Water Man Spouts

Monday, August 29, 2005

Beware of Darkness .....

{1} "Watch out now, take care,
Beware of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sidewalks
As each unconscious sufferer
Wanders aimlessly,
Beware of MAYA
Watch out now, take care
Beware of greedy leaders
They'll take you where you should not go
While Weeping Atlas Cedars
They just want to grow --
Beware of Darkness
-- George Harrison

As the investigations of the Plame and neocon/AIPAC scandals progress, it is becoming increasingly clear that a small group of people in the federal government have betrayed our nation. Some are well-known: Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz have been in high-profile positions over the past 30 years or more. Others, such as Douglas Feith and Richard Perle (nicknamed "the Prince of Darkness" by his friends), are primarily known to those who study criminal behavior in republican administrations. Still others are unknown to the public.

Yet even among these shadowy, unknown figures, we find those who build the foundation of the public's perception of public figures from Cheney to Saddam, and of events from 9-11 to the war in Iraq. Let's take a closer look at a few of these "players," and examine some of their tactics as well.

When Karen Hughes or Karl Rove have needed "expert" advice on communications, they turned to The Rendon Group. TRG is a highly secretive agency that was formed by former political operative Rick Rendon. Rick runs TRG with his brother John, and John's wife, Sandra Libby. An interesting description of TRG is found in a speech John gave to Air Force cadets in 1996:

"I am not a national security strategist or a military tactician. I am a politician, and a person who uses communication to meet public policy or corporate policy objectives. In fact, I am an information warrior and a perception manager."

What type of work do "information warriors and perception managers" do? In the first Gulf War, the CIA contracted for TRG to provide the little American flags to Kuwaitis to wave for "photo-ops" when U.S. forces liberated them from Iraqi occupation. The average American simply doesn't ask where people who were subjected to 7 months of oppressive occupation would get the large supply of American flags, nor would they finf TRG supplying them offensive. That's because the American flag is a powerful symbol.

Some other TRG propaganda could have been more offensive, however. An example was the chilling tale told by a teen-aged Iraqi girl, who had volunteered as a nurse's aide in a hospital. She told a tearful story of Iraqi soldiers barging into the hospital, and stealing incubators, leaving the poor infants to die a cruel death on the cold concrete floors. As it turned out, this story was a lie. TRG used the teen-aged daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. for the propaganda film. They recognized that few Americans would question their lie, simply because of the power of the image of defenseless babies dying on the hospital floors.

{2} "...I think it's important to show the importance of keeping an open mind. You'll be surprised how fast, how easy it is for someone to steal your and my mind. You don't think so? We never like to think in terms of being dumb enough to let someone put something over on us in a deceitful and tricky way. But you and I are living in a very deceitful and tricky society, in a very deceitful and tricky country, which has a very deceitful and tricky government. All of them in it aren't tricky and deceitful, but most of them are. And any time you have a government in which most of them are deceitful and tricky, you have to be on guard at all times. You have to know how they work this deceit and how they work those tricks. Otherwise you'll find yourself in a bind."
-- Malcolm X; "At the Audubon"; 11-24-1964

Let's look closer at some of the deceit and tricks used to get our nation to support the Bush administration's aggression in Iraq.

An important first step was TRG's creating the Iraqi National Congress. The Iraqi people knew that there was no such thing as the INC. It was simply a front for the neocon's poster boy, Ahmed Chalabi. But in order to sell Chalabi to the American public -- and indeed the congress -- TRG made the INC sound authentic. In fact, the INC became the symbol of Iraq's post-Saddam future.

TRG's information warriors and perception managers needed to have a reason to replace Saddam. The neocons had been planning to take him out for years, ever since President Bush1 opted to end the Gulf War outside of Baghdad. The 9-11 attacks on the United States gave TRG an old symbol to sell an attack on Baghdad with.

TRG had two "journalists" interview Abnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, an Iraqi civil engineer who claimed he could provide concrete evidence about Saddam's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. He claimed to know the exact locations of more than 20 factories that were producing WMDs. He hinted that Saddam was planning to attack US interests .... and perhaps a US city.

The first journalist to interview this fellow was Paul Moran. Curiously, Paul was an INC employee, who was "on loan" from TRG. His claim to being a freelance journalist was supported only by his participation in producing CIA-funded "anti-Saddam" films.

The second journalist to interview this fellow before he simply disappeared was none other than Judith Miller of the New York Times. Judith followed up with an article quoting an "unnamed administration source" who assured her that "more than a decade after Saddam Hussein agreed to give up weapons of mass destruction, Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb .... The closer Hussein gets to a nuclear weapon, the harder he will be to deal with." Judith ended her article with a powerful symbol: "the first sign of a 'smoking gun' .... may be a mushroom cloud."

Information warriors and perception managers know that when a powerful symbol is used over and over again, the public becomes more likely to fall for it. This is the essence of the deceit and trickery that Malcolm warned of.

"It's public now," VP Cheney told Meet The Press. "There is no doubt (that Saddam) has weapons of mass destruction."

"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," Condi Rice stated on CNN's Late Edition.

General Tommy franks warned that inaction could result in "the sight of the first mushroom cloud on one of the major population centers on this planet."

"The Iraqi regime is seeking nuclear weapons," President Bush warned. "Does it make any sense for the world to wait .... for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud?"

And Donald Rumsfeld attached the symbol of the mushroom cloud with 9-11: "Imagine a September 11 with weapons of mass destruction."

The icing on the cake, however, came in President Bush's State of the Union speech, in which he uttered the infamous 16 words, claiming he had proof that Saddam was attempting to buy yellow cake urnanium from Niger. That was perception management in action.

{3} "One of the best ways to safeguard yourself from being deceived is always form the habit of looking at things for yourself, listening to things for yourself, thinking for yourself, before you try and come to any judgment. Never base your impression of someone on what someone else has said. Or upon what someone else has written. Or upon what you read about someone that somebody else wrote. Never base your judgment on things like that. Especially in this kind of country and in this kind of society which has mastered the art of very deceitfully painting people whom they don't like in an image that they know you won't like. So you end up hating your friends and loving your enemies."
-- Malcolm X; "At the Audubon"

TRG's perception management convinced the congress and the American people that Iraq posed an immediate threat to our safety. When the stockpiles of WMDs were not found, the majority of Americans were willing to give the administration the benefit of the doubt. Even in congress, elected officials were largely unaware of the fact that the administration had purposely mislead them, by failing to mention that many within the State Department and CIA did not support the neocon's claim that Saddam posed a threat to the United States.

However, in March 2003, the IAEA announced the Niger yellow cake documents were crude forgeries. The same day, Joseph Wilson told CNN that the White House had "more information" on this very issue. Wilson was among a group of people, primarily from the State department and CIA, who were trying to communicate the truth to some administration officials (mainly Condi Rice) and to people in congress. They were also speaking "off the record" to select reporters.

The VP's office was aware of Wilson's activities. A group meeting was held in Cheney's office after Wilson spoke to CNN. Their goal was to produce "a work-up" on Wilson, which they could use to crush him if he publicly challenged their lies.

This type of activity is usually done by a group with experience in propaganda, or "perception management." TRG coordinated efforts such as this with a highly secretive Pentagon group, the Office of Strategic Influence. Run by Douglas Feith, the OSI focused on submitting false information to the public through operatives posing as journalists, and in producing documents such as the "Niger yellow cake" forgeries, and the Bush "national guard records" provided to Dan Rather's people.

When Wilson played point for the effort to expose the administration's lies, by writing the op-ed for the New York Times, the administration mercenaries were tasked with outting Valerie Plame. The goal was, in part, to "discredit" Wilson, by falsely indicating his wife sent him on the mission to Africa. It was also to send a clear message to those in the State Department and CIA who might be tempted to come forward. And it was also intended to derail investigations into the potential sale of WMD components.

Further, it was an ugly attempt to divide people in the CIA's embassy-based operations from the NOC programs. Valerie Plame was in the NOC area. The investigations being conducted by NOCs posed the greatest threat to expose the lies of the administration.

{4} Is this real?
Let us see, is this real?
Let us see, is this real?
This life I am living
You, Gods, who dwell everywhere,
Let us see, is this real?
This life I am living?
-- Pawnee song of creation

This summer, the appeal by Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Plame case, along with indictments in the neocon/AIPAC spy scandal, have made the news. Neither case fits the "perception management" mold sought by the White House of TRG. As a result, they began to try to smear Wilson and Plame again. However, even mainstream media sources did not fall in line.

The growing discontent with the war in Iraq; the Downing Street Memo; and Cindy Sheehan, have begun to cut into the administration's traditional base of support. As a result, the perception management efforts are showing up in other, sometimes surprising areas.

Among these are efforts to smear Wilson among the democratic left. The goal is to insert a lie, which will be picked up and repeated enough times to create doubt about the integrity of Joseph Wilson. The appeal is not being made to those who are likely to follow Malcolm's advice to look, listen and think for themselves. Rather, they produce a fictional character who appeals to those who enjoy c-grade flicks: a former "secret agent/attorney," on the run like Dr. Kimble in "The Fugitive," accessing the internet in libraries. A series of democratic sites now feature "discussions" of the misinformation being put forth in order to discredit Wilson. It does not matter that this is built on a foundation of lies .... the attempt is merely to have the lies repeated, side-by-side with the truth, in order to conbfuse people.

Without giving any credibility to this nonsense, I will point out one error: this source claims Wilson is involved in a complex plot to fool the public. His "proof" is that Wilson does not address the issues of espionage involved in the Plame grand jury investigation. To support this lie, his followers quote one sentence, out of any context, from Wilson's book. What they ignore are the references to the DoJ's counterespionage unit's investigating the case.

The Plame and neocon/AIPAC spy scandals are complex, indeed. Those interested in them should read as many sources of information as possible. Authors such as John Dean, James Bamford,Seymour Hersh, and Justin Raimondo are of great value; information in this essay comes from each of those. There are also "mainstream" sources, including Time, Newsweek, and The Nation, which offer some information of value sandwiched between some less-valuable articles. And there are numerous internet sites that have quality information.


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