Reprinted from Consortium News
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before Congress on Jan. 23, 2013, about the fatal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. 2012.
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To justify U.S. "regime changes," the U.S. government has routinely spread rumors and made other dubious claims which -- even when later doubted or debunked -- are left in place indefinitely as corrosive propaganda, eating away at the image of various "enemies" and deforming public opinion.
Even though this discredited propaganda can have a long half-life -- continuing to contaminate the public's ability to perceive reality for years -- President Barack Obama and his administration have shown no inclination to undertake a kind of HAZMAT clean-up of the polluted information environment that American citizens have been forced to live in.
A March 27, 2011 email from Blumenthal reminded Clinton that "I communicated more than a week ago on this story -- [Libyan leader Muammar] Qaddafi placing bodies to create PR stunts about supposed civilian casualties as a result of Allied bombing -- though underlining it was a rumor. But now, as you know, [Defense Secretary] Robert Gates gives credence to it." A recent case in point was the emergence -- in the State Department's New Year's Eve release of more than 3,000 emails to and from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- of evidence that two key propaganda themes used to advance violent "regime change" in Libya in 2011 may have originated with rebel-inspired rumors passed on by Clinton's private adviser Sidney Blumenthal.
Blumenthal's email, which was slugged "Rumor: Q[addafi]'s rape policy," then plunged ahead into his new rumor: "Sources now say, again rumor (that is, this information comes from the rebel side and is unconfirmed independently by Western intelligence), that Qaddafi has adopted a rape policy and has even distributed Viagra to troops. The incident at the Tripoli press conference involving a woman claiming to be raped is likely to be part of a much larger outrage. Will seek further confirmation."
A month later, this bizarre Viagra-rape angle became part of a United Nations presentation by then U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice who brought up the Viagra charge in a debate about the evils of Muammar Gaddafi's regime.
A U.N. diplomat at the closed session on April 28, 2011, told The Guardian that "It was during a discussion about whether there is moral equivalence between the Gaddafi forces and the rebels. She listed human rights abuses by Gaddafi's forces, including snipers shooting children in the street and the Viagra story."
On Blumenthal's propaganda point, it's not clear where Defense Secretary Gates got the idea to accuse Gaddafi of "staging" scenes of U.S.-inflicted carnage, but Blumenthal's email indicates that he was disseminating that rumor which might have been picked up by Gates, rather than independently confirmed by Gates. (It's also true that the "staging" excuse has been used before when evidence emerges of U.S. bombs killing civilians.)
Yet, regardless of the truth or falsity of such U.S. claims and counter-claims, the chance that someone inside Official Washington is going to review the lies and exaggerations used to rationalize a major U.S. foreign policy initiative -- in this case, the violent overthrow of the Gaddafi regime -- to, in effect, "clear" Gaddafi's name is remote at best.
The few cases of the media debunking U.S. propaganda, such as exposing the made-up claims about Iraqi soldiers killing babies on incubators before the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, are rare exceptions to the rule. Even rarer are cases when the U.S. government admits that it relied on false information, such as the intelligence community recanting its pre-invasion claims about Iraq hiding WMD stockpiles in 2002-03.
The much more common approach is to simply leave the decaying propaganda in place and move on to the next target of opportunity. There is little benefit for anyone to undertake the painstaking work of separating whatever slices of truth exist within the rot of lies and exaggerations that were used to justify some war.
President Barack Obama at the White House with National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Samantha Power (right), his U.N. ambassador.
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The way mainstream journalism usually works in America is that a reporter who challenges U.S. government propaganda aimed at a foreign "enemy" is putting his or her career at risk. The reporter's patriotism will be questioned amid suggestions that he or she is a "fill-in-the-blank-with-the-villain's-name" apologist.
And since the reality -- whatever it is -- is usually fuzzy, there is almost never any vindication for a brave stance. So, the smart career play is to go along with the propaganda or stay silent.
A similar reality exists inside the U.S. government. Honest intelligence analysts can expect no rewards if they debunk one of these propaganda themes, especially after a number of important U.S. officials have gone out publicly and sold the falsehood to the people. Making the Secretary of State or the Defense Secretary or the President look bad is not a great career move.