “war” to secure our borders and prevent another 9/11-type of attack. There is the “war” to identify and apprehend terrorist-related operatives and supporters throughout the world. There is the “war” of propaganda. Information and misinformation are weapons to be used, and I hope that we’re using them to the fullest extent.