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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why can't Israel do hasbara? Because Jews are too honest!

From Stars and Stripes:
The woman and her daughter had been attacked, that much was certain.

They lay on beds in Patrol Base Jaker’s medical tent, calling for “Allah” as a U.S. Navy doctor and corpsman examined them.

Both had been shot. The girl, 12, had a bullet wound to her shoulder. Her mother, in her 20s, about seven months pregnant and with three other children, had been shot in the abdomen.

It had happened overnight, many hours before, while the husband and father, an Afghan policeman, had been at his post. That also seemed pretty straightforward.

But who had done it?

The Taliban,” the Americans were told. And within hours, that’s what the local Afghans were told, too. A squad of Marines and two Army psy-ops soldiers, one wearing a loudspeaker strapped to his back, headed out to the bazaar to tell the people of Nawa that the Taliban had attacked the woman and her daughter.

The only problem with that announcement was that it turned out not to be true.

In the intensive information war that U.S. forces are waging against the Taliban in Helmand province, getting the message out first — before insurgents provide their own version — can trump getting the message out accurately.

Studies done in Afghanistan and the United States have shown that people believe and remember the first reports they hear, not corrected versions, even when clear evidence shows initial reports to be wrong.

“It’s best to be quick and accurate,” said Lt. Col. Dave Hudspeth, commander of 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, headquartered in Marjah. “The enemy — they do info ops, too.”
...
The attackers were not, in fact, Taliban. Two colleagues of the husband, both also police officers, had attacked the women, according to local Afghan authorities. The motive was sexual assault, they said.

This was not good news for the Marines under orders to help connect the people with their government and the Afghan security forces, although the legal officer in civil affairs hoped to persuade the local Afghan prosecutor to press charges against the two Afghans, to show the government working for the people.

But there were no plans to correct the record, no plans to send out another patrol.

“Any chance to exploit the Taliban ...,” McNamara said.

But wouldn’t the Marines lose credibility when people in Nawa learned the Taliban were no longer suspected?

“Not in this environment,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brian Withrow.
I can only imagine the outrage that would accompany an article like this if it was published by an IDF magazine.

I cannot advocate that Israel start to lie when events happen and the details are not yet clear. But this article shows how critical it is to get information out quickly, as well as accurately. It also points out how important the information war is altogether.

If Israel isn't going to start lying, then she has to start doing serious investment in getting the truth out first. Things have improved a little in recent years but countering the massive amount of lies needs a much larger effort than what we have been seeing.

(h/t Silke)