U.S. Mourns Fallen Intellectual Warrior

In Iraq, where information is a weapon, military remembers a fallen warrior.

ByABC News
February 26, 2009, 7:29 PM

BAGHDAD, Dec. 8, 2007 — -- It was a successful mission. Several known militia members had been killed or captured and a small arsenal of weapons were confiscated. A hostage had been freed. The Iraqis had performed well -- entering one of the offices of the Sadr organization with little help from their U.S. allies.

Forty minutes after the firefight, the soldiers entered the safety of their base on the outskirts of Baghdad. That's when they learned they had allegedly killed innocent Iraqis who were praying inside a mosque.

What really happened at the Mustafa Husseiniya that day in March 2006 quickly became irrelevant. Pictures of dead bodies laid out on prayer rugs were flashed on the Internet before the soldiers took off their body armor. The Internet story, posted by the targets of the raid, triggered outrage that, at the time, threatened U.S. efforts to help form a new Iraqi government.

It's just one example of how the "information battlefield" can turn a tactical success into a strategic nightmare.

"They aren't able to meet us tank for tank, so they revert to other things," said Lt. Col. James Hutton, one of the top public affairs officers in Iraq, "and the Internet is the centerpiece."

This story is about one of the warriors on the information battlefield. Her name is Maj. Megan McClung.

The warriors on the information battlefield don't have fearsome titles or intimidating rank. The role of public affairs officer is not often appreciated or understood, even among their trigger-pulling colleagues.

How is this battle going?

"Frankly, when it comes to information ops, they are kicking our ass," one senior officer told ABC News.

He said the U.S. military has two problems in this fight: They have to be right, and they have a cumbersome bureaucratic structure. It can take days before they issue a response. By then the damage has been done.

On a day in December 2006, McClung escorted a fellow Marine, Fox News' Oliver North, to safety, and was returning to base.