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Or: "So long, and thanks for flying Air Assault"
A recent check of top internet news searches reveals Operation SWARMER has caught enough public attention to make the list. That's a rarity at this point in the Iraq saga; most such actions pass with little notice. Generally CENTCOM offers a press release, and the media yawns and mentions the coalition effort somewhere near the bottom of a long wrap up of news headlined "Bombs Kill 10 in Baghdad". But not this time.
TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces and their Coalition partners launched the largest air assault operation since Operation Iraqi Freedom I today in southern Salah Ad Din province to clear a suspected insurgent operating area northeast of Samarra.A dramatic start, especially if you're not familiar with military jargon - but those who actually made an effort to read to the bottom of this press release might find justification for yawning this time:
Operation Swarmer began this morning with soldiers from the Iraqi Army’s 1st Brigade, 4th Division, the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team and the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade conducting a combined air and ground assault to isolate the objective area.
The operation is expected to continue for several days as a thorough search of the objective area is conducted.Named after an exercise, practice for bigger things, searching for days, already did another area near by...
Operation Swarmer follows closely the completion of a combined Iraqi – Coalition operation west of Samarra in early March that yielded substantial enemy weapons and equipment caches.
The name Swarmer was derived from the name given to the largest peacetime airborne maneuvers ever conducted, in spring 1950 in North Carolina. Soon after this exercise, the 187th Infantry was selected to deploy to Korea as an Airborne Regimental Combat Team to provide General MacArthur with an airborne capability.
MNF-I issues press releases all the time; soldiers discover weapons cache, Marines conduct cordon-and-search operation with Iraqi troops, VBIED found on roadside, hospital refurbished, school reopened, etc, etc. If ever considered otherwise, this is now seen as the unglorious yeoman's work of Operation Iraqi Freedom - the nuts and bolts of rebuilding a nation. The press wants something headline worthy - a mosque bombing, US troops accidentally shooting an elderly grandmother, or a report that someone in an Iraqi police uniform dragged somebody else off to nowhere in the middle of the night.
But this time something in that press release caught somebody's eye: "...largest air assault operation since Operation Iraqi Freedom I." If you're a military insider you hardly notice the phrase. Why? Let's take a few words at a time - starting with "air assault". To many that means bombing campaign - and the comparison to OIF-1 brings immediate visions of Shock and Awe in Baghdad. To the most ardent members of the "anti-war" faction that iconic imagery epitomizes the capitalist aggressor's vicious assault on the people. And even the most ardent supporter of regime change in Iraq can acknowledge that bombs over Baghdad make a sobering visual: Here, this is what you wanted. Happy?
Wrong vision. Shock and Awe was an assault from the air, but was not "air assault" as defined by the US military. "Air assault" means the troops were inserted via helicopter; no more, no less. And if you think the language barrier between English-speaking peoples contributed to confusion, imagine for a moment how the various translated versions of the story read in the foreign press.
Now let's think about "largest since". The 101st was in on the initial invasion. Months later they rotated home. Without air assault units in Iraq we weren't launching air assaults. But now the 101st has returned to Iraq, therefore we are launching air assaults - it's what they do. But without that crucial piece of background knowledge the choice of phrasing makes it sound like something else altogether: escalation.
So this time the press release (that probably caused yawns throughout CENTCOM) got a markedly different reaction in the rest of the world. Let's spread the blame for this a bit. When military public affairs offices issue press releases they use phraseology the military understands, as explained above. But the press isn't on the same wavelength; they read "large air assault" and they expect corpse photos, pain and suffering, death and destruction, and all those things that merit a Pulitzer Prize. With that kind of pulse punding lead you can hardly blame them for not reading the whole thing. So what we have here is a failure to communicate - and sender and receiver can both do better next time.
But this time the phrase "launched the largest air assault operation since Operation Iraqi Freedom I" apparently touched off the largest round of TV coverage since OIF-1. Even last year's operations in Tall Afar - the largest of 2005 and perhaps the most spectacularly successful of the past three years - attracted relatively scant media attention. (Disclaimer: I don't live in America - my sense of the coverage is admittedly based on what I read about the coverage.) And with no reporters along for the initial ride (seating being at a premium and mission being the focus) apparently some of that coverage was a bit dramatic. Left on the sidelines for day one, a reporter's imagination could run wild.
But on day two the first reporters are brought in. Perhaps some with visions of dead babies, crying grandmothers, leveled houses, and white phosphorous raining from the sky. Maybe others with fond desires that they may capture a few heroic photos on par with blogger Mike Yon's.
Instead they find...
And that just pisses them off.
Just another day in paradise.
Thanks for flying air assault.
Thank you for breaking this down and clarifying the story.Ive seen the lefties really going with this one for the exact reasons you point out.
I am still not certain who labeled it an 'Air-Assualt',but regardless the term is being used and not in its proper context...oh well.
You know who I would trust to report what is happening in the war? Condolleeza Rice.
Condolleeza Rice needs the support of all good bloggers of 'right' thinking people that want to see her as the VP on the next GOP ticket.
Personally I would choose Frist as the POTUS but really,almost anyone of our contenders would be assured the White House with Ms.Rice beside him.
I believe that this would prepare Ms.Rice to accept the reigns of power as the Presidential candidate after serving as VP and I think that is what is needed.
Could you let me know how you feel about this?
Let's review todays Seattle Times, admitted a very left leaning city.
In order presented -
A story about a paralyzed veteran.
A doom and gloom 3 year anniversary story about hope fading in Iraq.
A story about a road project.
100's marching against the war.(mentions that some of the 100's may actually have been part of the St Patty's day parade, but doesn't mention how many in the St Patty' day parade)
3,100 climbing against Leukemia.
A story about an abused dog
A story about a sidewalk.
Somebody got murdered.
In the Nation/World Section
Some presidential advisor is in trouble.
A story about how cookbooks have been dumbed down
Something about Supreme Court Justices
Inability of the Government to track diseased cows.
Prostitutes searching for serial killers
Lot's of people not paying fines.
500,000 Protesting in France over a change in job security rules.
Despite this being the 3rd anniversery of OIF, a story about a sidewalk and a story about a dog make the front page.Posted by Soldier's Dad at March 19, 2006 09:49 PM
Thanks for laying it out there like that, Greyhawk. I was coming to somewhat similar conclusions, but didn't have the experience to clarify it and back it up. Thanks for helping me understand it better. :)Posted by FbL at March 20, 2006 02:53 AM
When military public affairs offices issue press releases they use phraseology the military understands, as explained above.
One has to wonder why someone whose job is to ostensibly communicate with the American people, would only use their own language instead of the language most of America speaks. Is Army PR telling me they don't have someone that can speak the lingo of the average American? Do they need a computer to translate for them?
In some ways this is the exact kind of disinformation campaign the Army should be running, intentionally or not. By all means, fool the media in believing in things that you've never explicitly stated, in order to deceive them into covering the real news of Iraq for the American people. By all means, that's the job of PR. To get good coverage.
Ah, but that would mean the Army has to understand the media and what makes them tick... Psychological warfare doesn't seem to be on the training roster for PR servicemen however.
Fast reaction forces are obviously necessary to fight a counter-insurgency. But I guess nobody was paying attention to that part of the operation.
For a bunch of manipulating Al-Reuters, AP, and whatever, they sure don't seem to like it when the tables are turned. One reason why the Army should do it more. Hit back, you're not going to win the media war by hanging back on the defensive all the time. Even Bush had to concede after 9/11 was defense wouldn't do much to save lives.
That sounds exciting! But according to a colleague of mine from TIME who traveled up there today on a U.S. embassy-sponsored trip, there are no insurgents, no fighting and 17 of the 41 prisoners taken have already been released after just one day. The “number of weapons caches” equals six, which isn’t unusual when you travel around Iraq. They’re literally everywhere.
Hehe, literally everywhere. Hilarious. Hilarious, but also dangerous and costing American lives as our public relations get degraded via enemy and domestic propaganda.
More effort should be made to portray this as an operation run so efficiently and with so much firepower, that the insurgents literally ran away in fear at the sight of the combined arms and combined nationalities arrayed against them. They were so cowed, as cowed as the Iraqis were when they tried to enter Fallujah on 2004...
But you won't hear that stylistic take on things. Why? Because it would help the United States in the war. Obviously our enemies are not going to help us in a war they are fighting against us in.Posted by Ymarsakar at March 20, 2006 04:18 AM
How big is the insurgency? There have been no real estimates for at least a year.
How many people are required to plant 100 IED's a week? 10,100,1000,10000.
I don't know, and I doubt anyone else really knows.Posted by Soldier's Dad at March 20, 2006 04:37 AM
I don't think the numbers matter in a guerrila insurgency. Since the point isn't attrition, body bags are only useful meters for friendly morale.Posted by Ymarsakar at March 20, 2006 09:26 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(6) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)