Mainstream Media is Pentagon's Propaganda Arm
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Mainstream Media is Pentagon's Propaganda Arm | December 1, 2004
by Violet Jones

"The first casualty when war comes is Truth"--  U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson, 1917

The Pentagon's use of the mainstream media to perpetuate lies and disinformation to influence not only the enemy we are engaging but the American people as a whole has been ongoing.

As recently as July of this year, we ran a flashback report on the Office of Strategic Information (OSI), of which The New York Times reported that the Defense Department had paid the Rendon Group, a Washington-based international consulting firm, $100,000 per month to help the OSI with a broad campaign that would include "black" propaganda, or disinformation.

The London Telegraph reported in February of 2004 that a "Pentagon source, who asked not to be named, said there were some European nations that "sometimes needed to be helped to see the light." The OSI would be used for such purposes.

From the glossy coverage of Bush's obvious media stunts to the staged rescue of Jessica Lynch, it's obvious we are all targets of the media-industrial complex's propaganda war.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror
The use of misleading information as a military tool sparks debate in the Pentagon. Critics say the practice puts credibility at stake.

LA Times / Mark Mazzetti | December 1, 2004

WASHINGTON — On the evening of Oct. 14, a young Marine spokesman near Fallouja appeared on CNN and made a dramatic announcement.

"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.

In the hours after the initial report, CNN's Pentagon reporters were able to determine that the Fallouja operation had not, in fact, begun.

"As the story developed, we quickly made it clear to our viewers exactly what was going on in and around Fallouja," CNN spokesman Matthew Furman said.

'Although both [public affairs] and [military information operations] conduct planning, message development and media analysis, the efforts differ with respect to audience, scope and intent, and must remain separate.'
-- Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a letter to top military officials

In the hours after the initial report, CNN's Pentagon reporters were able to determine that the Fallouja operation had not, in fact, begun.

"As the story developed, we quickly made it clear to our viewers exactly what was going on in and around Fallouja," CNN spokesman Matthew Furman said.

Officials at the Pentagon and other U.S. national security agencies said the CNN incident was not an isolated feint — the type used throughout history by armies to deceive their enemies — but part of a broad effort underway within the Bush administration to use information to its advantage in the war on terrorism.

The Pentagon in 2002 was forced to shutter its controversial Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), which was opened shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, after reports that the office intended to plant false news stories in the international media. But officials say that much of OSI's mission — using information as a tool of war — has been assumed by other offices throughout the U.S. government.

Although most of the work remains classified, officials say that some of the ongoing efforts include having U.S. military spokesmen play a greater role in psychological operations in Iraq, as well as planting information with sources used by Arabic TV channels such as Al Jazeera to help influence the portrayal of the United States.

Other specific examples were not known, although U.S. national security officials said an emphasis had been placed on influencing how foreign media depict the United States.

These efforts have set off a fight inside the Pentagon over the proper use of information in wartime. Several top officials see a danger of blurring what are supposed to be well-defined lines between the stated mission of military public affairs — disseminating truthful, accurate information to the media and the American public — and psychological and information operations, the use of often-misleading information and propaganda to influence the outcome of a campaign or battle.

Several of those officials who oppose the use of misleading information spoke out against the practice on the condition of anonymity.

"The movement of information has gone from the public affairs world to the psychological operations world," one senior defense official said. "What's at stake is the credibility of people in uniform."

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said he recognized the concern of many inside the Defense Department, but that "everybody understands that there's a very important distinction between information operations and public affairs. Nobody has offered serious proposals that would blur the distinction between these two functions."

Di Rita said he had asked his staff for more information about how the Oct. 14 incident on CNN came about.

One recent development critics point to is the decision by commanders in Iraq in mid-September to combine public affairs, psychological operations and information operations into a "strategic communications" office. An organizational chart of the newly created office was obtained by The Times. The strategic communications office, which began operations Sept. 15, is run by Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, who answers directly to Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Partly out of concern about this new office, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, distributed a letter Sept. 27 to the Joint Chiefs and U.S. combat commanders in the field warning of the dangers of having military public affairs (PA) too closely aligned with information operations (IO).

"Although both PA and IO conduct planning, message development and media analysis, the efforts differ with respect to audience, scope and intent, and must remain separate," Myers wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Times.

Pentagon officials say Myers is worried that U.S. efforts in Iraq and in the broader campaign against terrorism could suffer if world audiences begin to question the honesty of statements from U.S. commanders and spokespeople.

"While organizations may be inclined to create physically integrated PA/IO offices, such organizational constructs have the potential to compromise the commander's credibility with the media and the public," Myers wrote.

Myers' letter is not being heeded in Iraq, officials say, in part because many top civilians at the Pentagon and National Security Council support an effort that blends public affairs with psy-ops to win Iraqi support — and Arab support in general — for the U.S. fight against the insurgency.

Advocates of these programs said that the advent of a 24-hour news cycle and the powerful influence of Arabic satellite television made it essential that U.S. military commanders and civilian officials made the control of information a key part of their battle plans.

"Information is part of the battlefield in a way that it's never been before," one senior Bush administration official said. "We'd be foolish not to try to use it to our advantage."

And, supporters argue, it is necessary to fill a vacuum left when the budgets for the State Department's public diplomacy programs were slashed and the U.S. Information Agency — a bulwark of the nation's anticommunist efforts during the Cold War — was gutted in the 1990s.

"The worst outcome would be to lose this war by default. If the smart folks in the psy-op and civil affairs tents can cast a truthful, persuasive message that resonates with the average Iraqi, why not use the public affairs vehicles to transmit it?" asked Charles A. Krohn, a professor at the University of Michigan and former deputy chief of public affairs for the Army. "What harm is done, compared to what is gained? For the first year of the war, we did virtually nothing to tell the Iraqis why we invaded their country and ejected their government. It's about time we got our act together."

Advocates also cite a September report by the Defense Science Board, a panel of outside experts that advises Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, which concluded that a "crisis" in U.S. "strategic communications" had undermined American efforts to fight Islamic extremism worldwide.

The study cited polling in the Arab world that revealed widespread hatred of the United States throughout the Middle East. A poll taken in June by Zogby International revealed that 94% of Saudi Arabians had an "unfavorable" view of the United States, compared with 87% in April 2002. In Egypt, the second largest recipient of U.S. aid, 98% of respondents held an unfavorable view of the United States.

The Defense Science Board recommended a presidential directive to "coordinate all components of strategic communication including public diplomacy, public affairs, international broadcasting and military information operations."

Di Rita said there was general agreement inside the Bush administration that the U.S. government was ill-equipped to communicate its policies and messages abroad in the current media climate.

"As a government, we're not very well organized to do that," he said.

Yet some in the military argue that the efforts at better "strategic communication" sometimes cross the line into propaganda, citing some recent media briefings held in Iraq. During a Nov. 10 briefing by Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, reporters were shown a video of Iraqi troops saluting their flag and singing the Iraqi national anthem.

"Pretty soon, we're going to have the 5 o'clock follies all over again, and it will take us another 30 years to restore our credibility," said a second senior Defense official, referring to the much-ridiculed daily media briefings in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

According to several Pentagon officials, the strategic communications programs at the Defense Department are being coordinated by the office of the undersecretary of Defense for policy, Douglas J. Feith.


Pentagon chiefs condemned for launching propaganda war

London Telegraph | February 20, 2004

AMERICA'S western allies reacted with concern yesterday to the creation of a Pentagon department of propaganda aimed at planting disinformation in the media of America's friends as well as its enemies.

The Office of Strategic Influence has been set up to disseminate truthful information openly, but also to spread what one senior Pentagon official called "the blackest of black programmes".

The organisation, which is headed by a brigadier and has about 15 staff reporting directly to the under secretary of defence for policy, is already working on ways to influence and mislead the media in a number of countries, mostly in the Islamic world, but also in Western Europe.

A Pentagon source, who asked not to be named, said there were some European nations that "sometimes needed to be helped to see the light". The existence of the OSI was revealed in the New York Times.

It was reportedly established to spread positive messages about the war on terrorism, but it would also use disinformation and misinformation to mislead friend and foe alike.

Reaction among America's allies was universally negative. One Western official said: "This sort of thing might work in countries with no sophisticated media network, but not in Europe or any other mature democracy."

A European diplomat said: "Everyone uses disinformation for military reasons, but I have never heard of using official sources to spread false information to the media of an ally."

Another diplomat said: "The Pentagon is not exactly regarded as the fount of truth and justice now, so I don't know what sort of damage to its reputation this might do if it leaked out.

"All I can see this sort of thing doing is giving a mighty good excuse to our enemies for dismissing all coalition claims as black propaganda."


Media accused of aiding U.S. propaganda

Reuters | January 1, 2004

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - It is one of the most famous images of the war in Iraq -- a U.S. soldier scaling a statue of Saddam Hussein in
Baghdad and draping the Stars and Stripes over the black metal visage of the ousted despot.

But for Harper's magazine publisher John MacArthur, that same image of U.S. military victory is also indicative of a propaganda campaign
being waged by the Bush administration.

"It was absolutely a photo-op created for (U.S. President George W.) Bush's re-election campaign commercials," MacArthur said in an
interview. "CNN, MSNBC and Fox swallowed it whole."

In 1992, MacArthur wrote "Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War," a withering critique of government and media
actions that he says misled the public after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

In MacArthur's opinion, little has changed during the latest Iraq war, prompting him to begin work on an updated edition of "Second Front".
U.S. government public relations specialists are still concocting bogus stories to serve government interests, he says, and credulous
journalists stand ready to swallow it up.

"The concept of a self-governing American republic has been crippled by this propaganda," MacArthur said. "The whole idea that we can
govern ourselves and have an intelligent debate, free of cant, free of disinformation, I think it's dead."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan denied the existence of any administration propaganda campaign and predicted the American
public would reject such notions as ridiculous.

A Pentagon spokesman also denied high-level planning in the appearance of the American flag in Baghdad. "It sure looked spontaneous to
me," said Marine Lieutenant Colonel Mike Humm.

In fact, a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that Americans were happy with Iraq war coverage,
though many wanted less news coverage of anti-war activism and fewer television appearances by former military officers.

But MacArthur insists that both Gulf wars have been marked by phoney tales calculated to deceive public opinion at crucial junctures.


On the eve of the 1991 Gulf War, Americans were asked to believe that Iraqi soldiers tossed Kuwaiti infants from hospital incubators,
leaving them to die. Not true, he says.

This time, MacArthur says the Bush administration made false claims about Iraqi nuclear weapons, charging Baghdad was trying to import
aluminium tubes to make enriched uranium and that the country was six months from building a warhead.

The International Atomic Energy Agency found those tubes were for artillery rockets, not nuclear weapons. And MacArthur says a supposed
IAEA report, on which the White House based claims about Iraqi weapons-making ability, did not exist.

"What's changed is that there's no shame anymore in doing it directly," MacArthur, 46, said of what he views as blatant White House and
Pentagon propaganda campaigns.

Cynthia Kennard, assistant professor at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, said the Bush administration has mastered the art of
building favourable public images and shaping messages to suit its own interests.

"It's put the journalism profession in somewhat of a paralysis," said Kennard, a former CBS correspondent who covered the 1991 Gulf War.
"This is not a particularly glowing moment for tough questions and enterprise reporting."

As Harper's publisher, MacArthur oversees a 153-year-old political and literary magazine he helped save from financial ruin 20 years ago
with money from the foundation named after his billionaire grandparents, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur.

While MacArthur accuses news outlets generally of avoiding opposition stands, his own magazine has been vitriolic towards Bush,
describing the president in its May issue as a leader who "counts his ignorance as a virtue and regards his lack of curiosity as a sign of moral


But MacArthur is not troubled by the thumping patriotism displayed by cable television news outlets like Rupert Murdoch's Fox News
Channel, which leads CNN and MSNBC in viewer ratings.

"All that means is that Murdoch knows how to run a circus better than anyone else. War and jingoism always sell. But the real damage was
done by the high-brow press," MacArthur said.

"On the propaganda side, the New York Times is more responsible for making the case for war than any other newspaper or any other
news organisation."

He blames the Times for giving credence to Bush administration claims about the aluminium tubes. And when Bush cited a nonexistent
IAEA report on Iraqi nukes, he says, it was the conservative Washington Times -- not the New York Times or Washington Post -- that wound
up disproving the assertion.

The New York Times also reported that an Iraqi scientist told U.S. officials Saddam had destroyed chemical and biological equipment and
sent weapons to Syria just before the war.

The only trouble, MacArthur says, is that the Times did not speak to or name the scientist but agreed to delay the story, submit the text to
government scrutiny and withhold details -- facts the Times acknowledged in its article. "You might as well just run a press release. Let the
government write it. That's Pravda," he said.

New York Times spokesman Toby Usnik dismissed MacArthur's claims regarding the newspaper's war coverage as a whole: "We believe
we have covered the story from all sides and all angles."

Fox had no comment on his remarks.

Editors across the nation also worked hard to avoid the grisly images of war, especially scenes of dead Iraqi civilians and Americans, while
Europeans saw uncensored horrific images.

The Pentagon's decision to embed journalists with U.S. forces produced war footage that the 1991 war sorely lacked. But the coverage
rarely rose to the standard MacArthur wanted.

"Ninety percent of what we got was junk...I think probably five or 10 percent of it was pretty good," he said.

MacArthur says the character of the news media, and the government's attitude toward it, was best summed up by Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld at a Pentagon "town hall" meeting.

Asked by an audience member what could be done to reverse the media's "overwhelmingly negative" war coverage, Rumsfeld said: "You
know, penalise the papers and the television...that don't give good advice and reward those people that do give good advice."

MacArthur said that translated as: "You punish the critics and you reward your friends. That's what he means. That's the standard currency
of Washington journalism...To show reality becomes unpatriotic, in effect."

The Pentagon's Humm said Rumsfeld had not been talking about unfavourable reporting but about inaccurate reporting.

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911:  The Road to Tyranny