Thursday, October 3, 2013

'Learned helplessness' a key tactic in shiaism

A sergeant from one of the Third Infantry Division's tactical psy-ops platoons, Boone Cutler wrote a humdinger of a war memoir about his time in Baghdad's Sadr City.

It's the Shiite enclave in that ancient city, and the hotbed of insurgency fighting the military's constitutional government.

Cutler's book, “Voodoo in Sadr City, The Rise of Shiaism in Iraq,” tells a detailed story about operations that counter the tactics of religious police who terrorize the populace, seeking their submission. They're everywhere. Watching. Listening. Waiting for the night, when they go abroad dressed in black to do their job. When they do, people disappear, then reappear bloody, dead, on display.

An incident typical of those perpetrated was the execution of a group of young girls accused of prostitution and loose morals who were herded to a street corner where sheep are slaughtered during the day. One of the girls, according to a note pinned to her blouse, was accused of prostitution. And then an AK-47 muzzle inserted into her vagina sent a round plowing through her abdomen.

The Voodo platoon caught the detail of organizing, cataloguing and developing as assets many people in Sadr City who were less than thrilled about their status under a dictator even more brutal than Saddam Hussein.

He explained that in this new kind of war, there are both violent and non-violent tactics, “kinetic and non-kinetic” methods of combat.

A former paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne, he specialized in the non-kinetic brand of fighting.

One of the unit's greatest obstacles, he relates, is the extreme submissiveness of the people who have lived under that kind of oppression for decades upon decades. They are difficult to talk to. You almost always have to approach them in the middle of the night.

“There is a term in psy-ops that explains and defines the reason for their submissive nature. The term is called learned helplessnes, and it is one of several cognitive learning techniques that we have to learn in layman's terms.

“In layman's terms, learned helplessness is no more than an emotional defense mechanism whereby the captive has learned to submit to the captor's will and act helpless in order to survive. Whether the captive actually believes in the ideology of the captor is not relevant because the goal is to survive and not challenge. The perception is that helplessness is their most viable option for survival. Iraq is a nation full of people submissively trying to stay alive...”

Cutler, Boone, “Voodoo In Sadr City, The Rise of Shiaism in Iraq,” Author House, 248 pgs., 2010.

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