Going beyond protest

1,000 'Voila Moments' to stop the war

Naomi Klein

At the Pentagon they call it the 'Voila Moment'.

That's when Iraqi soldiers and civilians, with bombs raining down on Baghdad, suddenly scratch their heads and say to themselves: "These bombs aren't really meant to kill me and my family, they are meant to free us from an evil dictator!" At that point, they thank Uncle Sam, lower their weapons, abandon their posts, and rise up against Saddam Hussein. Voila!

Or at least that's how it is supposed to work, according to the experts in "psychological operations" who are already waging a fierce information war in Iraq. The 'Voila Moment' made its first foray into the language of war last Monday, when a New York Times reporter quoted an unnamed senior US military official using the term.

This peppering of military jargon with bon mots could be Colin Powell's latest plan to win over the French on the Security Council. More likely it's the product of the Bush administration's penchant for hiring advertising executives and flaky management consultants as foreign policy advisors (doesn't the 'Voila Moment' sounds suspiciously like the 'Wow Factor' - sold to millions of corporate executives as the key to building a powerful brand?)

Wherever it came from, the Pentagon has 'Voila' in its sights, and it is sparing no expense to hit its target. Airborne transmitters are flying over Iraq broadcasting radio propaganda. Iraqi business, military and political officials have been bombarded with emails and phone calls urging them to see the light and switch sides. Fighter planes have dropped more than 8 million leaflets informing Iraqi soldiers that their lives will be spared if they walk away from their military equipment. "It sends a direct message to the operator on the gun," says Lt Gen T Michael Moseley, commander of allied air forces in the Persian Gulf.