Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Information Warfare, Psy-ops and the Power of Myth

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called architecture frozen music. For those who would wish to destroy the great Golden Dome Mosque in Iraq only to install the Golden Arches, there can be no more powerful structure that symbolizes both identity and culture than the great structure of a holy place. Just as the WTC Twin Towers were surely in part chosen for their symbolic value, so too does the desecration and destruction of shrines, places of worship and memorials symbolise an affront to dignity and identity.


In Catalogue of provocations, Khaled Amayreh provides an interesting ennumeration of how the Israeli government has threatened the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, once a comfortably multi-religious city. He argues that Israel’s encroachments on the Mosque, most recently the site of a contested nearby renovation that threatens it, have been systematic rather than sporadic. The recent Beit Hanoun atrocity too saw the unconscionable destruction of a 766 year old mosque. The An-Nasr Mosque was built in 1240. Such wilful destruction is a war crime, enshrined in the Geneva Convention (16th Article). It doesn’t apparently mean much to the worse than apartheid state and their American Zionist neocon accomplices.

Attacking a culture’s symbols, treasures (such as the looting of the Iraqi museums in 2003) and destroying its structures also serves a nefarious psy-ops purpose, that of causing internal division and sectarian violence. In the following article, Mike Whitney focuses specifically on the Golden Dome Mosque in Iraq and very plausibly argues that its destruction was a psy-ops operation to engender violence in Iraq.

As we are too often reminded, “those who pull out the peoples eyes condemn them for being blind” …

Related Articles At Reclaiming Space

  • Iraq: Who Might Be Shooting at Both Sides?
  • Juan Cole: Top Ten Myths About Iraq 2006
  • Who wants a civil war in Iraq?
  • ***

    Information Warfare, Psy-ops and the Power of Myth
    by Mike Whitney | February 14, 2007

    The bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra is the cornerstone of Bush’s psychological operations (psy-ops) in Iraq. That’s why it is critical to have an independent investigation and discover who is really responsible. The bombing has been used as a “Pearl Harbor-type” event which has deflected responsibility for the 650,000 Iraqi casualties and more than 3 million refugees. These are the victims of American occupation not civil war.

    The bombing was concocted by men who believe that they can control the public through perception management. In practical terms, this means that they create events which can be used to support their far-right doctrine. In this case, the destruction of the mosque has been used to confuse the public about the real origins of the rising sectarian tensions and hostilities. The fighting between Sunni and Shiite is the predictable upshot of random bombings and violence which bears the signature of covert operations carried out by intelligence organizations. Most of the pandemonium in Iraq is the result of counterinsurgency operations (black-ops) on a massive scale not civil war.

    The Pentagon’s bold new approach to psychological operations (psy-ops) appears to have derived from the theories of former State Dept official, Philip Zelikow (who also served on the 9-11 Commission) Zelikow is an expert on “the creation and maintenance of ‘public myths’ or ‘public presumptions’. His theory analyzes how consciousness is shaped by “searing events” which take on “transcendent importance” and, therefore, move the public in the direction chosen by the policymakers.

    “In the Nov-Dec 1998 issue of Foreign Affairs he (Zelikow) co-authored an article called ‘Catastrophic Terrorism’ in which he speculated that if the 1993 bombing of the World Trade center had succeeded ‘the resulting horror and chaos would have exceeded our ability to describe it. Such an act of catastrophic terrorism would be a watershed event in American history. ‘It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented in peacetime and undermine America’s fundamental sense of security, as did the Soviet bomb test in 1949. The US might respond with draconian measures scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects and use of deadly force. More violence could follow, either future terrorist attacks or US counterattacks. Belatedly, Americans would judge their leaders negligent for not addressing terrorism more urgently”. ()

    Zelikow’s article presumes that if one creates their own “searing event” (such as 9-11 or the bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque) they can steer the public in whatever direction they choose. His theory depends entirely on a “state-media nexus” which can be depended on to disseminate propaganda uniformly. There is no more reliable propaganda-system in the world today than the western media.

    New Clues in the Bombing

    New clues have surfaced in the case of the bombing of the Golden Mosque which suggests that the claims of the Bush administration are false. An article by Marc Santora, (“One Year Later, Golden Mosque is still in Ruins”, New York Times) provides eyewitness testimony of what really took place one year ago:

    “A caretaker at the shrine described what happened on the day of the attack, insisting on anonymity because he was afraid that talking to an American could get him killed. The general outline of his account was confirmed by American and Iraqi officials. The night before the explosion, he said, just before the 8 p.m. curfew on Feb. 21, 2006, on the Western calendar, men dressed in commando uniforms like those issued by the Interior Ministry entered the shrine. The caretaker said he had been beaten, tied up and locked in a room. Throughout the night, he said, he could hear the sound of drilling as the attackers positioned the explosives, apparently in such a way as to inflict maximum damage on the dome”. (NY Times)

    Clearly, if the men were men dressed in “commando uniforms like those issued by the Interior Ministry”, then the logical place to begin an investigation would be the Interior Ministry. But there’s never been an investigation and the caretaker has never been asked to testify about what he saw on the night of the bombing. However, if he is telling the truth, we cannot exclude the possibility that paramilitary contractors (mercenaries) or special-ops (intelligence) agents working out of the Interior Ministry may have destroyed the mosque to create the appearance of a nascent civil war.

    Isn’t that what Bush wants to divert attention from the occupation and to show that the real conflict is between Shiites and Sunnis?

    It’s unlikely that the mosque was destroyed by “Sunni insurgents or Al Qaida” as Bush claims. Samarra is predominantly a Sunni city and the Sunnis have nearly as much respect for the mosque as a cultural icon and sacred shrine as the Shiites.

    The Times also adds, “What is clear is that the attack was carefully planned and calculated”.

    True again. We can see from the extent of the damage that the job was carried out by demolition experts and not merely “insurgents or terrorists” with explosives. Simple forensic tests and soil samples could easily determine the composition of the explosives and point out the real perpetrators.

    The Times even provides a motive for the attack: “Bad people used this incident to divide Iraq on a detestable sectarian basis.”

    Bingo! The administration has repeatedly used the incident to highlight divisions, incite acrimony, and prolong the occupation.

    Finally, the Times notes the similarities between 9-11 and the bombing of the Golden Mosque: “I can describe what was done as exactly like what happened to the World Trade Center.”(NY Times)

    In fact, the bombing of the Golden Mosque is a reenactment of September 11. In both cases an independent investigation was intentionally quashed and carefully-prepared narrative was immediately provided. The government’s version of events has been critical in supporting the extremist policies of the Bush administration.

    Just as 9-11 has been used to justify the enhanced powers of the “unitary” president, the evisceration of civil liberties, and a permanent state of war; so too, the bombing of the Golden Mosque, has been used to create a fictional narrative of deeply ingrained sectarian animosity that has no historical precedent. Both events need to be exposed by thorough and independent investigations.

    The Bush administration has consistently abandoned the limitations of “reality-based” politics. They govern through demagoguery, force and deception. This is no different.

    9-11 and the Golden Mosque are the foundation blocks in the Pentagon’s “Strategic Information” program. It is a war that is directed at the American people and it relies heavily on the power of myth.

    Forewarned is forearmed.

    2 comments on “Information Warfare, Psy-ops and the Power of Myth

    1. Dave On Fire
      17 February, 2007

      I often wonder if some of the brutal sectarian violence isn’t a little too convenient, an artificial and bloody curtain to hide legitimate insurgency. Often we’ve no way of knowing, which is what would make it so easy for our hypothetical agents-provocateurs.
      If this article is right, the Golden Mosque bombing was indeed a 9-11 for Iraq, an attack on civilians and symbols designed to stir up hatred and further violence.
      You have to wonder what foul schemes they’ll conjure up next.

    2. peoplesgeography
      18 February, 2007

      Hi Dave, that’s a good way of putting it. War often serves as a cover for many crimes as we know; these crimes can also include covert operations that may be designed to extend or prolong the conflict. Only last year 2 British SAS sniperswere caught out in Basra disguised as locals. It was an item unsurprisingly buried in the mainstream press but caught by John Pilger, Kurt Nimmo and others. I think we are seeing similar things in Lebanon.

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    Timely Reminders

    "Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
    -- Aldous Huxley

    "The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
    -- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

    "It is difficult
    to get the news from poems
    yet men die miserably every day
    for lack
    of what is found there"
    -- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"