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Psychological Warfare and Media in Modern World

By Aziz Ahmed Khan & Majid Khan   : –

With the rise of democracy and respect for national boundaries and non-interference in other nations affairs psychological warfare has gained immense importance. Although it has been used as an effective weapon since time immemorial yet its application had remained confined to the intimidation of foes in order to break their spirit of resistance.

Now public opinion at home and at global level has to be appeased and roped in to justify the war i.e. “other means to achieve political ends” This is necessitated for home consumption because taxpayers seek accountability of their payments. The world on the other hand has to be coaxed or coerced to agree with the invader to avoid isolation, which in modern day world is too costly.

The modern day psychological warfare has attained equal effectiveness as is attributed to the weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The propaganda machinery of Nazi Germans and its devastating affects hardly need mention. During very recent times the invasion of Iraq on grounds of her possessing of Weapons of Mass Destructions were drummed all over the world and unsuspecting citizenry of USA was made to believe that Iraq was a real threat to them. This was done at the highest

level of the government of the US.

“Vice President Dick Cheney emphatically shut down the nascent debate on August 26 when he asserted “There is no doubt that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or WMD.” In a speech to the national convention of the veterans of foreign wars at the Opryland hotel in Nashville, Cheney flatly called for war, proclaiming that “Iraq was a clear and present danger to the US. The President and I never for a moment forget our number one responsibility: to protect the American people against further attack and to win war that began last September eleventh”(Fiasco by Thomas E Rick)

The American Press took the clue and orchestrated it all over the country and prepared the majority of the nation and persuaded the public opinion in the Western countries to fall in line with the USA. In spite the fact that saner voices were raised against the credibility of this claim. General Zinni said to Lt Gen Paul Van Rip “Rip there are no weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq, there may be some isolated weapons, though I doubt even that, but no program as you and I would think of them” (Fiasco by Thomas E Rick). This makes amply clear how the things are manipulated. The tall claim of VP proved a terrifying hoax.

The billion pound question is that was the vice president of the USA ignorant of the factual position of Iraqi weapons? Had enough home work not been done by the Administration of the only Super Power before taking such a drastic step as waging war against a member of the UN, how could an economically and militarily crippled country could pose a threat to the giant like the US? This needs no answer.

It has ben argued by different scholar that perception of the public could easily be changed – persuaded – through news coverage. In 2003, some 60 per cent of Americans surveyed believed at least one of three misconceptions about Iraq. The three invalid facts were that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) had been found in Iraq; that there was clear evidence that Hussein had linked with the 9/11 terrorists; and that people in other nations supported the war in Iraq or were closely divided in their support. In fact, no WMDs were found, Hussein had not collaborated with the 9/11 terrorists, and most nations opposed the war.

This comes about that the motives were far removed from what had been projected and media played in the hands of the invaders. Why and how it did what it did is not the 
question here but it goes without saying that its role in creating war mania was totally unjustified even malicious. An important consideration is that the truth and reality are often not the objective but in fact are the victims.

The psychological warfare is the double-edged sword. It is used to intimidate the adversary and to motivate the (supporter) friends and allies. This is all the more true as the world becomes more close-nit, as they say a global village.

If the element of acceptability at large by the nation or allies is not present the exercise cannot be materialized or may even prove counterproductive. Vietnam war is an example of this, in which US lost the war on both grounds, militarily and moral because the majority of the US people were against the invasion. Therefore, seeds of acceptance have to be there or they are created and sown by manipulating and interpreting events to the desired goal. In psychological warfare truth or falsehoods

are not taken into consideration, the point of weight is how well you propagate your point. As mentioned by Henry Kissinger that its not matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true.

It is the need of time to educate the common man about psychological warfare and its consequences and that how media is making us fool. If we go through the history of all the wars we realise in all cases common man is the sufferer on both sides.

(Aziz Ahmed Khan is a former Bureaucrat and an Educationist – Majid Khan is a Journalist, Lecturer and PhD scholar of media in Australia)

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