May 8, 2007

Morale Booster in Iraq

AP reports that psychological operations techniques can work both ways. Research funded by the US Army, conducted at the University of California at Santa Barbara, show a significant increase in positive feelings in the presence of certain colors. Referring to colored sand bags, Col. William Buckley says,
We can't use these in many situations, but they work fine for check points and observation posts that are already well known to everyone, including the insurgents.

Army Pfc. Dick Pearl said,
I thought it was a joke. Seriously, you think its always shoot'm up around here, but actually there's a lot of down time, so guys are constantly coming up with pranks. Like, "fill up these colorful sand bags for our check point." I'm like, "yea sure. What date is it?

But it's not April first and this wasn't one of those pranks. Pearl laughed at what he thought was a joke, and his immediate superior quipped that the reverse psyops were already having an effect.
I'm not sure I'm a believer, but they've done the research, and I have to admit on the surface, I look at these things, roll my eyes, shake my head and a little smile comes to my mouth. The neighborhood kids get a real kick out of them. It does seem to lighten things up around here.

Others aren't so sure. Pfc. Alfonse Gonzalez is a skeptic. He has seen too much destruction of life, both friends and civilians, to accept the proven research.

You all laugh now, but wait until one of these check points is hit by a suicide bomb, and these damn bags are strewn around with blood and body parts. You'll never look at them the same way again.

Skepticism aside, the "rainbow bags" are generally accepted as a little point of brightness in an otherwise bleak situation for those who are either arriving in Baghdad for their first tour, or who have returned for their third. They don't undermine the operation, so the Army is taking a wait and see approach to their use.


Credit: Michael Bernstein, "The Sunny Pessimist Takes Cover from the Imperceptible" and Hudson Franklin gallery, 508 West 26th Street, New York. West Chelsea.

Alternative Press, May 5, 2007 G. Day Mahn "Sandbag Spoof or Not?"

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