A VIEW FROM

Campaign Middle East - - NEWS -

In 2003, Amer­ica led a coali­tion into war with Iraq.

More specif­i­cally, they went to war with Sad­dam Hus­sein and his regime. His sons, his hench­men, his en­tire bru­tal dic­ta­tor­ship. These peo­ple held power by a mix­ture of mass mur­der and ter­ror.

So the real job, as much as fight­ing the Iraqi army, was to re­move these men at the top.

But how could they do that when no one knew what they looked like. At least, the sol­diers on the ground didn’t know. If they knew, they could cap­ture or kill them and end the war a lot quicker.

So the ques­tion was: how to get the av­er­age GI to recog­nise the Iraqi lead­ers?

How to dis­sem­i­nate that in­for­ma­tion to or­di­nary sol­diers?

This is ba­si­cally a me­dia ques­tion: how to reach a tar­get au­di­ence? But there was no me­dia in the desert. So the re­ally cre­ative step was to re­alise that ev­ery­thing is me­dia. Start with a ques­tion. What could they find that GIs would carry with them and look at of­ten?

It was no good giv­ing them a book or pam­phlet – no one would take that out and look at it.

As the man given the task, Lieu­tenant Hans Mumm said: “We didn’t want to make an­other non­sense in­tel­li­gence prod­uct that no one was go­ing to read.”

He knew any army pub­li­ca­tion would be used as toi­let pa­per.

There were about 50 en­emy faces that needed to be stud­ied and mem­o­rised – how do you get or­di­nary GIs to care enough to study 50 faces? The an­swer is what the an­swer al­ways is. You don’t start from what you want peo­ple to do, you start from what peo­ple want to do.

One of the things sol­diers like to do is spend a lot of time sit­ting around pass­ing the time. For that, they need a pack of cards. There are 52 cards in a pack. Every­one stud­ies their cards care­fully when they’re play­ing.

Each time they play, they get given dif­fer­ent cards to study.

Every­one knows what the most valu­able cards are and they look out for them.

Sol­diers look af­ter their cards and carry them with them ev­ery­where. It was a per­fect me­dia fit. And the 52 most im­por­tant mem­bers of the Iraqi regime each got their photo on a card. Start­ing with the most im­por­tant and work­ing down. So Sad­dam Hus­sein him­self was the Ace of Spades. His sons, who’d or­gan­ised mass mur­der, were the other aces in the pack. Then the gen­er­als, and lead­ers of the gov­ern­ment. Down to the heads of sur­veil­lance and tor­ture. But the names were very dif­fi­cult to re­mem­ber – well, luck­ily, that didn’t mat­ter.

Or­di­nary sol­diers re­mem­bered them by their rank­ing in the pack.

They didn’t have to say they’d just found Ali Has­san alMa­jid, just the King of Spades.

The same with Barzan Abd al- Gha­fur Su­lay­man Ma­jid (the Queen of Hearts).

Or Sayf Al-Din Fu­layyih Hasan Taha Al-Rawi (the Jack of Clubs).

By the time the war was fin­ished, or­di­nary sol­diers had found most of the men they were look­ing for. Thir­teen of those pic­tured on the cards were dead. Twenty-nine were in cus­tody. Four were cap­tured and re­leased, and just six were never caught.

That’s how me­dia solves a prob­lem cre­atively, by re­al­is­ing that ev­ery­thing is me­dia.

Even when there isn’t any me­dia.

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