Recently, a number of America’s most senior military officers, including nine of the 11 combatant commanders, signed onto a highly unusual document. The memo asked for help from the Intelligence Community (IC) in countering what was called the “pernicious conduct” of foreign powers.
“We request this help to better enable the U.S., and by extension its allies and partners, to win without fighting, to fight now in so-called gray zones, and to supply ammunition in the ongoing war of narratives,” the memo stated.
“Unfortunately, we continue to miss opportunities to clarify truth, counter distortions, puncture false narratives, and influence events in time to make a difference,” they added.Politico
This highly unusual action by a group of senior U.S. military officers was largely ignored by most of the media but attracted significant attention at senior policy levels in Washington. A look behind the scenes shows exactly why.
The military commanders signing onto the letter are in charge of forces arrayed around the world who are face-to-face with our greatest adversaries, particularly Russia and China. Both of these nations, but particularly China, are masters in the use of propaganda and information warfare. Once we maintained significant similar capabilities ourselves. No longer. In this realm, we have effectively unilaterally disarmed.
The Central Intelligence Agency, which once devoted massive resources to the realm of covert action involving countering foreign propaganda and influence operations, shut down most of those capabilities long ago. No one else has filled the gap. Special Operations Command maintains a limited capability of this type, but no rigid, military structure is ever going to be truly effective in this kind of fluid, rapidly changing environment.
As a consequence, the Russians and Chinese essentially create whatever reality they want via vast networks of bots, paid mouthpieces, and state-run media outlets. The truth is irrelevant. Reality is whatever the Kremlin and Beijing say it is.
The Chinese are particularly adept at this and their propaganda machine particularly large and well-financed. The impact abroad is massive and is where the combatant commanders who signed onto the recent letter are focused. The scope of these influence operations is not only felt in distant regions of the world, however. It is felt right here at home.
Consider the case of the origins of COVID-19.
At the time of the initial outbreak, the Wuhan lab at the center of this controversy was involved in ‘gain of function’ research. This is research specifically focused on making naturally occurring diseases more dangerous to humans. This work was being funded in part by the United States via Dr. Fauci’s National Institute of Health (NIH) in violation of a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) order that no American government funding would be dedicated to such research.
The focus of the Wuhan research was specifically on viruses known to be found in bats, that had displayed characteristics that made it relatively easy for such viruses to cross over to humans and potentially to then be transmissible from one human to another. Such bats are not native to the Wuhan region. They were being captured in caves hundreds of miles away and brought to Wuhan for study.
U.S. State Department reporting on the Wuhan lab dating to 2018 detailed extremely sloppy practices and expressed specific concern that a dangerous organism might escape from the lab and cause a pandemic.
When the outbreak began the Chinese initially suppressed information regarding it and then began to broadcast the story that COVID-19 had originated from a live animal sold in a seafood market in Wuhan. Many so-called wet markets in China do sell live animals for food. Bats are not sold in the seafood market in question in Wuhan.
Based on all of the information detailed above, it was clear from the outset of this crisis that COVID-19 probably came out of the Wuhan lab and escaped into the “wild” as the result of sloppy lab practices. It was possible as well that the disease might be in some way related to the gain of function research known to be ongoing, and funded in part by the United States, at this location.
The Chinese, however, continued to push the narrative that the pandemic was a natural outbreak and had no connection to lab work of any kind. More to the point, they began to play offense. Any suggestion that the virus came from a lab was a “conspiracy theory” and racist and reprehensible. In fact, the virus might have begun in the United States.
These messages were then pumped out worldwide through a massive propaganda machine and amplified through a vast network of collaborators recruited via China’s powerful United Front. Almost immediately it was not just Beijing insisting that any suggestion of a connection to the Wuhan lab was reprehensible. Most major American news outlets parroted the same lines. Twitter banned anyone who said the virus came from a lab. Facebook and LinkedIn followed suit. Google blocked search results.
What began as a patently obvious and borderline ridiculous Chinese Communist Party (CCP) lie had become reality. If you denied it – if you cited facts – you were shouted down and silenced. Even now, a year later, a vast number of Americans still parrot talking points written in Beijing.
We hear increasingly about the danger of war with Communist China. A full-on, shooting war involving conventional forces is, in fact, a significant concern.
What we hear less about is the war that has already begun, the one being fought between freedom and tyranny, between justice and oppression, and between truth and lies. As it stands now, we are losing that war catastrophically both abroad and here at home. The men charged with our defense understand that fully.
Now the question is, what will we do about it.