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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/24/09

Obama Pentagon Employs Bush-Era Propagandists to Screen Embedding Journalists in Afghanistan

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Stars and Stripes has published a report that the Obama Pentagon has hired the Rendon Group to screen journalists who seek to embed with U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Rendon Group is an outgrowth of the controversial, PNAC propaganda tool of Bush-era neocons, the Lincoln Group, which was created by PNAC neocons to spread and promote the lies used to justify the Bush administration's push to invade and occupy Iraq.

from Stars and Stripes:

U.S. public affairs officials in Afghanistan acknowledged to Stars and Stripes that any reporter seeking to embed with U.S. forces is subject to a background profile by The Rendon Group, which gained notoriety in the run-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq for its work helping to create the Iraqi National Congress. That opposition group, reportedly funded by the CIA, furnished much of the false information about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion.

Rendon examines individual reporters' recent work and determines whether the coverage was "positive," "negative" or "neutral" compared to mission objectives, according to Rendon officials.

Almost on cue, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen worried aloud yesterday about eroding public support for the Afghanistan occupation. Even though the Obama administration closed down the Bush Pentagon's propaganda office earlier this year, there is still a desperation by the war hawks to keep the public on-board with their escalating military mission.

Fighting the 'war on terror' abroad is these militarists' bread and butter. They have a vested interest in seeing enemies everywhere. Anyone who they regard as an obstacle to their military priorities is treated as an enemy to their cause which they've wrapped up in familiar rhetoric about defending against what they've termed as a continuing or escalating threat from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

In January 2006, top Army general (and an Obama holdover from the Bush administration) Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute said that 21st century warfare is more about "will and perception, than taking territory or enemies killed."

He mused that information is critical as 'firepower' in 'long war'. The American people must remind themselves every day that the United States is at war, the general said.

Rumsfeld spoke on the need to control information surrounding their expansive wars. "U.S. military public affairs officers must learn to anticipate news and respond faster, and good public affairs officers should be rewarded with promotions," he said.

"The Pentagon's propaganda machine still operates mostly eight hours a day, five days a week while the challenges it faces occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week." he lamented. He then complained that the "vast media attention about U.S. abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq outweighed that given to the discovery of "Saddam Hussein's mass graves."

However, he was just upset that there were pictures, proof of their crimes. That's the control they wanted with the press that surrounded their imperialism. Their concern with the news wasn't just about protecting soldiers or catching al-Qaeda, although there were those things going on in the military planning room that may have involved legitimate security. The thrust of their efforts was to create a zone of 'good news' that would permeate the airwaves and print media, and obscure the bloody images and alarming reports which provide the public with a clear view of the realities of the disaster in Iraq.

Bush revealed his own desire to shade the news to reflect his rosy outlook on Iraq:

"It's -- confidence amongst the Iraqis is what is going to be a vital part of achieving a victory," he said, "which will then enable the American people to understand that victory is possible. In other words, the American people will -- their opinions, I suspect, will be affected by what they see on their TV screens . . ."

The Pentagon and Bush expected for the images that they paid for and fed into their purchased press in Iraq to trickle into the mainstream media to be quoted and disseminated around the world as a counter to the realities expressed by the daily images of violence and despair coming from the occupied nations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Obama Pentagon leadership is still filled with many of the same Bush-era hawks who are as desperate now, as they were then, to keep the public fearful of disengaging from their escalated military campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan/Pakistan. It's no mystery why the Rendon Group still has credibility among these occupation-loving dinosaurs.

The question for the Obama administration is to what extent the progress reports generated by the proven propagandists at Rendon reflect the actual realities surrounding the admittedly faltering military campaign against the Taliban.

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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price
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