Info Is as Important as Ammo in 'Long War,' General Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
"It is clear ... in a global perspective how important information is and its ability to influence people and their ideas," Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. "We have to understand that."
Odierno called the Jan. 19 Osama bin Laden statement claiming preparation for another terrorist attack and carried by all Western media as "information warfare, pure and simple."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has often spoken about the need for the United States to counter claims made by al Qaeda and its affiliated groups. "The people we're up against know how to manage the media," Rumsfeld said at a Dec. 23, 2005, troop town hall meeting in Fallujah, Iraq.
Extremists can make claims and have those splashed instantly across the front pages of newspapers or in leading broadcasts around the world. "I think it was Mark Twain who said that a lie speeds around in seconds, while truth is still putting its boots on," Rumsfeld said.
"We have laws and rules that we have to abide by, and that's a good thing, but it makes it a bit more difficult for us than it does for Osama bin Laden, who just issues anything he wants and nobody will hold him accountable," Odierno said.
He said he's not asking for the same power bin Laden has, but the U.S. government has to figure out how to work within the laws to counter the propaganda put out by groups like al Qaeda.
With the growth of technology and the explosion of the Internet and related media, Odierno said it may be time to review all the international agreements and domestic laws to see if they still apply. "Maybe we don't need to change any law, but let's take a look at it to see if change is needed," he said.
He said the Internet is the biggest challenge. How should the U.S. government react when Web sites encourage radicalism? What should the government do when sites list data that could be harmful to our servicemembers who are deployed around the world?
He said this is not just a DoD issue, but is one that the entire U.S. government - including the legislative branch - should examine.
Odierno also said the government must look for new ways to work together. In 1986, Congress passed the Goldwater-Nichols Act, making the military become the joint force that is the envy of the world today.
"Change is hard," he said. "We resisted Goldwater-Nichols, and it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to us.
He said everyone needs to look at what cooperation and effort is required to do DoD missions. "If it takes a second Goldwater-Nichols Act," Odierno said, "then it is something we need to at least take a look at."
The change is needed as the United States faces the Long War. The general hastened to point out that the Long War does not mean servicemembers will be fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan for the next 20 years. "The Long War is that we are going to fight these loosely connected networks that will be around the world," he said.
"Right now, we have a major fight in Iraq and we're now continuing to transition in Afghanistan. That will go on, but once we are successful in Iraq and Afghanistan, the extremists will be looking for another place to continue their mission - and it could be anyplace in the world. We have to interdict and stay ahead of them," Odierno said.
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