“Troops crossed the line of departure,” 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert declared, using a common military expression signaling the start of a major campaign. “It’s going to be a long night.” CNN, which had been alerted to expect a major news development, reported that the long-awaited offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Fallouja had begun.
In fact, the Fallouja offensive would not kick off for another three weeks. Gilbert’s carefully worded announcement was an elaborate psychological operation
—or “psy-op” —intended to dupe insurgents in Fallouja and allow U.S. commanders to see how guerrillas would react if they believed U.S. troops were entering the city, according to several Pentagon officials. —Mark Mazzetti —PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror (LA Times (registration))