… “the hostile use of global television to shape another society’s will by changing its view of reality.” To remove some of the mystery surrounding SOFTWAR and its applicability to the War on Terror, it might be useful to examine some of the best examples of Information Warfare from the World War II era.
Sefton Delmer was the German-speaking “burr under Adolph Hitler’s saddle” during the early years of World War II. He was to the war against German fascism what Chuck de Caro could, and should, be to the war against Islamic terror… if only the United States had a capacity for it. The difference between Delmer and de Caro… other than Delmer’s enormous girth and bushy Imperial mustache… is that Winston Churchill himself and the members of his War Cabinet embraced the notion of Information Warfare, while the Obama Administration largely ignores it… apparently fearful that someone from CNN or MSNBC might occasionally swallow an item or two of official U.S. misinformation, creating a violation of the Smith-Mundt Act.
Delmer was uniquely qualified for the role that he was ultimately called upon to play. He was born in Berlin, the son of an Australian English Professor at Berlin University. The family migrated to England in 1917 where Delmer entered Oxford University. After completing his studies at Oxford he returned to Berlin as a correspondent for the London Daily Express. It was then that he met many of the top leaders of the Nazi Party, from Adolph Hitler, himself, to Josef Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Herman Göering and Ernst Roehm, head of the Nazi storm troopers. It was through his association with Roehm that he became personally acquainted with Hitler and the other members of the Nazi high command.
As Delmer tells us in his autobiography, Black Boomerang, he decided in 1940, at the outset of the war, that the time had come for him to stop reporting the war and to take an active part in it. He realized that, at age 36 and weighing 238 lb., he would be of little use to the fighting forces, so he approached two friends, Ian Fleming and Leonard Ingrams, who were involved in one way or another with British intelligence. However, the British security services were wary of Delmer, even to the point of considering him a possible Nazi agent. What he had thought would be a special advantage… his relationship with the Nazi high command… was not seen as a qualification at all, but as a basis for suspicion.
However, Delmer was eventually accepted into the British secret services. According to Delmer, it was the Royal Navy that first raised the possibility of using black propaganda in the war against the German U-boat fleet. Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame, a personal assistant to Admiral John Godfrey, approached Delmer with the idea of establishing a department in the intelligence branch of the Royal Navy.
The Royal Navy managed to acquire Aspidistra, then the world’s largest radio transmitter, from the BBC. Aspidistra became the news station Atlantiksender, broadcasting around the clock jazz and swing music, but most importantly, news for the German U-boat crews.
As the British intelligence services grew in sophistication, they gathered massive amounts of personal information culled from German newspapers and magazines, from POW interrogations, from personal letters confiscated from captured Germans, and from many other sources. This information, including names and other details, was then selectively blended into news reports broadcast day and night to the Nazi U-boat crews. As Delmer explained, “The U-boat crew listeners, realizing its ‘allied’ origins, became deeply alarmed at just how much the enemy knew. What could be more horrific than being deep below the surface and feeling that the enemy knew exactly who you are and where you were? Cover, dirt, cover, cover, dirt, cover, dirt (was) the approximate rhythm, (with) 'dirt' being the items that would make the listeners think and act on lines displeasing to their Fuhrer. It was a huge success.”
In the months that followed, Delmer and his associates established a new outlet, Soldatensender (Soldiers Broadcast Station) Calais, as part of the “softening up” process for the D-Day invasion. According to Delmer, “Soldatensender brought the first news of the D-Day landings to the world. The breakdown in communications between the German units at this period was so grave that many German commanders tuned in to (Soldatensender) for ‘situation reports,’ using them to chalk in corrections to the constantly changing order of battle on their staff maps. This information was 99 times out of a 100 correct… on the hundredth it would drive the Germans into a trap set by the allies.”
One of the great potential advantages of Delmer’s broadcast station, Aspidistra, was that it had the capacity to broadcast anywhere on the wave band and to change frequencies in a fraction of a second. Delmer’s plan was to wait until a German station went off the air and to then begin broadcasting on that station’s frequency, telling German troops to cease fire. But Delmer’s superiors vetoed the idea on the basis that it crossed the line into perfidious conduct.
However, when Churchill learned from an article in the Stars and Stripes that Radio Luxemburg and the BBC were telling German civilians to stay in their homes, to “stay put,” he flew into a rage. It was left to Delmer and his people to drive the civilians out of their homes and onto the streets and highways, blocking the retreat of the German army. As Delmer explained, “With specially trained announcers and knowledge of the bombers flight plans, they were able to predict which station would go off the air, and when. They took over the German network and made bogus announcements identical in rhythm and intonation of the genuine station.” By the time Goebbels realized what was happening it was too late.
The closest the U.S. military has ever come to Information Warfare on such a scale was in 2002 when the Bush Administration was preparing for the invasion of Iraq. In an attempt to forestall the need for a ground war in Iraq, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), chaired by Representative Porter Goss (R-FL), took note of de Caro’s SOFTWAR concept and authorized the funds necessary to launch a major Information Warfare campaign against Saddam Hussein. Under the theory that no dictator can remain a dictator unless his people believe that he is: a) omnipotent, and b) omniscient, the plan de Caro prescribed was to use SOFTWAR methods to remove both of those advantages from Saddam.
The first step in de Caro’s plan was to have U.S. agents buy up the relatively small inventory of large, expensive radio and television transmitter tubes compatible with Saddam’s radio and TV operations. Once that was accomplished, the Navy and the Air Force would be ordered to bomb every broadcast tower, radio and television, in the entire country, taking Saddam completely out of electronic communication with his people. With no replacement parts available to repair radio and TV transmitters, Saddam would be left with loudspeakers and newspapers. But radio and TV receivers inside Iraqi homes would still be operational.
At that point, de Caro’s plan called for the use of inexpensive plywood drones (UAVs) equipped with small 10 watt transmitters set to broadcast on Iraqi radio and television frequencies, and thus directly to the Iraqi people.
And just as Delmer’s propaganda team in World War II was able to demoralize the German war machine by telling them, in advance, what would be happening in their world in the days ahead, de Caro’s team would have had the same capability in Iraq. If the Navy and the Air Force were scheduled to attack a particular Iraqi target, the Iraqi people would be told in advance the nature of the target. It was to be a lesson for the Iraqi people that their leader, Saddam Hussein, was no longer in charge of events in his own country and that he was powerless to do anything about it.
Unfortunately, when the authorization for the SOFTWAR program arrived in the Democratic-controlled Senate, the Democratic leadership, under Sen. Tom Daschle, decided that they would rather have a political issue to use against the Bush Administration than to avert a ground war in Iraq. During the months of September and October 2002, de Caro and a couple of friends from the political world tenaciously worked the halls of the United States Senate, hoping to convince the Democratic members to appropriate funds for the HPSCI program. But it was not to be.
The HPSCI SOFTWAR program was allowed to die a quiet death in the Senate Appropriations Committee. And, without a Winston Churchill in the White House to go to bat for a non-violent alternative to war, in early 2003 the United States and its coalition partners staged a full scale invasion of Iraq. Since that time, thousands of U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have lost their lives. [Note: On November 17, 2002 the Chicago Tribune published an article co-authored by de Caro and Major General David Grange (USA-Ret.) titled “Arab TV Guide – Launching a television war on Iraq would be the best strategy.”]
If, as von Clausewitz has said, “War is an extension of diplomacy,” then the deadly nature of modern weaponry tells us that there simply must be a middle ground. As de Caro sees it, that middle ground is the strategic use of worldwide television and the Internet. And while the Obama Administration, staffed by far too many unimaginative amateurs, appears oblivious to any such creative ideas, our “unsophisticated” enemies, living in mountain caves in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the deserts of Yemen, continue to use the American-invented tools of the Information Age very effectively against us.
But de Caro soldiers on, passionately imparting his visionary ideas to his military students at the National Defense University and at the National Defense Intelligence College, hoping to create enough SOFTWAR thinkers to one day make a difference.