America's Ministry of Propaganda Exposed
By Gar Smith / The-Edge
A Strategy of Lies: How the White House Fed the Public a Steady Diet of Falsehoods
Colonel Sam Gardiner (USAF, Ret.) has identified 50 false news stories created and leaked by a secretive White House propaganda apparatus. Bush administration officials are probably having second thoughts about their decision to play hardball with former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Joe Wilson is a contender. When you play hardball with Joe, you better be prepared to deal with some serious rebound.
After Wilson wrote a critically timed New York Times essay exposing as false George W. Bush's claim that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger, high officials in the White House contacted several Washington reporters and leaked the news that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent.
Wilson isn't waiting for George W. Bush to hand over the perp. In
mid-October, the former ambassador began passing copies of an embarrassing
internal report to reporters across the US. The-Edge has received copies of
The 56-page investigation was assembled by USAF Colonel (Ret.) Sam Gardiner.
"Truth from These Podia: Summary of a Study of Strategic Influence,
Perception Management, Strategic Information Warfare and Strategic
Psychological Operations in Gulf II" identifies more than 50 stories about
the Iraq war that were faked by government propaganda artists in a covert
campaign to "market" the military invasion of Iraq.
Gardiner has credentials. He has taught at the National War College, the Air
War College and the Naval Warfare College and was a visiting scholar at the
Swedish Defense College.
According to Gardiner, "It was not bad intelligence" that lead to the
quagmire in Iraq, "It was an orchestrated effort [that] began before the
war" that was designed to mislead the public and the world. Gardiner's
research lead him to conclude that the US and Britain had conspired at the
highest levels to plant "stories of strategic influence" that were known to
The Times of London described the $200-million-plus US operation as a
"meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress, and the
allies of the need to confront the threat from Saddam Hussein."
The multimillion-dollar propaganda campaign run out of the White House and
Defense Department was, in Gardiner's final assessment "irresponsible in
parts" and "might have been illegal."
"Washington and London did not trust the peoples of their democracies to
come to the right decisions," Gardiner explains. Consequently, "Truth became
a casualty. When truth is a casualty, democracy receives collateral damage."
For the first time in US history, "we allowed strategic psychological
operations to become part of public affairs... [W]hat has happened is that
information warfare, strategic influence, [and] strategic psychological
operations pushed their way into the important process of informing the
peoples of our two democracies."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced plans to create an Office of
Strategic Influence early in 2002. At the same time British Prime Minister
Tony Blair's Strategy Director Alastair Campbell was setting up an identical
operation in London.
As soon as Pvt. Jessica Lynch was airlifted from her hospital bed, the first
call from her "rescue team" went, not to military officials but to Jim
Wilkinson, the White House's top propaganda official stationed in Iraq.
White House critics were quick to recognize that "strategic influence" was a
euphemism for disinformation. Rumsfeld had proposed establishing the
country's first Ministry of Propaganda.
The criticism was so severe that the White House backed away from the plan.
But on November 18, several months after the furor had died down, Rumsfeld
arrogantly announced that he had not been deterred. "If you want to savage
this thing, fine: I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have
the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be
done -- and I have."
Gardiner's dogged research identified a long list of stories that passed
through Rumsfeld's propaganda mill. According to Gardiner, "there were over
50 stories manufactured or at least engineered that distorted the picture of
Gulf II for the American and British people." Those stories include:
The link between terrorism, Iraq and 9/11
Iraqi agents meeting with 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta
Iraq's possession of chemical and biological weapons.
Iraq's purchase of nuclear materials from Niger.
Saddam Hussein's development of nuclear weapons.
Aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons
The existence of Iraqi drones, WMD cluster bombs and Scud missiles.
Iraq's threat to target the US with cyber warfare attacks.
The rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch.
The surrender of a 5,000-man Iraqi brigade.
Iraq executing Coalition POWs.
Iraqi soldiers dressing in US and UK uniforms to commit atrocities.
The exact location of WMD facilities
WMDs moved to Syria.
Every one of these stories received extensive publicity and helped form
indelible public impressions of the "enemy" and the progress of the
invasion. Every one of these stories was false.
"I know what I am suggesting is serious. I did not come to these conclusions
lightly," Gardiner admits. "I'm not going to address why they did it. That's
something I don't understand even after all the research." But the fact
remained that "very bright and even well-intentioned officials found how to
control the process of governance in ways never before possible."
A Battle between Good and Evil
Gardiner notes that cocked-up stories about Saddam's WMDs "was only a very
small part of the strategic influence, information operations and marketing
campaign conducted on both sides of the Atlantic."
The "major thrust" of the campaign, Gardiner explains, was "to make a
conflict with Iraq seem part of a struggle between good and evil. Terrorism
is evil... we are the good guys.
"The second thrust is what propaganda theorists would call the 'big lie.'
The plan was to connect Iraq with the 9/11 attacks. Make the American people
believe that Saddam Hussein was behind those attacks."
The means for pushing the message involved: saturating the media with
stories, 24/7; staying on message; staying ahead of the news cycle; managing
expectations; and finally, being prepared to "use information to attack and
Audition in Afghanistan
The techniques that proved so successful in Operation Iraqi Freedom were
first tried out during the campaign to build public support for the US
attack on Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld hired Rendon Associates, a private PR firm that had been deeply
involved in the first Gulf War. Founder John Rendon (who calls himself an
"information warrior") proudly boasts that he was the one responsible for
providing thousands of US flags for the Kuwaiti people to wave at TV cameras
after their "liberation" from Iraqi troops in 1991.
The White House Coalition Information Center was set up by Karen Hughes in
November 2001. (In January 2003, the CIC was renamed the Office for Global
Communications.) The CIC hit on a cynical plan to curry favor for its attack
on Afghanistan by highlighting "the plight of women in Afghanistan." CIC's
Jim Wilkinson later called the Afghan women campaign "the best thing we've
Gardiner is quick with a correction. The campaign "was not about something
they did. It was about a story they created... It was not a program with
specific steps or funding to improve the conditions of women."
The coordination between the propaganda engines of Washington and London
even involved the respective First Wives. On November 17, 2001, Laura Bush
issued a shocking statement: "Only the terrorists and the Taliban threaten
to pull out women's fingernails for wearing nail polish." Three days later,
a horrified Cherie Blaire told the London media, "In Afghanistan, if you
wear nail polish, you could have your nails torn out."
Misleading via Innuendo
Time and again, US reporters accepted the CIC news leaks without question.
Among the many examples that Gardiner documented was the use of the "anthrax
scare" to promote the administration's pre-existing plan to attack Iraq.
In both the US and the UK, "intelligence sources" provided a steady diet of
unsourced allegations to the media to suggest that Iraq and Al Qaeda
terrorists were behind the deadly mailing of anthrax-laden letters.
It wasn't until December 18, that the White House confessed that it was
"increasingly looking like" the anthrax came from a US military
installation. The news was released as a White House "paper" instead of as a
more prominent White House "announcement." As a result, the idea that Iraq
or Al Qaeda were behind the anthrax plot continued to persist. Gardiner
believes this was an intentional part of the propaganda campaign. "If a
story supports policy, even if incorrect, let it stay around."
In a successful propaganda campaign, Gardiner wrote, "We would have expected
to see the creation [of] stories to sell the policy; we would have expected
to see the same stories used on both sides of the Atlantic. We saw both. The
number of engineered or false stories from US and UK stories is long."
The US and Britain: The Axis of Disinformation
Before the coalition invasion began on March 20, 2003, Washington and London
agreed to call their illegal pre-emptive military aggression an "armed
conflict" and to always reference the Iraqi government as the "regime."
Strategic communications managers in both capitols issued lists of
"guidance" terms to be used in all official statements. London's 15
Psychological Operations Group paralleled Washington's Office of Global
In a departure from long military tradition, the perception managers even
took over the naming of the war. Military code names were originally chosen
for reasons of security. In modern US warfare, however, military code names
have become "part of the marketing." There was Operation Nobel Eagle,
Operation Valiant Strike, Operation Provide Comfort, Operation Enduring
Freedom, Operation Uphold Democracy and, finally, Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The "Rescue" of Jessica Lynch
The Pentagon's control over the news surrounding the capture and rescue of
Pfc. Jessica Lynch receives a good deal of attention in Gardiner's report.
"From the very beginning it was called an 'ambush'," Gardiner noted. But, he
pointed out, "If you drive a convoy into enemy lines, turn around and drive
back, it's not an ambush. Military officers who are very careful about how
they talk about operations would normally not be sloppy about describing
this kind of event," Gardiner complained. "This un-military kind of talk is
one of the reasons I began doing this research."
One of the things that struck Gardiner as revealing was the fact that, as
Newsweek reported: "as soon as Lynch was in the air, [the Joint Operations
Center] phoned Jim Wilkinson, the top civilian communications aide to
CENTCOM Gen. Tommy Franks."
It struck Gardiner as inexplicable that the first call after Lynch's rescue
would go to the Director of Strategic Communications, the White House's top
representative on the ground.
On the morning of April 3, the Pentagon began leaking information on Lynch's
rescue that sought to establish Lynch as "America's new Rambo." The
Washington Post repeated the story it received from the Pentagon: that Lynch
"sustained multiple gunshot wounds" and fought fiercely and shot several
enemy soldier... firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition."
Lynch's family confused the issue by telling the press that their daughter
had not sustained any bullet wounds. Lynch's parents subsequently refused to
talk to the press, explaining that they had been "told not to talk about
it." (Weeks later, the truth emerged. Lynch was neither stabbed nor shot.
She was apparently injured while falling from her vehicle.)
Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers let the story stand during an April 3 press
conference although both had been fully briefed on Lynch's true condition.
"Again, we see the pattern," Gardiner observed. "When the story on the
street supports the message, it will be left there by a non-answer. The
message is more important than the truth. Even Central Command kept the
story alive by not giving out details."
Gardiner saw another break with procedure. The information on the rescue
that was released to the Post "would have been very highly classified" and
should have been closely guarded. Instead, it was used as a tool to market
the war. "This was a major pattern from the beginning of the marketing
campaign throughout the war," Gardiner wrote. "It was okay to release
classified information if it supported the message."
Transforming Language to Market the 'Big Lie'
Iraq's 'Terrorist Death Squads'
Secretary of State Colin Powell warned the UN General Assembly that Iraq
possessed chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Was
Mr. Powell merely advancing "stories of strategic influence"? ©Michael Gross
/ State Department photo
To Gardiner, the "most serious transformation of language" involved
Washington's directive to refer to Iraq's irregular troops as "terrorist
death squads." The order apparently came down on March 25.
Renaming the Iraqi defenders "terrorists" appears to have been part of the
strategic influence campaign since it served to connect the Iraqi fighters
with "one of the major themes of Gulf II -- Iraq = terrorist = 9/11."
Gardiner stressed the role repetition plays in the "effective implementation
creating memory in a population" and observed that "this theme was
successful by US opinion polls" that show a majority of US citizens now
believe, in the absence of evidence, that Iraq "was connected" to 9/11.
The propaganda artists selected a small Kurdish splinter group called Ansar
al-Salam and elevated it into an organized group of Al Qaeda "terrorists"
who were "said to be" controlled by Saddam Hussein and "believed to be"
producing ricin, a deadly biotoxin.
Since Ansar al-Salam was formed shortly after 9/11, "it was tied to bin
Laden." Because a single source claimed to have seen Republican Guard
officers in the region, "it was tied to Saddam Hussein."
"This was part of the 'big lie' to tie Iraq to 9/11," Gardiner wrote. "The
'terrorist' connection took many other forms, many forms but the truth. I
don't see evidenced they cherished the truth."
In the first days of the invasion, a US Marine Corps spokesman made a
prophetic statement: "The first image of the war will define the conflict."
The attempts to control those "first images" were of overriding interest to
the coalition's ministries of propaganda. Because it was believed that the
city of Basrah would quickly fall to the coalition troops, the "Battle of
Basrah" was heavily scripted long before the first soldiers even entered
Marines were given food packets to hand out to Basrah children. Journalists
were to be bused to the newly captured city and TV crews were to be flown in
to film the "liberated" citizens welcoming coalition soldiers with smiles
and flowers. The UK had expected to lead the attack on Basrah but, over
Blair's objections, the US insisted on giving this plum assignment to the US
Marines. Gardiner's sources in Britain told him that the sole reason was
that the US "wanted to have their forces lead the victory into Basrah."
When the residents of Basrah refused to be "liberated," the carefully
planned media event evaporated in a hail of gunfire.
"It was about image," Gardiner marvels. "So much effort and money on image."
In a widely publicized September 12, 2002 briefing paper entitled, "Decade
of Deception," the White House described "a highly secret terrorist training
facility in Iraq known as Salman Pak, where both Iraqis and non-Iraqi Arabs
receive training on hijacking planes and trains, planting explosives in
cities, sabotage, and assassinations."
"This facility became a major part of the strategic influence marketing
effort," Gardiner writes. Yet, in the invasions aftermath, the Pentgon
offered no "compelling evidence" that such a site existed.
In his February 3 presentation to the United Nations, Secretary of State
Colin Powell flashed a photo of an Ansar al-Salam "poison factory" in
northern Iraq. In September 3, seven months after Powell's presentation, an
Los Angeles Times reporter managed to reach the "poison factory," which he
described as "a small cinderblock building bearing brown granules and
ammonia-like scents." When the Times had the material tested, the granules
turned out to be a commercial rat poison.
US Lied about Attacks on Iraq's Power Grid
Secretary Powell claimed that Iraq possessed mobile trucks designed to
produce biological weapons. When invading forces located the trucks it
turned out they were actually designed to produce hydrogen for surveillance
balloons and Iraq had bought the trucks from the Britain.
When the capital city of Baghdad was blacked out by a power failure during
the April bombardment, Pentagon spokesperson Victoria "Tori" Clarke rushed
to assure the world that "We did not have the power grid as a target. That
was not us."
The facts would subsequently show that the US had targeted portions of the
power grid. In the North, a special operations team staged an attack on the
Hadithah Dam on April 1 or 2. Human Rights Watch documented at least two
attacks on the power grid south of Baghdad "along Highway 6 [that] included
a Tomahawk [missile] strike using carbon fibers."
The use of a sophisticated carbon-fiber weapons is significant since the
deployment of these specialized devices required prior approval from
Iraq's "Dirty Bomb"
In June 2002, an Iraqi expatriate named Khidhir Manza told the Wall Street
Journal that the situation was "ideal for countries like Iraq to train and
support a terrorist operation using radiation weapons." Manza's interview
with the Journal was arranged by the Iraqi National Congress, a group of
Iraqi exiles that was set up by the Rendon Group and supported financially
by agencies of the US government. (See Weapons of Mass Deception, by John
Stauber and Sheldon Rampton.)
Helping to make Manza's charges more credible, unnamed intelligence
officials earlier had told the International Herald Tribune that "they are
kept awake at night by the prospect of a dirty bomb." Astute readers will
note that these anonymous sources never actually said Iraq had a dirty bomb.
It was all managed through suggestion and innuendo.
American's Heroic Hostage
In an episode that recalled the creation of the "Old Shoe, the fictitious
hero concocted by Robert deNiro's ace "perception manager" in the film "Wag
the Dog," Washington's propaganda artists literally brought someone back
from the dead.
Lt. Commander Scott Speicher had been shot down during the first Gulf War in
1991. In an attempt to generate sympathy and support for Bush's pre-emptive
war, "intelligence sources" began circulating a bizarre new story to the US
media. In what Gardiner called "a pattern typical of created stories," these
unnamed sources started a rumor that Commander Speicher had not only
survived but that he had somehow spent the past decade trapped in an Iraqi
Iraqi officials vehemently denied that they were holding Speicher or, for
that matter, any Americans. When asked about the Iraqi denial at a press
conference, Rumsfeld's response was calculatingly oblique. "I don't believe
much the regime puts out," Rumsfeld stated.
In Gardiner's estimation, Rumsfeld's answer "was too clever not to have been
formulated to leave the impression that [Speicher] was alive."
Gardiner was troubled by Rumsfeld's apparent disinterest in the truth but,
as a former military officer, there was another question that bothered
Gardiner even more. "Why didn't [Rumsfeld] consider what he was doing to
On January 11, 2001, Speicher's status was changed from KIA (Killed in
Action) to MIA (Missing in Action). As the invasion forces gathered in the
Middle East, Speicher's status was changed once more, to "captured." Navy
officials who contacted ABC News reported that they had been pressured to
make this change.
In January, "intelligence officials" continued to leak information to the
media that suggested Speicher was still alive. In April, the secretive
ministry of propaganda leaked a report that his initials had been found on
the wall of a cell in Iraq. Gardiner found this leak particularly strange
since "Military POW recovery personnel are very careful about releasing
information that would cause false hope in families." The release of such
information would also, obviously, endanger the captives.
Long after Baghdad fell and the media's attention had been drawn to the
fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction, a reporter thought to ask
Rumsfeld about America's lost hero. The secretary replied vaguely that there
was "nothing turned up thus far that I could elaborate on that would be
appropriate." On July 16, a Washington Times investigation belatedly
concluded that there was "no evidence" Speicher had survived or had been
held captive in Iraq.
Chemical Cluster Bombs
On March 10, administration officials attempted to discredit Hans Blix and
UNMOVIC, the UN weapons inspection program. Administration officials told
the Boston Globe that "Blix did not give details... of the possible
existence of a cluster bomb that could deliver deadly poisons."
Presidential spokesperson Ari Fleischer claimed that the US was "aware of
UNMOVIC's discovery of Iraqi production of munitions capable of dispensing
both chemical and biological weapons." Videotape was released allegedly
showing the Iraqis testing a cluster bomb for dispersing chemical weapons.
"The chemical cluster bomb story certainly didn't linger," Gardiner wrote.
"It was around only a couple of days, but it still served its purpose at the
Few newspaper readers or TV watchers realized that there was never any
evidence that Iraq had such technologically complex weapons. Indeed, the
Pentagon had dismissed the possibility of Iraq ever developing these weapons
during the first Gulf War.
Iraq's Planned Computer Attack on America
An alarming White House paper presented by Paul Wolfowitz before a meeting
of the Council on Foreign Relations warned that Iraqi engineers were
preparing a vast attack on the country's computer networks.
The warning came from a single source who claimed that Iraq's Intelligence
Service was working with the Babylon Software Company to break into US
computers, steal documents and spread viruses. There were no such attacks.
There was no such program.
Iraqi Troops in US Uniforms
On March 7, White House Deputy Director of Communications Jim Wilkinson,
described as "a senior US official," released a story about Iraq's alleged
acquisition of US and UK military uniforms "identical down to the last
detail." Wilkinson claimed Iraqis in US camouflage were planning to commit
battlefield atrocities to cast discredit on coalition troops.
On March 26, Pentagon spokesperson Victoria "Tori" Clarke embellished the
story. Clarke told reporters that "we knew they were acquiring uniforms that
looked like US and UK uniforms. And the reporting was ... [that Saddam
Hussein would] give them to the thugs, as I call them, to go out, carry out
reprisals against the Iraqi people, and try to blame it on coalition
Two days later, Rumsfeld added a new twist, claiming that Saddam Hussein's
troops planned to don UK an US uniforms "to try to fool regular Iraqi
soldiers into surrendering to them and then execute them as an example for
There were never any reports of Iraq attempting such stunts. In his report,
Gardiner concludes: "The way it was put by Jim Wilkinson (a name that keeps
appearing in these questionable stories), it seems to fit a pattern of
pre-blaming Iraq. It has the feel of being a created story."
Iraq's Scud Missiles
In the lead-up to the war, the British and American people were told
repeatedly that Iraq had Scud missiles capable of striking Israel. When the
invasion began, Iraq began to fire what the Pentagon called "Scud-type
missiles." As Gardiner discovered, these rockets "were not Scuds and we have
found no Scuds, but for three days they kept the story alive."
In October 2002, a CIA report determined that evidence for the existence of
Iraqi Scuds was inconclusive. Nonetheless, by the time Colin Powell stepped
up to the plate at the UN, the missiles had become an accepted fact as far
as Washington, London and Tel Aviv were concerned.
During the invasion, "American officials" told the New York Times that "the
sheer tenacity of the Iraqi fight" near a compound at Al Qa'im had led them
to believe that "the Iraqis might be defending Scud missiles" hidden at the
site. Gardiner notes laconically: "No Scuds or WMDs were found at Al Qa'im."
Saddam's Remote-Controlled Drones
The CIA's October report also claimed that Iraq had converted some J-29 jet
fighters to deliver chemical and biological weapons. George W. Bush quickly
seized on this specter for a speech in Cincinnati, where he told the
astonished crowd that Saddam's poison-laden aircraft were capable of hitting
By the time Powell testified before the UN, the threat had been measurably
pared down -- the fighter jets had become smaller, remotely piloted drones.
Mr. Bush went public with the extraordinary claimed that these tiny drones
could strike the US.
On June 15, an Air Force team in Iraq finally seized the drones. The Los
Angeles Times described them as "five burned and blackened 9-foot-wings."
The Air Force captain in charge of the inspection concluded that the drones
could have been "a student project or maybe a model."
A subsequent investigation by the USAF determined that the drones' only
possible mission was to take pictures.
America's Ministry of Propaganda -- Part Three
By Gar Smith / The-Edge
November 7, 2003
Targeting Critics, Spreading Lies, and PSYOPS
Protesters in Baghdad lie down in the path of US armored vehicles. The White
House Office of Global Communication is not interested in distributing
photos of ordinary Iraqi citizens nonviolently demonstration against the US
The tools of strategic influence were not only wielded against Saddam
Hussein, they were also turned against foreign allies and domestic critics
who dared to question Bush's agenda. The French were among the first to feel
the sting of these attacks.
Sam Gardiner's report notes that the French were clearly "the focus of
punishment in the strategic influence campaign." He has identified "at least
eight times when false stories or engineered stories were aimed at them, the
majority appearing after their lack of support in the UN for US and UK
In September, government sources informed the New York Times that the French
and German governments had provided Iraq with precision switches that could
be used to produce nuclear weapons. The Times ran the story before
discovering that the France and Germany had both, in fact, refused to
provide the switches.
"American intelligence sources" told the Washington Postthat the French
possessed illegal strains of smallpox virus. Again, the story was false.
The Washington Times received a tip from "US intelligence sources" that two
companies in France had sold equipment to Saddam. The companies denied the
charge and no evidence was ever provided to sustain the charge.
On April 9, Brig. Gen. Brooks told the media that his troops had discovered
"an underground storage facility containing... Roland-type air defense
missiles." Lt. Greg Holmes, an army intelligence officer, told Newsweek that
US soldiers had found "51 Roland-2 missiles, made by a partnership of French
and German arms manufacturers." Holmes also stated that at least one of the
Roland missiles "was manufactured last year."
The story served to further defame the irascible French but, Gardiner writes
with a touch of sarcasm, the story "was not very well put together" since it
turned out that "the production line for the Roland-2 was shut down in
Punishing the French
For the French, the War of the Leaks was just beginning. On May 6, "US
intelligence officials" were quoted as telling the Washington Times that "an
unknown number of Iraqis who worked for Saddam Hussein's government were
given passports by French officials in Syria." The story was kept alive by a
succession of press leaks attributed to "State Department and intelligence
officials," and a bevy of "Administration officials."
On May 6, Fox News reported that "Paris had been colluding with Baghdad
before and during the coalition invasion." On May 7, the Washington Times,
citing reports from "US officials," claimed that "officials of the Saddam
Hussein government... fled Iraq with French passports."
The French government angrily denied the allegations and accused Washington
of running a "smear campaign." But when the press confronted Rumsfeld about
these accusations, he "followed pattern." Instead of confirming or denying
the charges against the French, he simply smiled and said, "I have nothing
As Gardiner sees it, the intended effect of that kind of non-answer was that
"he wanted people to believe the stories."
This campaign of Francophobe fibbing eventually contaminated the White House
press briefings. On May 14, a reporter asked White House press officer Scott
McClellan about the stories accusing the French of selling Iraq arms and
issuing passports to fleeing Iraqi officials. "Are those charges valid?" the
McClellan's response: "Well, I think that those are questions you can
address to France."
Reporter: On that point, Scott, do you have any information that the French
did, in fact, issue passports to people so that...."
McClellan: I think -- no, I think that's a question you need to address to
Reporter: Well, no. It's information the US claims to have.
McClellan: I don't have anything for you.
"The Secretary of Defense told us before the war he was going to do
strategic influence," Gardiner notes wryly. "It appears as if the French
were a target."
Targeting Domestic Critics: The Galloway Forgeries
The White House claimed that these aluminum tubes were proof that Iraq was
attempting to produce nuclear weapons. US intelligence agents knew the
truth: the tubes were useless for nuclear processing.
In Britain, Labor Member of Parliament George Galloway became an open
skeptic of Tony Blair's rhetoric. In a bold attempt to avoid war, Galloway
had gone to Iraq to interview Saddam Hussein in hopes of promoting a
diplomatic resolution to the crisis.
Galloway's skepticism began to gnaw away at Bush-and-Blair's broad-brush
claims that Hussein was only months away from building a nuclear bomb or
that he was capable of launching a WMD attack within 45 minutes.
Galloway soon found himself under attack. Government officials leaked a
packet of supposedly "classified documents" to the Daily Telegraph. The
papers, which were represented as having been seized from Iraq's Foreign
Ministry, suggested MP Galloway had accepted "payoffs" from the Iraqi
At he same time, in the US, a "retired general" contacted the Christian
Science Monitoron April 25, with similar documents showing that Hussein had
given Galloway $10 million.
Galloway's reputation was seriously sullied. It wasn't until June 20, that
the Monitor disclosed that the "general's" incriminating documents were
forged. The documents released in Britain also turned out to be forgeries.
The White Flag Incidents
On March 24, Pentagon briefing officer Tori Clarke told reporters that "the
Iraqi regime is engaged in other deadly deceptions. They are sending forces
out carrying white surrender flags... The most serious violations of the
laws of war."
There were only two alleged incidents cited to support this story. One
appeared engineered and Gardiner now believes that the other incident was
"fabricated to cover a very serious friendly-fire event."
On March 23, a Marine unit came under artillery fire near Nasiriyah in
southern Iraq soon after some Iraqi soldiers had surrendered. Gen. Abizaid,
the Deputy Commander of CENTCOM called the surrender "a ruse" to draw the
Marines into an ambush. Gardiner finds this difficult to believe since it
was well known that "the Iraqi Army had trouble coordinating artillery fire
The other "White Flag" incident was a widely reported tragedy in which Iraqi
soldiers shot civilians who were trying to flee to safety under a white
flag. But the Iraqi soldiers were also killed, Gardiner notes.
Other white flag incidents were not mentioned by the Pentagon or Messrs.
Bush and Blair. Gardiner recalls one "memorable picture of the war" that
showed "British troops standing over two dead Iraqis in a foxhole: they had
been holding up a white flag."
George W. Bush repeated the white flag story on April 5. By then, Bush
should have been aware of the real cause of those Marine deaths. Gardiner
reports that, according to the surviving Marines, nine of those killed "may
have been killed by an A-10 [a US military aircraft] that made repeated
passes attacking their position."
A report released in October indicates that these deaths were being
investigated as a "friendly fire accident." At least one of the young
Marines caught in the supposed Iraqi "ruse" was, in fact, killed by a round
fired from an A-10 gun that hit him directly in the chest.
The Execution of Prisoners
At a joint news conference with Mr. Bush at Camp David on March 27, British
PM Tony Blair informed the media that the Iraqis had executed two British
prisoners. "If anyone needs any further evidence of the depravity" of
Hussein's reign, Blair suggested, this was it.
Unfortunately, further evidence was exactly what Blair lacked. The very next
day the sister of one of the dead soldiers told the Daily Mirrorthat her
brother's colonel "told us he was not executed. We just can't understand why
people are lying."
Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke also told reporters that the Iraqis
had killed "Americans who had either surrendered or were attempting to
surrender." This report turned out to be "unconfirmed."
A week after the British press had attacked the "executions" story as a
total fabrication, and Blair's press spokesperson had been forced to admit
that there was no "absolute evidence" to support the story, George W. Bush
told the American Forces Press Service: "They have executed prisoners of
war." Bush repeated the falsehood on April 5 and Rumsfeld echoed the lie on
The US press attempted to catch up to their British counterparts by
questioning Rumsfeld on April 7. As usual, Rumsfeld's defense was the
Reporter: Mr. Secretary, you stated flatly that American POWs have been
executed. On what basis do you make that statement?
Rumsfeld: I think I said they have executed prisoners of war.
Reporter: Are you saying that there have not been American prisoners
Rumsfeld: I'm not saying that either. There may very well have been, but I'm
not announcing that, if that's what you're asking... We do know that they
executed a lot of prisoners of war over the years."
The Shula District Bombing
On March 29, an explosion in an open-air market in Baghdad's Shula District
killed more than 50 Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi government condemned the
attack and blamed it on coalition bombers. US military spokespersons tried
to turn the blame back on Iraq, suggesting that the civilians were killed by
Iraqi artillery or anti-aircraft rockets that went awry.
British journalist Robert Fisk reachned the site soon after the massacre and
uncovered a 30-centimeter shard of shrapnel that showed the serial number of
the weapon that caused the massacre. It was a HARM missile built by the US
military contractor Raytheon.
On April 3, CENTCOM issued a new story claiming to have received "reliable
information" that the Hussein regime was planning to bomb Shiite Muslim
neighborhoods in Baghdad so that it could blame the damage on the US-UK
"The CENTCOM cover story came from Jim Wilkinson," Gardiner discovered. The
British, however, refused to support this argument. They continued to claim
(rightly, it now appeared) that no British bombs had caused the death and
devastation in the Shula District.
PSYOPS -- The Darkest Face of Deception
"Strategic influence is aimed at international audiences (and maybe domestic
audiences)," Gardiner explains, while PSYOPS (Psychological Operations) "are
targeted at the bad guys."
The disturbing thing about this war, Gardiner found, was that "PSYOPS became
a major part of the relationship between the governments of the US and the
UK and the free press."
The record reveals how the Pentagon, State Department and White House all
relied on PSYOPS techniques to manipulate the media as a psychological
weapon against the Iraqis.
When Rumsfeld declared that "The days of Saddam Hussein are numbered," that
the "regime is starting to lose control of their country," and that "The
outcome is clear. The regime of Saddam Hussein is gone. It's over," he was
really using the US media to send a message to the people in Iraq.
On March 24, British Air Marshall Brian Burridge told the press that the old
regime was "crumbling" and encouraged Saddam's opponents to "develop greater
levels of courage" and rise up against the dictator.
There was no better example of PSYOPS "distorting the free press with false
information," Gardiner claims, than the alleged surrender of Iraq's 51st
On March 21, Reuters (citing "defense officials, who asked not to be
identified") reported the stunning news that an entire Iraqi division had
surrendered en mass to US Marines in southern Iraq.
CBS News followed with a report the next day claiming that "an entire
division of the Iraqi army, numbering 8,000 soldiers, surrendered to
coalition forces." CBS's source: unnamed "Pentagon officials."
The surrender of the 51st became a major news story that truly seemed to
confirm the Pentagon's predictions of a quick and easy victory. "It was told
as if it were a truth," Gardiner writes. "It was told on both sides of the
Atlantic. It had been coordinated. It was not true."
The story was intended to break the fighting will of the Iraqi army. On
March 23, reporters from Agence France-Presse and Al-Jazeera TV managed to
reach Col. Khaled al-Hashemi, the commander of the 51st. He replied in no
uncertain terms that he not only had not surrendered but he would remain in
Basrah and "continue to defend the people."
The surrender of an entire division would have been a powerful blow to the
will of the Iraqi army. The perception managers knew this. It is clear to
Gardiner that this story "was not an intelligence failure. You would know if
you have an entire division" suddenly surrendering. The story was a PSYOPS
Other PSYOPS hoaxes were to follow. Stories were leaked that Hussein had
made secret plans to spirit his family out of Iraq to safety. It was rumored
that Hussein had deposited $3.5 billion in Libyan banks.
America's Ministry of Propaganda -- Part Four
By Gar Smith / The-Edge
November 7, 2003
Black Programs and the Future of Propaganda
Gardiner claims that the Pentagon was behind the creation of the
"EmpowerPeace" website. Gardiner says the site was pulled because it
violated US laws against domestic propaganda but the site can still be found
on the Web (www.empowerpeace.org ). The-Edge has invited EmpowerPeace to
respond to Gardiner's assertions.
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
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
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."
Mapping the Ministry of Propaganda, a historic merging of politics,
militarism and public "perception management." The Coalition Information
Center with offices in the London, Islamabad and the White House started
work in mid-2002 (six months before it was officially authorized by an
Executive Order). In 2003, the CIC morphed into the Office of Global
Communications, staffed by Tucker Eskew, Dan Bartllett, Jeff Jones, Peter
Reid. The OGC works closely with the White House Iraq Group, which consists
of Karl Rove, Condi Rice, Jim Wilkinson, Stephen Hadley, Scooter Libby,
Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, and Nicholas Callo.
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
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
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
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
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'
"Why did the Washington Times never seem to question a leak they were
"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."
Sam Gardiner's complete report is available online in six PDF files at :
Sam Gardiner may be reached at: SamGard at aol.com
For more information on the Bush administration's use of propaganda to
misinform the public and promote wars of domination, see Weapons of Mass
Deception, by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton and visit the website of
PRWatch: www.prwatch.org/books/wmd.html .
For more information contact:
(510) THE-EDGE (843-3343)
E-mail us at gsmith at earthisland.org
THE-EDGE is a project of Earth Island Institute.