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Propaganda Still Sells Wars

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Propaganda is a useful tool of the government to sell wars. As the character O'Brien declared in George Orwell's novel 1984, "He who controls the present, controls the past." Good ole Henry Kissinger famously said, "Perception of reality is sometimes more important than reality itself."

This past summer the Bush administration formed a group named Freedom's Watch (FW) to propagate support for the on-going occupation of Iraq. Prominent neo-conservatives from the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) created the group. On August 22, 2007 FW released a statement announcing it will "spend approximately $15 million on radio and television ads...aimed at ensuring Congress continues to fully fund the troops with the ultimate goal of victory in the War on Terror."

FW President Bradely Blakeman said, "The mission of Freedom's Watch is to ensure a strong national defense and a powerful effort to confront and defeat global terror, especially in Iraq." He went on to say, "Those who want to quit while victory is possible have dominated the public debate about terror and Iraq since the 2004 election. Freedom's Watch is going to change that."

Former White House press secretary and FW cofounder, Ari Fleischer describes FW as "Ideologically inspired by much of Ronald Reagan's thinking: peace through strength, protect and defend America, and prosperity through free enterprise."

The list of FW's important members reads almost as a 'who's who' of influential neo-conservatives. The inner sanctums of the group are people close to Vice-President Dick Cheney or past Bush administration employees. Blakeman served as President George W. Bush's former deputy assistant. He joined the Gordon C. James Public Relations firm in May 2006 as a senior advisor in its Washington, D.C. office. According to the firm's press release, Blakeman "served as... senior coordinator for logistics for the Bush-Cheney recount in Florida, and senior lead advance representative for the Bush-Cheney 2000 election."

The August 22 press release listed among its "supporters": Anthony Gioia, Kevin Moley, Mel Sembler, and Howard Leach. Gioia, Moley, Sembler, and Leach served as ambassadors for Bush. Moley also served various positions in former President George H.W. Bush's administration, including Vice Chairman of the President's Council on Management Improvement. Sembler's website states that he is a "financial supporter of the Bush clan."

White House Iraq Group

Freedom's Watch is not the first propaganda group the Bush administration has created. The White House Iraq Group (WHIG), formed in August 2002 by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, served to bolster support for invading Iraq. The Constitution in Crisis, a report on the Bush administration by Rep. John Conyers, characterized WHIG as "an apparent effort to bolster public support for war with Iraq."

The Washington Post quoted a senior official who participated in WHIG in an August 2003 article as saying it was "an internal working group, like many formed for priority issues, to make sure each part of the White House was fulfilling its responsibilities."

A month after being formed, the Bush administration began a media 'blitzkrieg' to support invading Iraq. During the month of September Bush mentioned Iraq frequently in speeches, characterizing Saddam Hussein's regime as a "true threat to world peace" and capable of "far greater horrors" than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In October 2002 Congress authorized the use of military force against Iraq.

Reagan's Office of Public Diplomacy

In 1983 President Ronald Reagan appointed Otto Juan Reich to be the director of the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean (OPD). The Office of Public Diplomacy existed until 1986. Author and activist Noam Chomsky described the Reagan administration's purpose for establishing the OPD as a means "to manufacture consent for its murderous policies in Central America," in his book Hegemony or Survival.

A number of governmental reports reveal the activities of the OPD during its three-year tenure. A letter written on September 30, 1987 by then Comptroller-General of the U.S. found the OPD's activities to be "prohibited, covert propaganda activities... beyond the range of acceptable agency public information activities." The same letter said the OPD violated "a restriction on the State Department's annual appropriations prohibiting the use of federal funds for publicity or propaganda purposes not authorized by Congress."

The November 1987 bipartisan report of the Congressional Iran-Contra committees found that "[i]n fact, 'public diplomacy' turned out to mean public relations-lobbying, all at taxpayers' expense."

The House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote a report on September 7, 1988 which summarized investigations into the OPD. The report stated that "senior CIA officials ...military intelligence and psychological operations specialists from the Department of Defense, were deeply involved in establishing and participating in a domestic political and propaganda operation." Those connected with the OPD "raised and spent funds for the purpose of influencing Congressional votes and U.S. domestic news media," according to the report. The report concluded that "many of the key individuals involved were never questioned or interviewed by the Iran/Contra Committees."

Despite Elliot Abrams 1991 indictment for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, President Bush appointed him to be the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy. Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, pardoned Abrams on Christmas night 1992.

President George H.W. Bush's Desert Storm Propaganda

During the fall 1990 run-up to the 1991 invasion of Kuwait to oust Iraqi forces, known as Desert Storm, the U.S. main stream media reported a story by a 15-year old Kuwaiti girl know as Nayirah. She testified before Congress and described how she saw Iraqi troops storm the Kuwaiti hospital where she worked as a volunteer, and steal incubators leaving 312 babies "on the cold floor to die." Seven senators referred to the incubator story during the debate to authorize the use of force. President George H.W. Bush mentioned the story five times, characterizing the supposed incident as "ghastly atrocities" and "Hitler revisited."

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Gina-Marie Cheeseman is a freelance writer with a passion for social justice. She grew up on a vineyard ranch in the San Joaquin Valley of California watching farmworkers toil in the searing sun. Her desire for social justice fermented along with (more...)
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