The outer wall of a house in Mosul sports some spray-painted graffiti: “Warning to all policemen: You will be killed.” So US troops pay the homeowner a visit and request that the graffiti be removed.
“If I come back tomorrow and it’s still there, I’ll fix it myself, and you won’t like it,” Capt. Blake Lackey says sternly. “I’ll tear the wall down.”
In addition to trying to control enemy propaganda as best they can, the friendlies conduct their own psy-ops:
In a small building on an American forward-operating base in Mosul, the Americans’ offerings whir out of a copying machine. Officers insist it isn’t a propaganda mill.
“It’s a fine line, but propaganda is more based on untruth,” says Capt. Corbin England, 34, of Puyallup, Wash., who helps coordinate the U.S. military’s coercive efforts in Mosul.
“Psy-ops is a multiplier. We multiply the effectiveness of the troops on the ground, which saves lives. We’re just one of the many cogs in a system that works.”
England’s office has stacks of cubbyholes filled with leaflets of all shapes and colors bearing various messages, all with a single goal: to bring Mosul around to the side of the Americans and the Iraqi security forces.
“In an insurgency, the key is the local population. If you win them over, the other guy loses,” England says.
I’ve mentioned before that the switch in tactics to target Iraqi police and military units signals that a corner has been turned.
And anyone who claims that insurgent graffiti is simply an expression that should be protected by freedom of speech and that US efforts are shameful will be the recipient of a $5 Rule award.