Thursday, 23 May 2013

American psy-ops reality

Did the Army deploy psychological warfare on U.S. politicians?

That's the implication of an explosive story from Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings.

In "Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators," Hastings reports that experts in "psy-ops," or psychological operations, in Afghanistan were asked to use their unique skill set on visiting dignitaries like senators.

Here are the most inflammatory highlights from the article.

The primary accusation
Hastings alleges that the improper use of psy-ops occurred at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, under the orders of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who was tasked with organizing the training of Afghan troops. Caldwell asked the information ops team to prepare background reports on high-profile visitors and even to sit in on meetings. Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, who headed the psy-ops team at Camp Eggers, explained the impropriety to Hastings: "My job in psy-ops is to play with people's heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave. ... When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you're crossing a line."

What Caldwell wanted
Caldwell reportedly hoped that using psy-ops would sway the opinions of powerful visitors. He hoped that with intelligence operations' help, politicians would work to give more funding and manpower to those on the ground in Afghanistan. According to the piece, he asked, "How do we get these guys to give us more people? ... What do I have to plant inside their heads?"

The targets
According to Hastings, the VIPs selected to be targeted by the psy-ops team "included senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin; Rep. Steve Israel of the House Appropriations Committee; Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan; the German interior minister, and a host of influential think-tank analysts."

Retaliation for the whistle-blower
When psy-ops team leader Holmes complained about Caldwell's orders, he says that he was reprimanded and faced trumped-up charges of an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and spending too much time on Facebook.

Did it work?
One of the visitors whom Caldwell wanted targeted, Sen. Levin, D-Mich., was "[a]mong the biggest boosters in Washington to give Caldwell" an extra $2 billion to train Afghan troops. Hastings doesn't say straight out that the psy-ops were necessarily the reason why, but the question is nevertheless alarming.

But these are just some of the most outrageous parts of the lengthy and compelling article. For more, read Hastings' story at Rolling Stone's site.