by Gar Smith / The-Edge –
America’s Ministry of Propaganda — Part Four:
Gar Smith / The-Edge
Black Programs and the Future of Propaganda
The bogus “surrender” of Iraq’s 51st division raised a “profound question” for Gardiner: “If we would manipulate truth, would we also manipulate evidence? That would be very serious. Is that what the Secretary of Defense meant when he said he was going to be doing strategic influence?”
Milt Bearden, a former CIA manager for clandestine operations has a related question: “It will be important to learn who was behind the fake Niger document [alleging Iraq’s attempt to obtain uranium ore] and why and what other information driving American policies might carry their fingerprints.”
The falsehoods about Iraq’s alleged attempt to purchase African uranium turned out to be based on a forged document. Gardiner wonders why no one in the administration is asking who forged the document? Who stood to gain from this unconscionable act of “creating evidence”? Gardiner believes that the American people have “a need to know.”
Another probable “black program” identified by Gardiner involved the planting of a false story that Saddam Hussein had taken refuge in the Russian Embassy in Baghdad. The story served to slime the Russians, who had refused to back Bush’s pre-emptive invasion.
In the oddest example of perception management, Pentagon media masters actually created a website to promote world peace. The “EmpowerPeace” website appeared to represent a citizen’s anti-war movement. The goal seemed to be to foster the impression that the US people (and especially US children) were essentially peace-loving. “It looked like a grassroots effort,” Gardiner recalls. “It seems to have been aimed at the Arab audience set.”
The EmpowerPeace website didn’t last long. The reason, Gardiner suspects, is that its creation probably violated the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which bans the domestic dissemination of government propaganda.
Gardiner found another “strange website” called “The Iraq Crisis Bulletin,” which offered daily updates and reports from around the world. The site was recommended by the American Press Institute but there was “absolutely no indication of the sponsor of the site.” With a little research, Gardiner discovered that “the articles were [written] by Voice of America correspondents.”
The problem with this, Gardiner notes, is that “the Voice of America is prohibited from doing communications for the American press. But, during Gulf II, it was getting the message to them.” The VOA refused to respond to Gardiner’s requests for information on “The Iraq Crisis Bulletin.”
Gardiner wraps up his 56-page investigation with a series of charts that assess several Defense Department press briefings to determine the role played by PSYOPS, false or engineered information, and non-informative responses. His conclusion: “Even if you give them slack for not giving any information, it turns out that more than half the answers were not truth…. Maybe a better way to say it would be that if an American (or Brit) were diligent about wanting to understand the war, he could not rely on the statements made by the US Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
Perhaps the penultimate example of the non-responsive response came in an April 7 DOD press briefing when General Myers was asked about the status of the chemical missile unit cited by Secretary Powell during his UN testimony. Powell had told the world that Iraq had outfitted a group of rockets on the outskirts of Baghdad with warheads filled with WMD and was prepared to fire them at a moment’s notice.
According to Gardiner, Myers “was very evasive, saying that he did not recall ever having heard about such a unit.”
The Future: The OGC, the Roadmap and ‘Strategic Fusion’
Perception management (the art of propaganda, misdirection and lies, if you will) is no longer discreetly hidden away in some dark wing of the intelligence or defense establishments: It has become firmly enshrined right down the hall from the Oval Office.
The Office of Global Communications (OGC) is centered in the White House. If there is a Ministry of Propaganda in the Bush administration, the OGC is it. As Gardiner notes: “The White House is at the center of the strategic communications process.”
The OGC has two components: One committee deals with conducting the perception of the war on terrorism while a second committee concentrates on “more general” propaganda projects.
According to the Times of London, the exact dispensation of the OGC’s $200 million operating budget is largely a mystery. It is known that the OGC spent $250,000 on its military pressroom in Doha.
Gardiner discovered that “at times there were as many as three Brits associated with the Office of Global Communications. These assets were networked. To insure the military would be a willing part of the network, three people from the White House Office of Global Communications were sent to work with Central Command. Jim Wilkinson became General Franks’ Director of Strategic Communications.
“The war was handled like a political campaign. Everyone in the message business was from the political communications community. In London, there was a parallel organization and a parallel coordination process. They kept the coordination with secure video teleconferences.”
The system worked well but, as John Rendon revealed at a London conference on July 3, there was still room for improvement. Rendon told his fellow conferees that the idea of using “embedded journalists” was quite successful and worked just as they hoped it would from tests they had run to gauge how reporters would perform once they bonded with the soldiers in their assigned units.
One of the mistakes, Rendon said, was that while they had taken command of the story, they had “lost control of the context.” The problem was the veteran newsmen in the networks: they had “too much control of context,” Rendon complained. “That has to be fixed for the next war,” Rendon declared.
At the same conference, Captain Gerald Mauer, the Joint Staff Assistant Deputy Director for Information Operations, observed that public diplomacy and public affairs are slowly morphing into a single combined information operation. Mauer envisions a Strategic Fusion Center that “brings everything together.” The Pentagon is already hard at work crafting an Information Operations Roadmap.
Mauer also told his fellow perception managers that “We hope to make more use of Hollywood and Madison Avenue in the future.” The overall goal remains the same Mauer explained: to allow the men who now control Washington to “disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial… decision-making.”
Gardiner finds that the future envisioned by Rendon and Mauer is fundamentally “frightening.” The phrase “adversarial… decision-making will be disrupted” reportedly was added by Douglas Feith, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. What it means, Gardiner warns, is that “we will even go after friends if they are against what we are doing or want to do.”
Criticism, questioning and debate are now defined as “adversarial” and the new watchword out of Washington is: “If you don’t agree with us, you could be the target of an information attack.” The new reality is that “punishment of those who disagree is a dimension of the strategy.”
“If the democracies of the United States and the United Kingdom are based upon informed, open debate of the issues,” Gardiner states, “we’ve got some fixing to do.
“It’s not enough to look at the arguments about weapons of mass destruction before the war,” Gardiner argues. “There needs to be an inquiry of the broader question of how spin got to be more important than substance. What roles did information operations and strategic psychological operations play in the war” What controls need to be placed on information operations?”
Solutions Are Needed to Control Information Warfare
Sam Gardiner has become the Paul Revere of our generation. He has raised a cry: It is no longer “The Redcoats are coming!” but “The PSYOPS are coming!”
“We need a major investigation,” Gardiner insists. “We need restrictions on which parts of the government can do information operations. We should not do information operations against friends. We have to get this back in control.”
One remedy is the Smith-Mundt Act, which was created in the aftermath of WWII with the intent of protecting American citizens from brainwashing by covert government propaganda campaigns. Unfortunately, Gardiner has discovered, the Smith-Mundt Act “no longer works.” We became collateral damage, a target group of messages intended for other groups.”
Gardiner’s findings have not yet received due attention from the US media and with good cause. Gardiner’s investigation revealed that the mainstream media not only failed to stand up to the government and insist on the truth, they all too often submitted in complicit cooperation with the government. Even in peacetime, the corporate media is an “embedded” media.
Gardiner has some hard questions for America’s press barons:
• “How was it that the Washington Post took classified information on the Jessica Lynch story and published it just the way the individual leaking it in the Pentagon wanted?”
• “Why did the New York Times let itself be used by ‘intelligence officials’ on stories?”
“Why did the Washington Times never seem to question a leak they were given?”
• “Why were newspapers in the UK better than those in the US in raising questions before and during the war?”
Since releasing his study, Gardiner has had the opportunity to talk with many people in the print media. While many have appeared “quite interested” in his findings, Gardiner admits that he has “not heard any self-criticism from reporters to whom I have talked.” In conversations with TV producers and reporters, Gardiner found the prevailing reaction was that “the whole story is just too complex to tell.”
Gardiner’s most disheartening reaction came during a presentation at “a major Washington think tank.” Most of the Washington veterans in the audience kept asking, “So, what’s new?” And when Gardiner opined that there was “no passion for truth in those who were taking us to war,” he distinctly heard callous laughter breaking out among his listeners.
It is the sound of that brittle laughter that keeps Sam Gardiner going. Things must be changed. The dragons of information warfare must be slain.
As Gardiner says: “I pain for our democratic process when I find individuals not angered at being deceived.”
Gar Smith is Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal, Roving Editor at The-Edge (www.the-edge.org) and co-founder of Environmentalists Against War (www.envirosagainstwar.org). Sam Gardiner may be contacted at SamGard@aol.com