Tuesday, August 31, 2010

PsyOps and Domestic Politics: From Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush

The United States has long used psychological tools to influence public opinion. That was considered par for the course when the Pentagon and the CIA used PsyOps on foreign populations. Under Ronald Reagan, these same tools were deployed to sell Reagan's not-so-secret war in Central America to the American people. Under George W. Bush, these tools were to promote Bush domestic programs.

Public Diplomacy” under Reagan

At the beginning of the Reagan administration, the subject of disinformation came up at a meeting of the Economic Policy Advisory Board. Among those present were Reagan, the Vice Prsident, C.I.A. Director Bill Casey, some leading bankers, the Secretary of State, and Barbara Honegger, a White House stafer. Someone, perhaps Al Haig, asked what the policy should be in respect to disinformation. Casey said that Carter’s problem had been that there had been too little effort to deceive the public. Casey added, “ we’re going to correct that situation, and we’ll know when we we’ve succeeded….when everything the public believes is wrong.” No ons objected.

A successful information control mechanism emerged under the Reagan administration was designed to support an interventionist US foreign policy, but it it also was an important mechanism in domestic politics. It also was used to cover up many illegal operations and attack those who reported on them. A prime example was the small war conducted against the Christic Institute, which produced chapter and verse on the illegal war against the Nicaraguan Sandanista government and the C.I.A.’s complicity in drug dealing by the Contra rebels. The institute opened up the Iran/Contra scandal and documentedx much else. Its mistake was claiming thre was a secret cell within the Intelligence Community that carried about the illegal activities. It could be proven that people tied to the community were doing these things, but there was no solid evidence that there was some small, organized cell at work. Of course, the other alternative was that these people were carrying out official policy. Insisting there was a cell that could not be clearly identified gave many on the left, including David Corn, the excuse to join in tarring them. Susan Huck led the charge against the Institute. In Legal Terrorism, she claimed that the Christic Institute and its director Dan Sheehan were serving the interests of the Soviet Union by attacking C.I.A. agents and patriots. These propagnda operations in the 1980s contributed to developing a herd instinct among members of the journalistic craft and an aversion to reporting bad news about government policy.

Shirlet Brill, a former agent who had lived with Tom Clines, published a 24 page affadavit supporting many Christic Institute claims. Gene Wheaton, vice president of a small cargo carrier National Air, also testified about Richard Secord and others diverting planes and supplies to assist the Contras. He briefed Bill Casey on this, but was assured nothing was going on. Beginning in 1982, Secord started acquiring weapons that the Israelis captured in Lebanon. They were shipped to a C.I.A. depot in San Antonio and then sent to the contras. The 1987 House Iran/Contra Hearings record indicats Secord had talked boaut building his own opium processing plant, to produce opium alkaloids. Maybe they would then be turned into heroin, but again there might be an innocent application. The lead was never pursued.

The Reagan administration launched a massive campaign to persuade the American public to support the administrations plans to back Contra rebels in Nicaragua and other right-wing movements in Central America. These plans were called “Operation Democracy,” and the public diplomacy program was sometimes called “Operation Truth.” The need for it was underscored when Raymond Bonner of The New York Times reported on the Salvadoran military’s’ s massacre of 800 men, women, and children in the village of El Mozote in January, 1982. Operation Truth was designed to counter these stories and intimidate the press into not reporting such things. Bonner was stripped of the Central American beat and given a desk in the New York Times newsroom. He soon abandoned journalism.

A major innovation was the widespread use of psychological warfare techniques to sell Reagan’s secret war in Central America to the American people. This was done under the rubric of “Public Diplomacy.” The term “psychological warfare” came into use 1941. The Germans called it Weltanschauungskreig or “worldview warfare.” Of course, the science had long existed, and the pundit Walter Lippmann used it against the Central Powers in World War I. It wasw designed to rob the enemy of the moral justification to fight and to convert people to your cause. It was designed to spread fear or inspire hate. Now it became necessary to mentally massage Americans.

Public Diplomacy was carried out in the White House Office of Public Diplomacy , which largely staffed by C.I.A. psychological warfare experts. There was a parallel Latin American Office of Public Diplomacy in the State Department directed by Otto Reich, a Cuban-born Miami businessman and politi C.I.A.n. He too employed C.I.A. psy-ops veterans. Reich, later became assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere in the George W. Bush administration. Under Reagan, he thought his office did such an effective job that he recommended it for a special commendation. His executive officer was Lt. Colonel Daniel “Jake” Jacobowitz, who had a background in psychological warfare. Five other former army officers in that operation had been in psy-ops/ The comptroller general noted that his public diplomacy activities constituted illegal propaganda.

Initially, C.I.A. director William Casey designed the propaganda program with the help of several American public relations experts and helped guide both operations. By 1983, the White House operation was authorized by National Security Directive 77 and it was up and running. The intelligence professionals in the office brought to the domestic scene refined techniques for confusing people, obscuring the truth, and manipulating public opionon. These propaganda skills usually reserved for use against foreign enemies. Now they were deployed to influence the American electorate. Its operatives also found ways of disciplining members of the Washington press corps who strayed too far from the official line in foreign policy.

Much of the time it spread false information about the leftist regime in Nicaragua. In time, Lt. Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council took responsibility for secretly supervising the Office of Public Diplomacy. One of his greatest successes was leaking a false story that Soviet migs were being transported to Nicaragua. The story appeared on election day, November 4, 1984.
A precedent for this was Nixon’s “Operation Mocking Bird “ which placed C.I.A. operatives in major journalistic positions to assure that the press took a sufficiently anti-Communist line. The Reagan program was different in that it sold a particular approach to dealing with an alleged communist threat. While an administration certainly has the right to influence opinion, it is doubtful there is a right to use public funds for political purposes. This “perception management” campaign was called Project Truth and worked in part through the apparatus of was run by Walter Raymond, a 30 year C.I.A. veteran who resigned from the agency to do this work because his agency was forbidden to carry out domestic operations. Raymond, now an NSC staffer, talked about “gluing black hats on the Sandanistas and gluing white hats” on the Contras. It was a “public diplomacy" operation in which efforts were made to recruit supporters in universities and the media. Publications were used, speakers deployed, and magazines founded. Organizations were created to send out speakers to drum up support for right wing elements in Central America. There were many “op eds,” many written by paid academi C.I.A.ns. Contra leaders with blood on their hands were converted into human rights advocates and sent around the US, often inventing stories about Sandanista atrocities.

The program was thought necessary because those involved seemed convinced that the American press was allied with the Sandanistas in Nicaragua and the rebels in El Salvador. This was even claimed in official correspondence. Some even thought the American journalists were committed Communists. Since the days when Vice President Spiro T. Agnew complained that the press was heavily biased and dominated by leftists, this belief became an article of faith for conservative zealots. At best this was a huge exaggeration, but now acceptance of this notion served as justification for breaking the law by carrying out an Executive branch program to shape political opinion and influence Congress by the deployment of various propaganda techniques. With some justification, the propagandists also believed that there was such a thing as conventional wisdom which delineated the boundaries of “permissible thinking” both witnin the government and in the journalistic community. Those who frequently strayed beyond conventional wisdom –what everyone knew had to be true—were not given prime media assignments and were ridiculed as outsiders. Conventional wisdom defined the limits of what constituted acceptable discussion and Reagan administratin’s psy-op people were determined to shape it.

The public diplomacyofficials were fully aware that federal laws forbade the Executive branch from spending taxpayer funds to influence public opinion or to directly or indirectly lobby Congress. Raymond They even wrote about this problem in an August 29, 1983 memorandum. He also wanted Bill Casey to stay away from the operation because the C.I.A. was clearly forbidden to be involved in any kind of domestic activity. Casey, on the other hand, simply did not care. The State Department ‘s Inspector General learned of the activities of Reich’s office and unsuccessfully sought action by the department’s Office of Personnel. These psy-op people spoke of their task as perception management. Congressional committees investigating Iran/Contra turned up some of these activities, but the Democrats were forced to leave this information out of the reports in order to pick up a few Republican signatures, thus giving the reports a non-partisan flavor.

Their main concerns were that the press thought the government was conducting a covert war against Nicaragua and was determined to overturn the regime there. They were also angry that it was reported that the Contras grew out of Somoza’s former National Guard. They were also outraged when reporters wrote about Contra atrocities. They went into high gear when reporters turned up a 90 page “murder manual” that the C.I.A. had printed for the Contras, and they were successful in quickly muting the press on this matter. The President said the story was “much ado about nothing.” Over time, the public diplomacy program created great doubt about the reports of the International Red Cross and various human rights organizations. They also were able to broadcast widely claims of Yale student Wesley Smith that the Contras had committed numerous atrocities. None of his stories could be checked.

Some estimate that as much as $200,000,000 in public and private funds were used by the Reagan administration on “public diplomacy” over four years. It is difficult to confirm this as so many operations were masked in deep secrecy. But if even $100 was spent this way, it was a violation of law that should have been ppunished. The funds the office spent were cut off in 1987 after Congress discovered the Iran/Contra operations. A typical pattern was establishing “private” groups with funds donated by private individuals. However, these groups usually received large amounts from unidentifdied Swiss accounts.

One of these organizations was the Institute for Religion and Democracy, where wo0rk was done on lobbying Congress to increase aid to the Contras. Another front was a public relations form called International Business Communications, which was heavily subsidized by Reich’s office. It managed the lobbying and fund raising operations of Carl ‘Spitz’ Channell and others. Some of the funds for this came from offshore Swiss accounts controlled by Oliver North. IBC was so active thjat one White House official called it the “White House outside the White House.” One of its main successes was orchestrating the failure of Congressman Michael Barnes’ effort to win the Democratic nomination for the Senate in Maryland. Barnes opposed supporting the Contras. Money was also funneled to Accuracy in Media, a NeoConservative organization dedicated to attacking the mainstream press.

Ronald Reagan created the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an organization that was technically separate from government but largely funded by it. Above all, it was not under Congressional oversight. It was used to fund right wing parties in Central America and to back the secret war there. Sometimes the government’s National Endowment for Democracy waqs used to funnel money to conservative organizations, Particularly Freedom House. This was to continue later during the administration of George W. Bush. It funds opposition groups in Cuba and provided money for the unsuccessful right-wing coup in Venezuela in 2002.

Polls were taken to find arguments that would sell. It was found the best argument that aroused the most interest was the claim that leftist activity in Central America would touch off mass migrations of refugees to the United States. People were repeatedly alerted to the danger of large numbers of of left-leaning people from Central America coming across the US border. Others ,even more numerous and numbered in the millions, would rush to the United States as leftist regimes emerged in Mexico and Central America. PR people taught propaganda operatives to stay on message, to continually repeat it, and that with skillful arguments they could create reality with words. Days after coming to power, Jean Kirkpatrick, Alexander Haig, and Bill Casey demonstrated how effective their information management techniques were in dealing with the four nuns who were raped and murdered by a right-wing death squad in El Salvador in December 1980. Kirkpatrick hinted they deserved their fate because they were leftist political activists, and others hinted they may have been packing weapons and trying to run a roadblock.

Soon right wing journalists attending a press conference shouted at the nun’s families that they were not raped. Later, Secretary of State Alexander Haig, whose brother is a priest, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that they may have accidentally run a roadblock “ and there may have been an exchange of fire.” The public diplomacy program also put out the word that the Sandanistas were anti-Semitic. Although these charges were later disproved by the American embassy there, they never quite went away. They had planted hostility to the Sandanista in the American Jewish Community. Of course, the embassy’s report was classified ass top secret and never saw the light of day.

The Nicaraguan regime was repeatedly accused of exporting drugs, but there was never much proof. One wonders how this could be done when American intelligence probably heard every toilet flush and saw every plane that took to the air. One Nicaraguan official , Federic Vaughan, was indicted, but it turned out that he used telephones belonging to US and western embassies to reach his American drug customers.

The new strategy was remarkable because it was based on flat lies rather than just representing the spinning of half-truths. Yet, the public diplomacy people always referred to their work as constituting only “White propaganda.” It proved to be very successful because the lies were repeated after they were repeated on numerous occasions. Eventually, they were able to reverse American opinion on Central American issues and even make massacres and the murder of tens of thousands simply fade away.

Frequently reporters could be brought quickly into line by the threat of cutting off interviews and government sources of interviews. Sometimes, newspaper and electronic editors had to be hectored, but the editors were usually worn down quickly. Many op-ed pieces were planted, especially in the Wall Street Journal North coached contra drug runners to pose as human rights advocates and speak against their opponents. Oliver North sent an underling to Congress to testify posing as a Roman Catholic priest and claiming the contras were very religions and respectful of human rights. The C.I.A. was successful in persuading the press to print its version of what was going on in Central America. Two Associated Press investigative reporters were branded by the F.B.I. Sandanista agents, and the AP quickly decided to give as little space as possible to stories about contra corruption and drug trading.

Newsweek also reluctantly printed such stories, including one about the office of Vice President Bush helping to supply the contras when funds were cut off, but its topofficials were continually harassed and intimidated by governmentofficials about this and the reporter who had been pursuing these matters was forced to resign in 1990. Once a respected liberal magazine, The New Republic became an outlet for the Reagan administration’s propaganda. It ridiculed reports that the Contras hurt innocent people, and Fred Barnes wrote glowing reports about them The General Accounting Office eventually argued that these government activities violated the law that made “covert propaganda” illegal. He called its work “white propaganda” that was “prohibited covert propaganda activities designed to influence the media and public to support the administration’s Latin American policies.”

A few stories about the C.I.A. supplying the Contras with arms began to appear in 1985. Editors usually tried to discourage these stories. By 1986, some investigative journalists were learning that at the least the C.I.A. was permitting the Contras to move drugs into the US. An AP editor told Robert Parry, “New York doesn’t want to her any more about the drug story.” They also produced a pamphlet on how Cuba and Nicaragua were in a position to interdict Caribbean sea lanes and bottle up US ports—probably with about a dozen small patrol boats.

John F. Kennedy had breached the bounds of propriety and perhaps broke the law by having a military affairs journalist watched, but his abuse of power does not seem to have gone beyond this. Under Reagan, government kept track of many journalists and tried to interfere with their work.

Journalistic “enemies” were targeted and usually demoted or taken off of Central America. These people were continually trashed and their journalistic integrity questioned. An ABC reporter Karen Burns who survived this treatment finally volunteered to cover the Ethiopian civil war rather than remain a target of unrelenting fire. She described her ordeal to Rolling Stone and said there was so much pressure to write what the administrtion wanted that “It’s easy to be co-opted.” She added, “At times you are so desperate and tired that you want to believe anything you hear “ from the administration propagandists. Otto Reich was adept at bombarding news executives with criticisms, and those editors usually responded by pressuring reporters to tone down stories or give them a different slant. NPR news director Robert Siegel punished reporter Bill buzenberg with a eek job performance report and the NPR froreign editor Paul Allen found less enthusiasm for reporting on controversial subjects. Allen soon abandoned journalism. Other outlets simply transferred journalists to beats where they would be in a position to anger the administration. Journalists who wrote positive things about the right-wing movements were rewarded.

Otto Reich proved to be very energetic and industrious and was particularly successful in forcing NPR and CBS to avoid reporting negative information about the right-wing movements. He retained a private contractor to keep track of NPR broadcasts, alerting him to those that were critical of the Contras . Paul Allen who reported on a massacre by Contras on NPR in 1984 was criticized for the story by his superiors, given a bad performance review, and decided to give up on journalism. Reich’s perception management program was an unmitigated success in intimidating editors and journalists. Those who did not knuckle under often suffered the fate of Mr. Allen.

By 1986-1987, Operation Truth has succeeded in reducing the press, which was active and vigorous in the Watergate days, to near subservience. The funding for the official public diplomacy operations was cuit off, but nothing else changed. Propaganda and psychological ploys were used to manipulate foreign peoples continued to be used on American citizens. There was little effort to get behind the lame official Iran/Contra story, laying most of the blame at the feet of Robert “Bud” McFarlane , and few looked into the crimes committed by US surrogates in Central America. The Congress held hearings but made little effort to get behind the administration’s cover story. The limited immunity it granted Oliver North and John Poindexter proved the basis for a right-wing federal judge overturning their convictions. Judge Lawrence Walsh was pictured as an eccentric Captain Ahab who stubbornly would not abandon a pointless venture.

George H.W. Bush promised to cooperate with Walsh after he left office, but instead refused to testify. Representative Henry Gonzales who urged the press to look into how George H.W. Bush and Reagan had worked so closely with Saddah Hussein was looked upon as a foolish old man—a modern Don Quixote. The conventional wisdom on John Kerry, who tried to look into the contra drug trade, was that he was a conspiracy theorist trying. The story was barely covered. To some degree the sneering tone of the once-progressive New Republic characterized the press of the 1980s and beyond. Rather than look into the criminal acts of Iran/Contra and those that preceded it, the press generally joined in what amounted to a massive cover up. Iran/Contra was never carefully explored, and Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter wrote in 1991, “For some years now the CW [ on Iran-contra has been, ‘Hey, give it a rest, that’s history.’”

The press had become domesticated, some think it became an arm of the Republican conservatives, whom journalists came to fear. By the early Twenty"First Century, even The Nation sometimes sang the government’s official line. Its best reporter attacked people who did not believe the official version of what occurred on 9/11, and one of the editors doubled as editor of the C.I.A. web site. He also had distinguished himself by trying to prove that the KGB was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Another important part of Operation Truth was the use of the F.B.I. to spy upon and intimidate opponents of Reagan foreign policy. Richard Nixon set a precedent by using national security to justify using the F.B.I. to spy on political opponents. The F.B.I. cooperated by investigating and harassing people who were critical of the contras and other right-wing operations in Central America. The F.B.I. worked overtime keeping track of and harassing people involved in various efforts to protest US policies in Latin America. In 1987, Frank Varelli, a Salvadoran and naturalized US citizen, told a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constititutional and Human Rights about how the F.B.I. paid him to infiltrate a the Committee in Soliadrity with the People of El Salvador Texas and provide the names of activists to the Salvadoran National Guard, whose death squads would deal with these people when they returned home. Using INS records, the F.B.I. found those who entered illegal and saw that they were deported. He also provided photographs of these people and also spied on some members of Congress and a US ambassador. He added that his F.B.I. handler broke into the apartment of a political activist in Dallas. His testimony was negated when the Secret Service produced evidence that the group intended to Assassinate President Reagan. It was later found that a right-wing colleague created a document on his typewriter so this assertion could be made.

North also used the F.B.I. against those who could testify against him. Jack Terrell, a C.I.A. agent who had soured on the contras, was willing to testify to Congress. Terrell had been known as Colonel Flaco. He had used Civilian Military Asistance, an American civilian organization that procided equipment, to arrange assassinations. First, North assigned a former C.I.A. agent to entice Terrell into a phony business deal that could be used to discredit him. Then he told the F.B.I. that Terrell had said he wanted to assassinate Reagan. The F.B.I. detained him and subjected him to two days of questioning.

Leftists often received death threats and warnings of other kinds, and it seems that reformist church groups were often intimidated into silence. Activists returning from Nicaragua were sometimes subjected to immediate IRS audits. Sometimes F.B.I. agents visited their employers and asked a lot of questions about subversion and disloyalty. When Senator Robert Kasten of Wisconsin asked the Bureau about this harassment, he was stonewalled. The Sojourner’s office, headquarters of a progressive evangelical organization, was burglarized several times. The Old Cambridge Baptist Church, near Harvard, was also burgularized.

Anticipating a Republican victory in the presidential election of 1980, the Heritage Foundation prepared a useful study to justify these tactics. The 1980 Heritage Foundation report called for giving the F.B.I. and intelligence agencies extended powers to spy on Americans, infiltrate domestic organizations, and even the use of burgularies to obtain necessary information. In large measure, this was a call to beef up the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence operation, COINTELPRO, which was exposed in 1971. In the words of J.Edgar Hoover, it existed to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit and otherwise neutralize” elements he thought dangerous to the country. They were almost always liberal and leftist. The techniques employed were infiltration, psychological warfare of various forms, various forms of harassment, and the use of extralegal force and violence. The psychological warfare included bugus leaflets, correspondence, and telephone calls. It also involved causing trouble for the subjects with employers, schools, and local authorities. The Reagan administrati0on protected COINTELPRO through judi C.I.A.l and administrative interpretations and new laws limiting the Freedom of Information Act.

The bureau kept track of legislators who too critical of Ronald Reagan’s Central American policies. Among those who were watched were Christopher Dodd ( then dating Bianca Jagger), Ron Dellums, Michael Barnes, Don Edwards, Thomas Harkin and Representatives Conyers, Mervin Dymally, George Crockett , George Miller, Mickey Leland Stephen Solarz, and Ted Weiss and Gerry Studds. The Bureau also kept tabs on Daniel Sheehan, head of the Christic Institute, and two plaintiffs in a Christic Institute law suite because they were critical of US central Ameerican policy and bent on exposing the ways in which it involved violations of law. Oliver North justified the surveillance with the claims one of the plaintiffs might be involved in a plan to assassinate Ronald Reagan. Anyone criticizing the Reagan central American policies was classified as a terrorist and subject of an F.B.I. file. Members of CARP, a Unification Church organization, spied on left-wing groups and provided reports for the F.B.I.

From 1983 to 1990, there were death threats directed at leftists and break-ins, but there is no way to definitely tie these activities to the F.B.I.. Representative Don Edwards, a Democrat and former F.B.I. agent, wrote that it was possible that these activities were carried out by US and Central American right-wingers. Some thought that, if this were the case, these people needed information and coordination from either the F.B.I., C.I.A., or both.
The circle around C.I.A. Director wanted to break down the barriers between the C.I.A. and F.B.I. so that more could be done to support efforts to keep track of political opponents and intimidate them. . There is no question that F.B.I. surveillance activities met the goals of C.I.A. policy, but it cannot be determined whether the wall separating them had partly come down or if C.I.A. operatives like North were simply expert as using the F.B.I.

Long after these operations were over, in 1994, when Oliver North ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, another successful information-planting operation briefly but effectively planted all the blame for not reporting contra drug running on a rogue lieutenant colonel, Oliver North. Of course, he had done far more than look the other way. It was a strange comeuppance for a man so adept at shaping perceptions.

Today, the agency supports several hundred people around the world who have the ability to get C.I.A. views into newspapers, magazines and journals. There was talk in 1989 about the old C.I.A. subsidy to CBS being transferred to ABC . In 2001, it was reported that American reporters were threatened with loss of Secret Service and other credentials in they reported on French reports about interviews given by the late F.B.I. anti-terrorism expert John O. Neill. Very little of this story got into the US press. At the same time, foreign press services were threatened with loss of C.I.A. subsidies if they aired the O’Neill story.

American citizens are conditioned to expect that journalists will report the truth because that is their noble job. The fact was that people paid by the taxpayer to project views consistent with administration policy shaped America’s perception of its relationship to the rest of the world. Doubtless, the journalists thought that writing these stories was in the best interests of the nation. Other pressures affected their writing. Their employers had a natural interest in not offending advertisers, and as the years passed, newspapers and magazines came more and more to be owned by a relatively few powerful corporate interests.

PsyOps under George W. Bush
Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner has said that it was not faulty intelligence that led the United States to invade Iraq in 2003; it was an orchestrated propaganda effort that began before the wary to mislead the public and world. The same tactics employed in Ronald Reagan’s public diplomacy program were used. A difference seems to be that the George W. Bush public diplomacy program was not accompanied by many of the strong-arm tactics used by the Reagan White House. Gardiner found the White House and Pentagon operation to be irresponsible and possible illegal. Judi C.I.A.l Watch brought a case about the illegal use of federal money to shape public opinion but it appears to have been swallowed up in the
Chicago federal courts. Gardiner noted that the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes it a crime for any soldier to lie and wondered if this article should be involked/

Gardiner found that the U.S. and Great Britain worked together to systematically plant’stories of strategic influence” in their domestic presses and in the world press. The Times of London estimated that the US spent about $200,000,000 on this operation. Gardiner found that “PSYOPS became a major part of the relationship between the governments of the US and the UK and the free press.”

In early 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld set up an Office of Strategic Influence, and a similar operation was set up in London under Strategy Director Alastair Campbell. Gardiner thought this was the first time tools of warfare—“information warfare, strategic influence, [ and] strategic psychological operations pushed their way into the important process of informing the people os our two democracies.” In fact, Ronald Reagan had done all of this in the 1980s. Rumsfeld tentatively suggested establishing a Department of Propaganda but was turned back by White House staff. However, something like this ministry eventually emerged when the White House created the Office of Global Communications, whose annual budget was $200 million. The word “Global” was misleading as the emphasis was on shaping t he opinion of the American public..

Gardiner found more than 50 news stories that wre planted by the White House which were false to one degree or other but intended to win support for invading Iraq. One of the better known stories was about Iraq possessing drones that carried cluster bombs long distances. On September 12, 2002, the White House put out a briefing paper on a highly secret facility called Salman Park, where terrorists were carefully trained in planting explosives, sabotage, and hijacking airplanes. There was nevere any evidence presented that the facility existed. Another widely reported story—with the Wall Street Journal leading the way, was that Iraq had perfected a dirty radiation bomb. Again, no proof was ever produced. Jim Wilkinson, Deputy White House Director of Communications also put out the story that Iraqis in US uniforms had been trained to commit atrocities when the war began so the coalition could be blamed. He was not asked about sources, and proof was never produced. When the German and French governments raised questions about the planned invasion, the US produced stories about those governments secretly providing Iraq with precision bomb switches and other deadly materials. One reporter asked for sources on the Francophobic fibbing about France helping Iraqiofficials flee. He was told to ask the French.

During the war, there were other stories. It was said that Iraqi Revolutionary Guards executed coalition prisoners. The Jessica Lynch story was completely distorted and her family was ordered not to talk to the press so they could not clear up the misinformation. The Pentagon painted her as “America’s new Mambo” and falsely claimed she was abused in the Iraqi hospital and had been wounded by the Iraqis in action.

The White House Coalition Information Center under Karen Hughes generated much information about the mistreatment of women in Afghanistan that was accurate. However, there was really no interest in correcting conditions there. Mrs. Bush talked about the Taliban pulling out the fingernails of women who used nail polish, and Tony Blair’s wife made about the same comments three days later. There was a lot of unsourced information going out that Al Quada was behind the mailing of anthrax even though the evidence was clear that it had been developed in US military laboratories.

A similar process was used in building support for the war in Iraq. Public relations firms were involved in both efforts. A particularly effective private concern was Rendon Associates, which had been used to fan resentment before the First Gulf War In 2003, the PR firms hired by the White House to shape perceptions participated in a conference in London. They believed that the idea of an embedded journalist, introduced in Afghanistan, was most useful. If people focused on the personal stories of servicemen and the Meals Ready to Eat, they would not criticize the war. A problem was the use of retired military personnel as commentators. They were generally favorable to the Pentagon but sometimes provided information that critics could use. In the next war, the Pentagon would find ways to better control the context of reports.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wheres the bibliography you used for this?