THE POWER OF LIGHT and truth alone are not enough to defeat evil. Darkness alone can defeat darkness. Or so you would think with news about the Pentagon in its quest to win the propaganda wars. What kind of world do we live in when our leaders think the truth is not good enough? Welcome to the black celebration, where truth itself waits like Isaac, with his father Abraham holding knife in hand, waiting for an unkind god’s command.[story]
To fight what it sees as an insidious propaganda war waged by militants, from incendiary Web sites to one-sided television images of the Iraq war, the Pentagon has been quietly waging its own information battle throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. One of its primary weapons is a secretive firm that has been criticized as ineffective and too expensive. The Rendon Group, directed by former Democratic Party political operative John Rendon, has garnered more than $56 million in work from the Pentagon since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
SOME WILL SEE it as impressive or depressing that the United State government “privatizes” propaganda. Perhaps the government gambles that no one will ask how and why we are in the propaganda business at all. As with all things secretive in the Bush administration, a Freedom of Information Act request for on this matter is not enough. The administration drags not just its feet, but the whole process into the shadow. So the matter must be dragged into court for more information on the Rendon Group. Most disturbing of all the Rendon Group’s fronts is Empower Peace. Judicial Watch is suing the government to find out more about the group.
Judicial Watch is seeking, among other matters; information on a “peace movement” Internet site that reportedly was funded and established by the Pentagon called “Empower Peace.” The site was developed by The Rendon Group, a media consultancy firm the Pentagon has paid more than $40 million dollars to since 2001, and targets participation of American school age children, teachers and schools in what appears to be a “grassroots” peace movement. The Rendon Group’s relationship with the Pentagon has been reported in the New York Times and public relations trade magazines. “Empower Peace” offers “cultural awareness,” interactive web broadcasts between New York and Jordan, as well as Boston and Bahrain, and interaction with school age children of Islamic countries. There is no indication on the site that it is a project of the U.S. Defense Department.
PROPAGANDA, A CHILDREN’S CRUSADE brought to you by your United States Department of Defense. Empower Peace is the dark spawn of the previously thought still retired and the Orwellianly named Office of Strategic Information. We always hear information is power, now we know it is treated as a weapon. Truth, which is neutral, takes an assault and is sent spinning. Here is what the New York Times had to say about the Office of Strategic Information when its existence first became public.
The Pentagon is developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries, military officials said. The plans, which have not received final approval from the Bush administration, have stirred opposition among some Pentagon officials who say they might undermine the credibility of information that is openly distributed by the Defense Department's public affairs officers. The military has long engaged in information warfare against hostile nations — for instance, by dropping leaflets and broadcasting messages into Afghanistan when it was still under Taliban rule. But it recently created the Office of Strategic Influence, which is proposing to broaden that mission into allied nations in the Middle East, Asia and even Western Europe. The office would assume a role traditionally led by civilian agencies, mainly the State Department. . . . One of the office's proposals calls for planting news items with foreign media organizations through outside concerns that might not have obvious ties to the Pentagon, officials familiar with the proposal said. General Worden envisions a broad mission ranging from "black" campaigns that use disinformation and other covert activities to "white" public affairs that rely on truthful news releases, Pentagon officials said. "It goes from the blackest of black programs to the whitest of white," a senior Pentagon official said.
SO TRUTH WOULD FADE TO BLACK and somewhere in the night of fake news at ten following CSI, truth would enter a black hole, the home of black propaganda. And we should awake to morning again in America, the defenders of truth, justice, and the American way. Or not. Is black propaganda the American way? The OSI was disbanded, ut it seems its ghostlike work continues. Everyone is spinning their wheels to get away as fast as possible from this story.
JOHN RENDON DENIES his group every worked for the Office of Stategic Information. [link]
"That wasn't us," Rendon said. "The whole notion of putting false news stories abroad, that was never us." Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. S. Pete Worden, who directed the Office of Strategic Influence during its short life, confirmed by e-mail that the Rendon Group did not work for his office. "[Rendon] is correct that he didn't work directly for my office," Worden wrote. "Most of the actual work we did was through SAIC," or Science Applications International Corp., a large defense contractor.
RENDON IS CORRECT in the well parsed phrase “didn’t work directly for my office” according to the man who with Rendon also got his hand found in the propaganda cookie jar. Parsing is a sacrifice of language. How much truth is sacrificed here we will soon find out.
RUMSFELD IS GETTING a makeover. Why his image is getting the remake is hard to say right now. Is his face taking some cosmetics for when he gets laid out in the political coffin? Or is he being made fresh to gain new fans? The WaPo Magazine details The Other Donald’s majesty and misgivings in a pre-war memo.
"It would have been probably October of '02, and the war was March, I think," of the following year, Rumsfeld explains. "I sat down, and I said, 'What are all the things that one has to anticipate could be a problem?' And circulated it and read it to the president -- sent it to the president. Gave it to the people in the department, and they planned against those things. And all of the likely and unlikely things that one could imagine are listed there. It was just on the off-chance we'd end up having a conflict. We didn't know at that stage."
THE OFF-CHANCE we’d end up having a conflict? Some will forget how troops were surrounding Iraq even then, some will forget all the Downing memos. Some won’t care because they see the world better with Saddam gone. Still you have to ask some questions:
But then you wonder: Why did Rumsfeld write that memo, at that moment, and why is he flagging it now? . . . One of "Rumsfeld's Rules," the booklet of maxims and tenets he has coined and updated through his lifetime in management, notes that "it is easier to get into something than to get out of it." The time to stop an idea is before it gets moving.
SO RUMSFELD IS ON THE WAY out or he is getting ready to write a book? Is he trying to stop more criticism in its tracks before it comes closer? Or maybe rock star Rumstud just misses the attention he got at the start of the war. With all the talk of torture and of quagmire, less attention better suits him.
LESS IS MORE is the Rumsfeld story. Less is more is behind his strategy of armed forces transformation. Rumsfeld forever the college wrestler diets down to his weight limit and grapples the world to the mat. Lean is mean, but perhaps he has leaned on less is more too long.
The crux of the complaint against the secretary is this: Whenever Rumsfeld has faced a choice between doing more in Iraq or doing less, he has done less. When, during the pre-invasion planning, the State Department sent a team of Iraq experts to the Pentagon to help prepare a major reconstruction effort for the aftermath, Rumsfeld turned some of them away. As a result, "there was simply no plan, other than humanitarian assistance and a few other things like protection of oil and so forth, with regard to postwar Iraq. There was no plan," retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former secretary of state Colin Powell, explained in a recent speech.
HOW DID WE GET here and where are we going? Few may now remember Rumsfeld talking about drawing down troops, the euphemism for pulling them out. Few may remember Rumsfeld’s relatively dark assessments in contrast to Cheney’s and the cabalistas. Is it because Rumsfeld is tired of the fight or are there new battles yet to be fought and the world yet to be transformed?
Many pro-war insiders believed that Rumsfeld was the origin of Novak's startling declaration that "inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is a strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying, Ready or not, here we go." Bush quickly shot down the trial balloon, but Novak stood fast, pointedly boasting in a follow-up piece that Rumsfeld had not repudiated the original column.
RUMSFELD REMAINS standing. Some will recall his odd quotes when stress positions and standing were topics of torture and abuse in the news, how Rumsfeld said he worked at his standing desk for eight to ten hours. Rumsfeld, the image of Rumsfeld remains, standing tall and studlike, even when others are unwatching. What he stands for some will always question.
"The ramparts of Washington are littered with the bleached bones of people who said Donald Rumsfeld was not going to survive," DiRita says happily. Rumsfeld's serenity comes from a distinctive blend of freshness and age. DiRita describes his boss as thirsty for new knowledge and also supremely confident in himself, able to make tough decisions without fretting or second-guessing.
SOME QUESTIONS Will anyone like the answers? AFTERCARE? [Belgravia Dispatch] I recently asked a very high level former national security player who, given that Bush has seemingly deputized the entire prosecution of the Iraq war to Rumsfeld, could be brought in in his place (just if, by some miracle, Bush was finally able to wean himself from his sad dependency on Rumsfeld). He said that was an excellent question, paused for a good while, and appeared to draw blanks at first.
THE HERETIK ALSO CONSIDERS what to do with Rumsfeld? What to do with his war?
A DEFENSE OF RUMSFELD [Nitpicker] OK, not defense, but, if Rumsfeld has been wrong, as William Kristol and other neocons contend in this WaPo article, one has to question if he can even come close to the vast, embarrassing wrongness of Kristol and his compatriots? Am I the only one that remembers their victory dances when they thought the mission had been so easily accomplished?
THE HERETIK RECALLS it will be a rose petal cakewalk . . . we will be greeted as liberators . . . oy.