Psy-Ops and Depleted Uranium
New cases of victims of depleted uranium (DU) weapons come to light from
countries that sent soldiers for NATO peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo. Yet,
NATO continues to deny any danger to either soldiers or civilians in areas where
DU was used. Continued denial and distortions of truth, particularly from
Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defence, raise suspicions of a systematic
cover-up. As in the demonization of Serbs over the past decade, special services
of NATO working in collusion with mainstream media exert an effective control of
Military information about DU has the characteristics of information warfare.
Information to the public about DU weapon use and effects on life in the Balkans
are one of the subjects of information operations in NATO campaign in the
region. NATO used propaganda (1) to:
- demonize the Serbs in order to justify intervention in former Yugoslavia;
- exaggerate Serb atrocities before the International Criminal Tribunal for
- cover-up own military blunders in Yugoslavia; and
- induce overthrow of “unfriendly” government in Yugoslavia and press
for economic “reforms”.
Information warfare is one of four instruments of power – diplomatic,
informational, military, and economic – that nations wield to influence events
and actions during peace and conflict. Behavioural science and the use of mass
media and high technology are contemporary devices now used in war. The military
employs them through Information Operations, as laid out, for example, in the US
Field Manual 100-6 (2)
- Information warfare and operations of US Department of Defense (DoD)
targets foreign nations and groups, including foreign governments.
DoD actions, “convey and/or deny selected information and
indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and
objective reasoning; and to intelligence systems and leaders at all
- DoD management of the foreign perceptions, “combines truth projection,
operation security, cover and deception, and psychological
- In NATO, Psychological Operations (PsyOp) mean, “planned psychological
activities in peace and war directed to enemy, friendly and neutral
audiences in order to influence attitudes and behavior affecting the
achievement of political and military objectives.”
A companion of PsyOp is Public Affairs (PA), which “provides objective
reporting without intent to propagandize” and disseminates information
internationally. (4) Information warfare uses propaganda –
white (telling the truth), gray (ambiguous) or black (lying) – often through Public
Relations (PR). In Selling a conflict – the ultimate PR challenge
NATO spokesman during Kosovo conflict Jamie Shea told a Switzerland forum that
“he won the war” by carrying out daily briefings in a PR style. By doing so,
Shea and his employers lost all credibility, (5) but it was not
the first use of PR at a high level in the Balkan conflict.
American PR firm Rudder Finn arranged a protest of the Jewry against alleged
“Serb” death camps in Bosnia. Once the Jewry protested, the rest of the
world believed the atrocity was authentic. (6) The PR stunt was
highly successful, regardless of whether the originators were the warring
factions of former Yugoslavia unfriendly to Serbia, NATO, some other group or a
combination. The most convincing proof that Serb “death” camps were a hoax
is in a video (7) filmed in one of the camps by a crew from
Radio and Television of Serbia next to reporters of the ITN press giant. ITN
publicized around the world images of the camp presented like a WW2 Nazi
The journalist profession in the West compromised the ethical code for NATO
campaigns, failed to verify information and seldom reported the other side of
each story. (12) It means a deep control of the media by
military-government Information Operations. Pop-culture is also exploited.
American movies contain subtle messages that influence our perceptions. One
famous author of historical fiction compared atrocious barbarians from Roman
times to contemporary Serbs.
The Supreme US Commander General Dwight Eisenhower was responsible for drafting
a plan for integrating most every aspect of civic life with the military. His
last presidential speech in 1946 warned against growth of the
military-industrial complex. Today, half of American federal taxes during
peacetime go into military spending, including information operations. The
military-government-industry complex battles for our minds, using mass media as
the vehicle for delivery of doctored information.
How it Works
Information operations prepared the world for NATO engagements in Iraq and
the Balkans by demonizing the leaders and their people. These campaigns
subordinated mass media through Public Affairs of Psychological Operations,
“are based on projection of truths and credible message [that
serve to discredit] adversary propaganda or misinformation against the
operations of US/coalition forces [which] is critical to maintaining favorable
public opinion.” (2)
To understand how PsyOp work in conjunction with other special services and
mass media, it is instructive to consider the case of Račak “massacre”
of January 15th, 1999. US ambassador William Walker and Kosovo Liberation Army
(KLA) staged the event. Walker was the head of Kosovo Verification Mission of
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who supposedly
monitored compliance of both sides to ceasefire. While the Yugoslav forces
complied, KLA operated unchecked.
In June 2000, Dr. Helena Ranta, the head of the Finnish forensic team
investigating Račak incident for NATO, told me that the bodies had no signs
of execution, were brought from other locations and that NATO made her final
report secret. Had it proved Serb crime, the report would receive prompt
publicity. Instead, it was made secret to hide lack of proofs, just like the
“evidence” brought before the NATO “court” in Hague by “witnesses”
of a “massacre” of thousands of Bosnian Moslems in Srebrenica.
KLA leader Hashim Thaci admitted in a March 24th, 2000, BBC interview that a KLA
unit operated at Racak and many soldiers lost their life in battles with
Yugoslav forces. KLA intentionally killed 4 Serb policemen in order to enliven
the conflict and covertly killed Albanian peasants to win sympathy for the
separatist cause from the West. Madeleine Albright admitted in the same BBC
programme that Račak incident needed preparation and was vivified in order
to keep pressure on European allies to intervene militarily.
The Račak case indicates the following information warfare elements:
- Mission: exert pressure on European allies to intervene militarily
- Target audience: foreign governments and public opinion.
- Psychological objectives: i) cohesion of European allies, ii)
reinforce atrocious stereotype of Serbs.
- Timing: before Ramboulliet “negotiations”.
- Theme: another “Serb” atrocity in Kosovo.
- Partners: US department of state, KLA, OSCE.
- Development: covert action, mass media.
- Filtering: select “friendly” media, ban Serb media from the
site of the “massacre”.
- Blunders: i) mistakes in staging an execution; ii) admissions by
Albright and Thaci to BBC; iii) secret final report.
- Damage control: deny the final scientific report by making it
The media supported NATO’s Račak propaganda against facts, logic and
ethics. On the 1st anniversary of the Račak “massacre” BBC News began a
story with an usual statement that Serb forces are guilty of the atrocity. The
truth was hidden at the end: Dr. Ranta’s team was very close to determining
what happened. A reader must have wondered at this point, given the beginning of
the story. Most people read only headlines and by-lines. Between lie and truth,
BBC placed Thaci’s opinion that Račak was a turning point that misled the
West’s military intervention. The story is typical for thousands of others
dispatches on the Balkan conflict in Western media since early 1990s. The story
contained no voice from Yugoslav and Byelorussian investigators, who examined
evidence at Račak before the Finns. After experiencing a few messages of
this type, the reader or TV viewer begins to perceive them as obviously biased
against the Serbs.
Reflecting on September 2000 “democratic” elections in Yugoslavia,
University of Berkeley professor emeritus in history Raymond Kent wrote, “the
Serbs are suddenly transformed from a nation of neo-Nazi ‘subhumans’ into a
‘brave and valiant people,’ a decade of carefully nurtured Serbophobia lurks
in the background. A host of people in government, politics, intellectual
journals, scribal and audio-visual media have gained in careers and prominence
through hate-mongering against the Serbs. This will not be given up easily.” (8)
Kent alluded to the infiltration of media by the power complex, “As an
outgrowth of deceit and disinformation needed to justify military interventions
abroad, an unusually intimate relationship of the major scribal and audio visual
media and the administration has emerged in the shaping of foreign policy. While
a ‘patriotic mutuality’ of government and media was commonplace in major
wars, it never loomed as large in peacetime as in the last decade while focusing
on the Balkans and the Yugoslav tragedy.”
Dutch paper Trouw reported that PsyOp officers worked at two leading US
news channels during the Kosovo war. A liberal US commentator Alexander Cockburn
remarked, “In the Kosovo conflict [...] CNN’s screen was filled with an
unending procession of bellicose advocates of bombing, many of them retired US
generals.” However, the few interns seen at CNN and NPR don’t explain the
systematic, decade-long bias across the mass media in NATO countries. The
infiltration must be subtler. In fact, the story in Trouw may have been a
PsyOp trick designed to divert public attention from permanent ties of the media
with the power complex.
PA involves press releases, media briefings and statements by the military. In
1998 Dynamic Response exercises of NATO peacekeeping SFOR, several military
agencies and commanders were involved in preparation and delivery of a message,
which “must be clearly communicated and correctly interpreted by potential
adversaries.” After-action reviews showed that former warring faction
“leaders in attendance and those watching the event through the media received
the intended message loud and clear.” (9)
Integrated efforts of several types of special services, for example, at the Račak
“massacre” or at the October 2000 election coup in Belgrade, are possible
with structures like US Special Operations. It is a joint command that can
assemble teams of experts in different fields from the different services as the
mission requires. The commanders decide who are the right people for a mission
and what units, including “friendly” terrorist organizations, British
Special Air Services or US Delta Commandos, should be used in addition to PA and
PsyOp. Attacks on anti-DU activist, Dr. Doug Rokke, former Pentagon expert on
DU, may be steered by Special Operations in a broader campaign of “fighting”
the truth about DU
Countering PsyOp on DU
Six months before Desert Storm, a report from Science Applications
International Corporation wrote about DU weapons, “Short-term effects of high
doses can result in death, while long-term effects of low doses have been
implicated in cancer.” US General Accounting Office report GAO/NSIAD-93-90 of
1993 stated, “Inhaled insoluble [DU] oxides stay in the lungs longer and pose
a potential cancer risk due to radiation. Ingested DU dust can also pose both a
radioactive and toxicity risk.” A 1995 report of the US Army Environmental
Policy Institute warned, “If DU enters the body, it has the potential to
generate significant medical consequences.”
If DU was benign, why did not Pentagon disclose locations of DU use in the
Balkans? Public verification could end the suspicions, and allow NATO to retain
an effective armour-piercer. Information Operations (with help from Special
Operations) chose a different approach for obvious reasons. The Balkan DU case
has the following information warfare features.
- Mission: i) maintain tactical advantage over enemy’s armour; ii)
suppress government-industry-military liability, including storage of DU
waste and past uses of DU weapons in the Gulf, Bosnia and on testing ranges;
iii) maintain a terrorist weapon against enemies.
- Target audience: domestic and foreign public opinion.
- Psychological objectives: alienate, dilute and delay global
public opposition to DU.
- Timing: i) until US and international laws ban the military use of
DU; or, ii) until a world tribunal sentences persons responsible, whichever
- Theme: “As harmless as a handful of dirt from your backyard.”
– Pentagon; “Radiaiton level no higher than a household smoke alarm.”
– British MoD.
- Partners: US and British departments of defense, DU industry.
- Development: i) communication through spokesmen, “scientific”
reports and mass media; ii) intimidation of key anti-DU activists with
- Filtering: emphasize “friendly” reports, suppress independent
- Blunders: i) contradictory own reports; ii) delays in divulging
location of DU use over Yugoslavia; and, iii) failure to warn and protect
NATO and UN forces, foreign workers and local civilians.
- Damage control: i) suppress scientific evidence; ii) deceive
by emphasis on toxic effects if DU was ingested, but harmless radioactivity
of DU in solid form; iii) change emphasis to possible other causes of Gulf
and Balkan syndromes.
How effective is the propaganda? A director of a respectable US institute
wrote me recently that DU risk is not high because DU, a heavy metal, cannot
disperse far. In fact, upon oxidation of a DU bullet after impact, or through
corrosion of unexploded DU shell or shrapnel, the heavy metal turns into
microscopic particles that disperse easily with any movement of air or water.
One needs only one particle to get sick.
The primary goal of anti-DU campaigns during US, British and NATO military
operations should be to warn local population that might be affected. Long
before international and Yugoslav NGOs managed to prepare an anti-DU warning
brochure in Serbian language, Robert Fisk, Scott Peterson and others have
already described how Kosovo children played with the DU shells while DU targets
were salvaged. To my knowledge, no organization prepared any material in
Present US and NATO means more "humanitarian interventions" wherever
and whenever globalisation interests call for use of force to subdue states and
destabilize regions. Prohibited weapons such as DU are indiscriminately used
against civilians by NATO. Western NGOs and concerned citizens should stand-by
with money and organizational resources necessary to issue and disseminate DU
brochures and posters, ads for local newspapers, radio and TV and other
“products” (to use PsyOp jargon) to any region of the world in any language
on a short notice.
Long-term, nuclear misinformation de-bunking campaigns raise public awareness
with socially just meaning of “truth projection”, “objective reporting,”
“national,” and “strategic” objectives.
Public information about the effects of DU weapons used in the Balkans fall
within information warfare of NATO campaign in the region. Information
operations target foreign and domestic groups, including foreign governments and
intelligence, in an attempt to influence their perceptions and actions towards
support of own national and strategic goals. Distortions and half-truths about
the post-combat hazards of DU weapons flow from the objectives of “military
advantage” over enemy’s armour and military installations, which stem from
objectives of “national” and “strategic” interests disguised under
“globalization” rhetoric of “human rights” and “freeing the
DU ammunition did not secure any military advantage in the Kosovo crisis, but DU
contaminated the environment. The necessity to use slow-moving and low-altitude
A-10 and Apache against Serb tanks and mobile missile launches spelled disaster
to US equipment. Thousands of DU rounds went into mock-ups of Serb armour and
butchered refugees when “Serb” armour was suspected in convoys. Yugoslav
army left the battlefields practically intact. Unexploded DU shells, shrapnel
and invisible DU dust greeted hundreds of thousands of returning refugees, KLA
and illegal newcomers from Albania, as well as tens of thousands of NATO and UN
peacekeepers, humanitarian workers and Western “re-builders” of former
Yugoslavia. Only the Western groups were informed about potential risk, albeit
The efects of DU on Balkan battlefields are similar to the Gulf War syndrome
from the 1991 war in Iraq, where DU was used on a massive scale for the first
time. Evidence is also mounting about the risk of DU poisoning of aircraft
mechanics who never went to the Persian Gulf or the Balkans, but became
contaminated and sick from DU counterweights they handled.
Potential for multi-billion dollar litigation by veterans and by civilian
authorities in the Persian Gulf hamper publication of the truth. Cleanups of DU
contamination on battlefields, shooting ranges and at DU storage sites
throughout the world would also be extremely costly. It is in self-interests of
the military, the government and the defence industry to continue attempts at
“changing emphasis”, deception, half-truths, and straight lying about DU.
US and NATO strategy proves counterproductive. Moral credit of the United States
was tarnished in Western Europe. The same regards majority of former Soviet
block people who invested great hopes in a better world spearheaded by the US
and NATO. USA is harming its own national long-term interests and is letting
down millions of needy people in the process. Opposition to joining NATO and
European Union rose dramatically in Slav countries after NATO attacked
Yugoslavia. In Poland it is expressed by about 60 to 70% of the population.
The US and NATO would not give up DU “military advantage” voluntarily,
though an alternative exists in expensive tungsten. The military does not
calculate full social costs and has no incentive to switch to a more benign
material. Cheap DU was incorporated into the sandwich armour of the newest
American tank to make it “harder”. The problem concerns both DU ammunition
and DU used in flying bombs and aircraft, including civilian applications.
Public must take a vigorous stand to protect present and future generations of
all life endangered by DU. Propaganda is a weak point of the
military-government-industry complex who lost credibility through repeated
blunders and lies. However, the public does not question mainstream media
messages and does not have capacity to seek, analyse and understand information
about DU. Alternative information is generally rejected.
Government-military-industry information warriors exploit this in their
operations. Bonaparte’s assertion that “the sword is always beaten by the
mind” is challenging if one considers how the mind can be influenced by black
and grey propaganda. The public’s self-preservation instinct that came to
fruition during successful protests against nuclear mania gives hope for
countering DU propaganda.
Domination of biased messages undermines freedom of opinion and the right to
know the truth. The public is manipulated with fabricated truth. Demonizing a
nation to justify aggression and covering up information regarding crimes
against humanity are crimes themselves. There are indications of distorting
recent medical reports from NATO member countries about the cause of illness in
soldiers from Balkan campaigns. This effort will likely be growing, as medical
DU experts expect the incidence of the Balkan syndrome to rise sharply in the
next few months.
The degree of protection received by unconventional information on DU will be a
major working test of freedom and democracy. Continuing exposure of truth to the
public should hopefully begin a desirable change, both in public perceptions and
in the participatory processes.
(copyleft: reproduce and acknowledge the source)
2 Headquarters, Department of the Army, Field Manual 100-6:
Information Operations, USGPO, Washington DC, 27 August 1996
3 Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Defense, JCS Publication
Department of Defense Military and Associated Terms, 1987.
4 Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint
Publication 3-53, Joint Doctrine for Psychological Operations, USGPO, Washington
DC, 10 July 1996
5 Neue Zurcher Zeitung, March 30, 2000
6 Jacques Merlino, It Is Not Good To Tell The Truth About
Yugoslavia, A. Michel, Paris, 1993
7 Judgement can be ordered here.
8 R. K. Kent, Nationalisms and the absolute corruptibility of
imagined absolute power, October 7, 2000
9 Arthur N. Tulak, Information
Operations in Support of Demonstrations and Shows of Force.
11 George Coryell, General
spreads his wings, says farewell to arms, The Tampa Tribune, October 27,
12 Philip Hammond and Edward S. Herman (editors), Degraded
Capability: The Media and the Kosovo Crisis, Pluto Press, London, 2000
reproduce and acknowledge the source)