The Guardian

The Guardian February 27, 2002


Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

The art of influential lying

US Governments and the US military have always dealt in lies, 
provocations and underhand acts, at least from the time of the wars against 
the American Indians. They secretly blew up their own warship to provide 
the pretext and a slogan ("Remember the "Maine"") for the Spanish American 
War.

They perfected the art of so-called "black propaganda" during two world 
wars and decades of anti-Soviet intrigue and subversion. They became 
masters of how to mould public opinion in different countries by planting 
false and misleading "news" stories in foreign media, using the resulting 
public concern to destabilise the country's government.

They similarly brought to a high degree of sophistication the techniques 
for paying street toughs to head "popular demonstrations" that become mass 
attacks on the premises and facilities of the leftist party.

Effectively an old-fashioned putsch, but now presented as a "movement for 
democracy", this manoeuvre has proven very successful for the US and its 
designated stooges in a number of countries.

Of course, if asked, the US denies that it plays any part in the defeat of 
progressive elected governments, or that it blatantly if covertly 
interferes in the political life of other countries.

Until now, that is. The New York Times reported on February 18 that 
the Pentagon was developing plans "to provide news items, possibly even 
false ones, to foreign media organisations as part of a new effort to 
influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and 
unfriendly countries".

I like that "possibly even false ones". POSSIBLY? False news is the 
"staple" of this type of operation.

And what does the Pentagon call its new lie factory that will generate and 
plant false stories in the media of other countries, spread rumours, 
conduct e-mail campaigns to pressure foreign politicians? Why, the Office 
of Strategic Influence, what else?

According to the NY Times, this new office has a multi-million 
dollar budget, "drawn from a US$10 billion emergency supplement to the 
Pentagon budget authorised by Congress in October".

"Headed by Brig. Gen. Simon P Worden of the Air Force, the new office has 
begun circulating classified proposals calling for aggressive campaigns 
that use not only the foreign media and the Internet, but also covert 
operations.

"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", according to the NY Times. The 
"white", of course, is primarily there to make the "black" more credible.

With the arrogance of power, the Yanks happily admit that they envisage 
bombarding "journalists, civic leaders and foreign leaders [with] e-mail 
messages that promote American views or attack unfriendly governments".

These messages will "not" be identified as coming from the Pentagon, or 
from anyone connected with the US administration.

Significantly, the establishment of the "small but well-financed Pentagon 
office" is described as "a response to concerns in the administration that 
the United States [is] losing public support overseas for its war on 
terrorism, particularly in Islamic countries".

So, unable to convince people that they are genuine about the "war on 
terrorism" and that it is not just a US colonial war to put the whole world 
under its domination, they're going to resort to dirty tricks.

And whom do US leaders turn to when they want to convince people that their 
cause is just? Why, the advertising industry, of course.

The State Department has already hired a former advertising executive to 
run its "public diplomacy" office. The Pentagon has hired the Rendon Group, 
a Washington-based international consulting firm, to "assist" the Office of 
Strategic Influence.

The Rendon Group is run by John W Rendon Jr, a former campaign aide to 
President Jimmy Carter. It has extensive experience in both black 
operations and the Middle East.

As the NY Times puts it: "The firm, which is being paid about 
US$100,000 a month, has done extensive work for the Central Intelligence 
Agency, the Kuwaiti royal family and the Iraqi National Congress, the 
opposition group seeking to oust President Saddam Hussein".

Remember the infamous (and completely false) claims about premature Kuwaiti 
babies being thrown out of humidicribs by the invading Iraqis? That was the 
Rendon Group's work.

The NY Times has no doubts about the intentions of US leaders to 
extend their present war to other parts of the world.

"Proponents say the new Pentagon office will bring much-needed coordination 
to the military's efforts to influence views of the United States overseas, 
particularly as Washington broadens the war on terrorism beyond 
Afghanistan."

But there are critics of the new office within the Pentagon itself, 
apparently. "Those critics say they are disturbed that a single office 
might be authorised to use not only covert operations like computer network 
attacks, psychological activities and deception, but also the instruments 
and staff of the military's globe-spanning public affairs apparatus.

"Mingling the more surreptitious activities with the work of traditional 
public affairs would undermine the Pentagon's credibility with the media, 
the public and governments around the world. [The Pentagon has credibility 
with the media? Really?]

"Critics of the new Pentagon office also argue that governments allied with 
the United States are likely to object strongly to any attempts by the 
American military to influence media within their borders. [Surely they 
would not be such cads?]

"Everybody understands using information operations to go after 
nonfriendlies', another senior Pentagon official said. 'When people get 
uncomfortable is when people use the same tools and tactics on 
friendlies'."

By "information operations" the foregoing Pentagon official means bogus 
news, rumour, slander, lies and any other dirty trick that can be used to 
fool the people.

Just in case you're still unclear about the role of the Office for 
Strategic Influence, its staff report to the office of the Assistant 
Secretary of Defence for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict.

Moreover, as The New York Times notes, "the Office for Strategic 
Influence also coordinates its work with the White House's new counter 
terrorism office, run by Wayne A Downing, a retired general who was head of 
the Special Operations command, which oversees the military's covert 
information operations".

Back to index page