Cross-posted at DailyKos.

Reports the BBC:

US army to produce Mid-East comic

The US military is planning to win the hearts of young people in the Middle East by publishing a new comic.

An advertisement on the US government’s Federal Business Opportunities website is inviting applications for someone to develop an “original comic book series”. …

“[The series] provides the opportunity for youth to learn lessons, develop role models and improve their education.”

[It is] a collaborative effort with the US Army, which says it has already done initial character and plot development … based on “the security forces, military and police, in the near future in the Middle East” and is being produced by US Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina [home to the army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group].

CAPTION: “The army comic may encounter competition from Arab superheroes created by an Egyptian publisher.” (More on the new Egyptian comics below.)

FIRST: I could post this simply as an across-the-bow shot at military psyops. But that’s a cheap shot. We all use psyops, right? So, beyond the obvious:
PRWatch.org sums up this new psyop venture:

“[T]o achieve long-term peace and stability in the Middle East, the youth need to be reached,” explained the U.S. government, in its ad seeking artists for an “original comic book series” to help Middle Eastern youth “learn lessons, develop role models and improve their education.” The U.S. Army’s Fourth Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg in North Carolina has done initial character and plot development and will produce the series. The series will be based on “the security forces, military and police, in the near future of the Middle East.” The Fourth Psychological Operations Group has “been deployed during conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan dropping leaflets and cartoons urging surrender and broadcasting pro-American messages via radio and television.”

The BBC continues:

A spokesman at Fort Bragg told BBC News [the initiative] came from the US Department of Defense’s Central Command …

[The ad says] the successful applicant will ideally need to have experience of law enforcement and “small unit military operations” – along with a knowledge of Arab language and cultures.

The aim is to involve the ministries of interior of some of Middle East countries.

The army is aiming to test initial comics on focus groups and based on their success or otherwise, will either be developed further or dropped completely.

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The BBC describes a potential rival for the US Army — AKComics (in English and Arabic) — “a new Egyptian publishing venture which has created what it bills as the first Arab superheroes“:

Zein aka the Last Pharaoh, Rakan, a hairy medieval warrior in Mesopotamia, Jalila, a brainy Levantine scientist and fighter for justice and Aya, a North African … “vixen who roams the region on her supercharged motorbike confronting crime wherever it rears its ugly head”.

AK Comics says its goal is “to fill the cultural gap created over the years by providing essentially Arab role models, in our case, Arab superheroes to become a source of pride to our young generations.”

From Garry Leech’s “Informers for a Day,” itself a piece of anti-government propaganda published in a 2003 issue of Colombia Journal Online:

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In war-torn Saravena, a town of 30,000 in [eastern Colombia], [c]hildren have become the focal point of Psychological Warfare Operations (PsyOps) [by] the Colombian army in this embattled town that is currently home to 40 U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers … as part of the Bush administration’s global war on terror.

[T]hese programs are not only geared to winning over the “hearts and minds” … they are also being used to elicit information from the civilian population, especially children, about rebel activities …

[T]wo soldiers dressed in colorful red and yellow clown outfits accompanied by uniformed troops went door to door handing out leaflets offering rewards to residents willing to provide information on rebel activities. Armed with a large bag of candy, the clowns befriended [children] while nervous parents looked on. …

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhile the PsyOp in San Luis targeted the general population, another program [Soldier for a Day] specifically targets children, between three and 12 years of age, [who] are brought to the army base every Thursday to play soldier.

The activities include Colombian troops and uniformed army psychologists placing camouflage headbands on the heads of the children and painting their faces with camouflage make-up. [T]wo soldiers dressed in clown suits entertain the children. [After] a dip in the camp pool, the children are trucked around the base on top of an armored personnel carrier fully-equipped with a 50-caliber machine gun. …

COMIX35, a Christian comics training and consultancy ministry, offers numerous examples of the power of comic books, among them:

“Psyops [Psychological Operations] units use a wide array of communications media … even comic books – to help win or prevent wars. … DC Comics [was contracted] to produce special versions of Superman and Wonder Woman comic books – in the languages of the Balkans, Central America, Africa and Southeast Asia … teaching the dangers of land mines … This [maybe] replicated in the future for use in South America.” (From the National Defense Magazine website, Feb 2001 and Nov ’97)

A comic book entitled “Al Asesino Escondido” (“The Hidden Killer”) instructs children in Central America about the threat of land mines. The comic book, starring Superman and Wonder Woman, was produced by the US Department of Defense [for] children in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. [540,000 copies] were published in the second partnership of DoD, UNICEF and DC Comics. A similar comic book [promoted] mine awareness in Bosnia-Herzegovina. (US Department of Defense “Defense Link,” American Forces Information Service News Article, June ’98)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usYou can view a fascinating history and images of cartoons from World War II at “World War II Propaganda, Cartoons, Film, Music, & Art” — from anti-Semitic children’s literature published in Germany [IMAGE], and the Nazi education and indoctrination of German Youth to WWII cartoons in the U.S., from Looney Tunes to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

In defense of psyops, via NATO’s site, there’s “Minding the matter”:

A stereotypical image of [PSYOPS] conjures up figures in black clothing skulking around and hiding in the dark. [However] the purpose behind PSYOPS is to help a theatre commander guide the host nation … toward a goal [for] the common good.

[C]ivilian and military personnel work together creating original ideas to help promote a positive attitude in BiH [Bosnia and Herzegovina]. Illustrator Staff Sgt. Dario Stohlmeier, German Army, said … “It’s good work,” [as] he sits before a poster he helped design [of] two penguins standing together [for the] Sarajevo Film Festival. The penguins are the main characters of a tolerance animation clip [for] the children’s portion of the festival.

A puzzling instance of psyops (for naught?) that I found is this from the 361st Psychological Operations Company — from my home state of Washington (Bothell, WA) — reported in May 2003:

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One soldier was kissed on the cheek and two others had their ears pulled and noses pinched [on] morning street patrol in Al-Fallujah.

     It’s not exactly the kind of treatment soldiers expect [but] that’s how the Iraqi children showed their affection for the soldiers. … The soldiers are from the 361st Psychological Operations Company, USAR, based in Bothell, Wash [and] members of Task Force Gauntlet. [Gen’l William Wallace] sent the task force to the city to restore order and stability following anti-U.S. riots and escalating violence.

The task force [was] able to dramatically reduce the violence and helped restore stability [and] were the first soldiers to go into the city streets to greet citizens following an April 30 grenade attack …

“[W]e went out into the city as a 3-man team, with a small security element, to meet and greet the people and tried to win their hearts and minds. We tried to get them to talk to us and feel comfortable with us, to let them see our faces and build trust with them,” McGinn said.

   Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThey drove through Al-Fallujah’s neighborhoods broadcasting pre-recorded messages in Arabic about a citywide curfew. They also went on raids. …

     [The soldiers] passed out brochures with coalition messages printed in Arabic to adults and messages about the dangers of unexploded ordinance [attracting] a large following of giggling children, boisterous youths and inquisitive adults …

     “The Iraqi people are a very touchy-feely people,” said Fyfe. “They get right up in your face when they talk to you. Sometimes they want to put their arms around you and it’s our job to embrace that 100 percent. We bring a security element to watch our back so we can be the ones to let our guard down and allow them to put their arms around us.”

What to say.

SEE ALSO:

  • “The Return of PSYOPS, Military’s media manipulation demands more investigation,” FAIR Media Advisory, December 2004
  • home page for the US Army Civil Affairs and
    Psychological Operations Command

  • Global Security‘s Info on the 361st and other psyop units
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