Monday, December 12, 2005

A Good Read

I just finished reading an extremely interesting article in Rolling Stone about our government's use of public relations firms to help shape public opinion. This article deals mostly with one particular firm and how it has helped not only to shape public opinion, but also to orchestrate events that make war efforts seem more legitimate.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the article:

The road to war in Iraq led through many unlikely places. One of them was a chic hotel nestled among the strip bars and brothels that cater to foreigners in the town of Pattaya, on the Gulf of Thailand.

On December 17th, 2001, in a small room within the sound of the crashing tide, a CIA officer attached metal electrodes to the ring and index fingers of a man sitting pensively in a padded chair. The officer then stretched a black rubber tube, pleated like an accordion, around the man's chest and another across his abdomen. Finally, he slipped a thick cuff over the man's brachial artery, on the inside of his upper arm.

Strapped to the polygraph machine was Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein. For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad.

It was damning stuff -- just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa.

The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon.

Bamford, James. "The Man Who Sold the War." Rolling Stone 17 Nov. 2005.

This is a long article, but it makes for a very interesting read if you have the time.


Tony Arnold said...

JMG, thanks for this. It is amazing that we seem to be on the same wave length. I generated a draft last week for our MD blog but waited until today to post it, having no idea that you had done this. I went back and edited my post to include this link.

I feel so used. What is worse, our President, who claims to be a Christian, openly advocates the use of un-Truth to bring about a "noble means" (insert sarcasm here). This is exactly Camp's point in Mere Discipleship when he wrote, "How can a Christian community justify the intentional use of deceit when our commitments as a people of faith require the virtue of truthfulness? How does the Jesus who taught us to let our "yes be yes, and no b no" fit into the systematic use of duplicity? That such questions are seldom raised might betray the extent to which Charlemagne's logic is ours: as long as the end is acceptable, the means need not be questioned." (pg. 32)

But Rendon also cautioned that individual news organizations were often able to "take control of the story," shaping the news before the Pentagon asserted its spin on the day's events. "We lost control of the context," Rendon warned. "That has to be fixed for the next war."

What Rendon is saying is they lost the ability to control the truth.

Truth is light, and it will find every pin hole, every crack, to shine through the vail of deceipt.


JMG said...

Thanks for linking this on MD. Everybody should know about the blatant deceit that our government uses to acheive its purposes. I just hope it wasn't lost on its audience when it appeared in Rolling Stone.

I remember being a kid in school and learning how the USSR used propaganda against its citizens to get them to believe ideas about us. As if our own government wasn't doing the same!

Last week, in case you missed it, the mainstream press actually reported that our government paid Iraqi newspapers to print stories designed to create favorable opinions about the US. And, reports in the alternative news sources claim that Bush wanted to bomb the Al-Jazeera news agency, no doubt in an effort to squelch anti-US opinions.

Oh what a tangled web we weave....

JMG said...

On a related note, this story noting Bush's opinion of the Constitition is making the rounds in the blogs. I don't know how true this is, but if it's true, it's scary indeed.

JMG said...

Just been doing some more reading (I love breaks from school!), and found that the author of the Rolling Stone article, James Bamford, has written several books about the National Security Agency and its deceptive and secret operations. His latest book is A Pretext for War : 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies. He discusses his book here. Looks like intriguing stuff--I'll be making a trip to the library!

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

I have that magazine lying around here somewhere (assuming I haven't eaten it yet). I'll have to check it out.