CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar – Tune into 100.4 FM and you'll likely hear Celine Dion, Sheryl Crow and U.S. warnings to Iraqis to stay away from military targets.
The United States is stepping up its propaganda campaign ahead of imminent war, dropping record numbers of ominous leaflets over Iraq and beaming a five-hour Arabic-language radio show to Iraqis every evening.
"Information Radio" comes to Iraqis courtesy of "Commando Solo" — an EC-130E aircraft flown by the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.
Dropping an antenna from its belly as it nears the Iraqi-Kuwait border, "Commando Solo" transmits messages prepared by the Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group in Fort Bragg, N.C.
For the past four months, it has beamed them on three frequencies accessible to Iraqis — 100.4 FM, 690 kHz on the AM dial and 9,715 kHz on shortwave.
"We're trying to convey information to the people of Iraq, whether it be to the civilian population, the military or even anyone who has any idea about weapons of mass destruction," said Army Staff Sgt. Noble of Lorain, Ohio. He asked not to be identified further.
The broadcasts tell Iraqis what to do to avoid harm, he said in an interview Tuesday at Camp As Sayliyah, the U.S. Gulf command center for a war against Iraq.
Similar broadcasts were used during the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan, and have been used in almost every major conflict since the Vietnam War, said Air Force Sgt. Mike, an electronics communications specialist from Harrisburg, Pa.
The 11 crew members of "Commando Solo" — one of six EC-130E's in use by the psychological operations unit — say the Iraqi authorities haven't been able to jam their signals.
The broadcasts are advertised to Iraqis in leaflets dropped over the "no-fly zone" in southern Iraq, including a record 1.9 million dispersed on Tuesday that brought the total dropped this year to over 17 million.
Besides radio schedules, the leaflets issue dire warnings like: "Attacking coalition aircraft invites your destruction," and "Do not risk your life and the lives of your comrades. Leave now and go home. Watch your children learn, grow and prosper."
The flying broadcasters said they have no idea who's listening to their Western and Arabic music and the heavy dose of U.S. programming. A few Iraqis contacted in Baghdad said they were aware of "Information Radio" but none said they listen to it.