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How not to be 'sick'

If you read or sound like an old duffer or military stodge, your message may not convey quite what one thinks to a younger generation in a different country. This is one of the unintentionally humorous lessons furnished in the latest issue of the Army's Military Intelligence Bulletin.

Yesterday, Steve Aftergood's Secrecy Blog posted the latest issue of the magazine, to the delight of many.

The magazine, published as a .pdf, focused on the Human Terrain System, "a U.S. Army program to conduct social and cultural studies in support of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," wrote Aftergood. "The Bulletin provides theoretical and practical accounts from HTS personnel in the field."

Indeed, one of the accounts in the new bulletin informs of an account of some US information operations in Iraq that, like so many things, seem to have gone awry:

Reads the bulletin:

With adolescents growing up in the recent decade, the word "sick" refers to something that is "crazy, cool, insane." To people living in the US 10 to 30 years ago, the word "sick" had a different definition -- "afflicted with ill health or disease, ailing" or "mentally, morally or emotionally deranged, corrupt, or unsound: a sick mind." Now consider the development of an IO campaign to discredit a group of insurgents: "Those people are sick." The American who lived in the US 10 to 30 years ago would understand this to mean that the group is mentally deranged or morally corrupt. However, an American adolescent today would interpret this to mean that the group is really cool and hip. Rather than being an abstract issue, this problem actually negatively impacted US IO in Iraq on numerous occasions. In the summer of 2010 an IO campaign was pursued to portray several individuals and insurgent groups as criminals. Unfortunately, the Arabic language used presented these people in more of a "Robin Hood" fashion and may have assisted in recruitment.


In another section of the bulletin HTS researchers present numerous colored maps of Afghanistan.

Maps can be quite helpful in understanding where you are. And sometimes not so much, depending on circumstances.

For these maps, a red area denoted where Afghan locals were very unlikely to report IEDs to authorities. A yellow area was explained to mean the locals were "somewhat unlikely" to report IEDs to authorities.

But what if one is on the boundary between a red and a yellow or moving from one to the other? Which level of "unlikely" should be assumed?

And how much 'likely" is in the "likely" in green areas where the color is said to signify the locals are "likely" to report IEDs?

One can see the conundrums that might arise in the determination and weighing of a variety of "likely" stories, so to speak.

Again, Secrecy Blog's post on Military Intelligence and the Human Terrain System magazine is here.

In other news, locals in this area of Afghanistan would perhaps be thought not likely to report IEDs.

This post was first published on Dick Destiny blog. Visit for the biting good humor, stay for the lacerating insight.

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