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Sparrowhawk
04-12-03, 02:38 PM
As propagandists go, Gulf War's
'Baghdad Betty' was a bomb
By Don North

Special to Stars and Stripes

Iraq’s answer to Hanoi Hannah during the Persian Gulf War was a woman whom soldiers called "Baghdad Betty."
Her efforts to broadcast morale-busting messages to troops in the Gulf were, like most of Iraq’s military efforts, a failure.
Baghdad Betty began broadcasting in English to allied troops in Saudi Arabia in early September 1990. Her broadcasts were believed to originate in Baghdad with transmitters in southern Iraq and Kuwait.

The few American troops who heard her broadcasts say she was no Hanoi Hannah. Col. Jeff Jones, commanding officer of the Army’s 8th Psychological Task Force at Fort Bragg, Ky., who directed U.S. Psy-Ops in the Gulf, says Betty’s broadcasts were laughable.

"Her broadcasts proved the Iraqis didn’t understand us at all," Jones said. "Her ignorance was pervasive. She was never sure of her sources, and broadcast old information based on dated news."

Saddam Hussein also wasn’t impressed with Betty’s efforts. In mid-December 1990 she was sacked after only three months of broadcasting, and replaced by a collection of announcers who called themselves "Mother of Battles Radio" on the same frequency that Betty had used.

Mother of Battles Radio was near the top of the Allied target list and was bombed off the air in mid-January, when the mother of air wars began.

Jones and his psy-warriors then used the same frequency, and in partnership with Saudi, Kuwait and Egyptian forces, they broadcast in Arabic 18 hours per day for 40 days. They transmitted from two ground stations in Saudi Arabia, a platform in Gulf waters and a transmitter in Turkey.

"Thanks to Saddam, we were pretty effective," Jones said. "The Iraqi soldier was betrayed by Saddam. They were ill-supported and vulnerable to everything we broadcast, which was basically just the truth."

Allied coalition psy-warriors captured the Iraqi soldier’s attention using dramatic methods.

"We would tell them that tomorrow we would drop on them the biggest bomb we had," recalls Jones. "Then, exactly as promised, we dropped a ‘Daisy Cutter’ (BLU-82) that looks like a small atom bomb detonating. The next time we said we were going to drop another big one like that, the defections increased dramatically.

"One Iraqi soldier came across clutching 343 safe conduct passes he had been collecting. We found over 52 percent of defectors had been listening to our broadcasts."

At the same time, American Forces Network’s radio broadcasts had the respect and credibility it lacked in Vietnam. Instead of doctoring the news by re-editing, the Gulf War AFN gave the troops exactly the same news civilians heard back home — rebroadcasts of AP, ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN news on the hour.

In mid-October 1990, AFN was broadcasting from Dharan, Jubail, Riyadh, King Khalid Military City and, later, from Kuwait City. It represented a major concession by the Saudis, but one that U.S. military commanders in the Gulf believed was well worth demanding of their often-prickly Saudi hosts.

It was virtually a 24-hour invasion of the airwaves in the most traditional and sensitive of all Islamic states by what the locals considered risqué and permissive American music and uncensored news. But for American troops in the desert, it was a friendly and credible voice from home.