Weapons of Mass Deception
by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber
August 1, 2003

Pvt. Jessica Lynch didn't just "happen" to have an American flag planted on her chest. It was put there by a Pentagon public relations flack.

Edge Exclusive! Exceprts from Weapons of Mass Deception

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber's devastating new exposé, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq" is published by Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin (http:// www.penguinputnam.com)

John Stauber is the founder and director of the Center for Media & Democracy. (http://www.prwatch.org). Stauber and Rampton produce the quarterly PR Watch and are co-authors of Toxic Sludge is Good for You, Mad Cow USA and Trust Us: We're Experts. In their newest investigative report they reveal how:

  • The Bush administration began planning the Iraq invasion even before the 2002 presidential elections and were preparing for a "project launch" on Operation Iraqi Freedom prior to September 2002;

  • The White House used misinformation to create the false impression that Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks;

  • Forged documents to build the case that Iraq possessed huge stockpiles of banned weapons, and

  • Hired a secretive public relations firm to create the anti-Hussein "opposition group" that became one of the driving forces behind the rush to war.

    The following edited excerpt is drawn from several chapters of the new book in an attempt to capture some of the range and depth of this extraordinary book.

    Liberation Day

    As US tanks stormed into Baghdad on April 9, 2003, television viewers in the United States got their first feel-good moment of the war -- a chance to witness the toppling of a giant statue of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Americans channel-flipping over breakfast between Fox, CNN and CBS all saw the same images, broadcast live from Baghdad's Firdos Square. "If you don't have goosebumps now," gushed Fox News anchor David Asman, "you will never have them in your life."

    But there was also a "self-conscious and forced quality" to the images, observed the Boston Globe. "Whenever the cameras pulled back, they revealed a relatively small crowd at the statue." A Reuters long-shot photo of Firdos Square showed that it was nearly empty, ringed by US tanks and marines. A BBC photo sequences showed a sparse crowd of approximately 200 people -- much smaller than the demonstrations only nine days later, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets calling for US-led forces to leave the city.

    It is worth asking whether the toppling of Saddam was as spontaneous as it was made to appear. If this sense seemed a bit too picture-perfect, perhaps there is a reason. Consider, for example, the remarks that public relations consultant John W. Rendon (who has worked extensively on Iraq-related projects during the past decade on behalf of clients including the Pentagon and the CIA) made on February 29, 1996 before an audience of cadets at the US Air Force Academy. "I am an information warrior and a perception manager," Rendon said. He reminded the cadets that when victorious troops rolled into Kuwait City at the end of the first Persian Gulf war, they were greeted by hundreds of Kuwaitis waving small American flags.

    "Did you ever stop to wonder," Rendon asked, "how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American, and for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries?" He paused for effect. "Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs then."

    When Rummy Met Saddam

    Although an enormous number of words have been written about Iraq since the summer of 1992, you can search diligently and find very few references in the mainstream media to the thoughts and statements that US policy makers and media pundits made about Iraq during the 1980s while the Ira-Iraq War raged.

    A December 20m 2002 story by Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs offers one of the rare exceptions. Dobbs reviewed thousands of declassified government documents and reported that "US officials saw Baghdad as a bulwark against militant Shiite extremism. That was enough to turn [Saddam] Hussein into a strategic partner. The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague."

    In 1988, reports emerged that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against his own citizens -- Iraqi Kurds in the town of Halabja. Several US Senators introduced the "Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988," which sought to impose sanctions against Iraq for its continuing use of chemical weapons and other human rights violations.

    The act passed the senate unanimously but the Reagan White House launched a campaign to turn it back and succeeded in killing the bill. Former Ambassador Peter Galbraith recalls that "Secretary of State Colin Powell was then the national security adviser who orchestrated Ronald Reagan's decision to give Hussein a pass for gassing the Kurds. Dick Cheney, then a prominent Republican congressman, could have helped push the sanctions legislation but did not."

    In the fall of 1989, only nine months before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, then-President Bush overrode the objections of officials in three different government agencies and signed a top-secret directive ordering closer ties with Baghdad and opening the way for $1 billion in new aid.

    When asked about the period, Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld develops a remarkably hazy memory. During a hearing on September 19, 2002, US Senator Robert Byrd asked Rumsfeld directly, "Did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq War?"

    "Certainly not to my knowledge," Rumsfeld replied.

    Byrd read a passage from Newsweek in which the US role was detailed.

    "I have never heard anything like what you've read," Rumsfeld responded. "IK have no knowledge of it whatsoever."

    Two days later, CNN reporter Jaime McIntyre raised the topic again. This time, he had video footage on hand that seemed to take Rumsfeld off guard. "Let me take you back to about 20 years ago," McIntyre began. "The date, I believe, was December 20, 1983. You were meeting with Saddam Hussein, I think we have some video of that meeting. Tell me what was going on during this meeting?"

    "Where did you get this video," Rumsfeld responded, "from the Iraqi television?"

    "We dug it out of the CNN library," McIntyre replied.'

    "I see," Rumsfeld said. "Isn't that interesting. There I am." Pressed further, Rumsfeld suddenly did manage to remember a detail, saying that, "I cautioned him about the use of chemical weapons, as a matter of fact." There is no record of any such warning in any official documents or other record from Rumsfeld's trip.

    War Is Sell

    In 1991, a few months after the end of Operation Desert Storm, then-president George H. W. Bush signed a presidential directive ordering a CIA covert operation to unseat Saddam Hussein. In turn, the CIA hired public relations consultant John W. Rendon to organize anti-Saddam propaganda campaigns inside Iraq.

    In what may have been the Rendon Group's most significant project, in 1992, it helped organize the Iraqi National Congress (INC), which represented the first major attempt by opponents of Saddam Hussein to join forces. According to a February 1998 ABC News report, Rendon came up with the name for the INC and channeled $12 million of covert CIA funding to it between 1992 and 1996. In October 1992, Ahmed Chalabi, a Rendon prot?· was appointed to head the group.

    Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle liked Chalabi in part because he was one of the few members of the Iraqi opposition who shared their future visions for Iraq. In September 2002, Intelligence Online, an international newsletter for diplomats, politicians and business executives, reported that there was "a clear split" between Chalabi's INC and the other main opposition group, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (CIRI). The two groups differed over "how Iraq's oil riches should be handled. Backed by Iran, SCIRI believes reserves should be nationalized and managed in the interests of the country's communities. The INC, for its part, believes a private consortium should be set up to explore and extract oil. The consortium would include some of the world's biggest oil companies, such as ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil and BP" plus oil companies in France and Russia, provided they agreed in the UN Security Council to vote for war with Iraq.

    The Washington Post reported that the White House had created an Office of Global Communications (OGC) to "coordinate the administration's foreign policy message and supervise America's image abroad." In September, the Times of London reported that the OGC would spend $200 million for a "PR blitz against Saddam Hussein" aimed "at American and foreign audiences, particularly in Arab nations skeptical of US policy in the region." The campaign would use "advertising techniques to persuade crucial target groups that the Iraqi leader must be ousted."

    Return of the Repressed

    Two days before Saddam Hussein's regime crumbled, the New York Times reported that the INC had returned to the country. "Hundreds of Iraqi fighters opposed to Saddam Hussein have been airlifted into southern Iraq to battle the remnants of his military and, more importantly, to serve as the vanguard of a new national army," it stated.

    The "Free Iraqi Forces," dressed in American military desert fatigues and flown into a makeshift US air base near Nasiriyah, were not your typical liberation fighters. For one thing, there were no reports that the actually did any fighting, or that they were even capable of it.

    "I am not a candidate for any position in the interim government," Chalabi said. "My role is to rebuild Iraq." As the war faded, Chalabi's name began popping up in more and more places. Chalabi's cousin, Fadhil Chalabi, spoke in favor of privatizing Iraq's oil industry.

    In May, longtime Chalabi aide Francis Brooke (a former Rendon employee) said that Chalabi might bow to popular pressure and agree to become Iraq's president after all. "George Washington turned it down many times," Brooke said, apparently without irony. "I wouldn't be surprised if the Iraqi people prevail on him." On May 5, US General Jay Garner named Chalabi as one of five Iraqis likely to be appointed as the nucleus of a new interim government.

    The Mother of All Lies

    The blurring of boundaries between truth and myth certainly did not begin with the current Bush administration. Disinformation has been a part of war since at least the days of Alexander the Great, who planted large breastplates of armor in the wake of his retreating troops to convince the enemy that his soldiers were giants. The story of Alexander's little trick is usually taught in the first day of class for soldiers who receive training in psychological operations ("psyops").

    A 1998 US Air Force document titled Information Operations states that "information warfare is a construct that operates across the spectrum, from peace to war. The execution of information operations in air, space and cyberspace cross the spectrum of conflict." (Not the doublespeak involved in classifying "peace" as a "military operation.")

    Information Operations states: "There is a growing information infrastructure that transcends industry, the media, and the military and includes both governmental and nongovernmental entities." In this environment, psyops "are designed to convey selected information and indicators to foreign leaders and audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately their behavior," while "military deception misleads adversaries, causing them to act in accordance with the originator's objectives."

    Indeed, it says, quoting Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, "All warfare is based on deception."

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