john rendon: the man who sold the war

If you haven’t read it yet, the new issue of Rolling Stone has a very good piece on John Rendon, the well-paid public relations consultant who has been at the helm of Bush’s pro-war propaganda machine since the very beginning.

The article starts out by setting the stage, going back well before the war, to the formation of Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC) and their lobbying in the U.S. for military action against Saddam. (Rendon, it seems, was working with the INC at the time, having been commissioned by the U.S. government after the first Gulf War to build and legitimize a CIA-approved entity which could replace Saddam’s regime.) And, as any good story on the propaganda that led us to war must, it starts with Judith Miller. Here’s a clip:

….The INC’s choice for the worldwide print exclusive (ed: for a story that they were peddling on WMD, even though their source, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, was dismissed by the CIA as untrustworthy) was equally easy: Chalabi contacted Judith Miller of The New York Times. Miller, who was close to I. Lewis Libby and other neoconservatives in the Bush administration, had been a trusted outlet for the INC’s anti-Saddam propaganda for years. Not long after the CIA polygraph expert slipped the straps and electrodes off al-Haideri and declared him a liar, Miller flew to Bangkok to interview him under the watchful supervision of his INC handlers. Miller later made perfunctory calls to the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, but despite her vaunted intelligence sources, she claimed not to know about the results of al-Haideri’s lie-detector test. Instead, she reported that unnamed “government experts” called his information “reliable and significant” — thus adding a veneer of truth to the lies…

And, from there, the article gets into part that I found most interesting — the use of the foreign operatives/journalists to seed stories in the global media (which would then inevitably find their way back to America). Here’s another clip from the article:

…By law, the Bush administration is expressly prohibited from disseminating government propaganda at home. But in an age of global communications, there is nothing to stop it from planting a phony pro-war story overseas — knowing with certainty that it will reach American citizens almost instantly. A recent congressional report suggests that the Pentagon may be relying on “covert psychological operations affecting audiences within friendly nations.” In a “secret amendment” to Pentagon policy, the report warns, “psyops funds might be used to publish stories favorable to American policies, or hire outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize rallies in support of administration policies.” The report also concludes that military planners are shifting away from the Cold War view that power comes from superior weapons systems. Instead, the Pentagon now believes that “combat power can be enhanced by communications networks and technologies that control access to, and directly manipulate, information. As a result, information itself is now both a tool and a target of warfare”…

To see this accomplished, the Bush administration reached out to Rendon, a man who had helped the U.S. government control public opinion, win wars and install pro-American governments in the past… Here’s a example of how Rendon worked during the first Gulf War on behalf of another client, the royal family of Kuwaiti.

…To coordinate the operation, Rendon opened an office in London. Once the (first) Gulf War began, he remained extremely busy trying to prevent the American press from reporting on the dark side of the Kuwaiti government, an autocratic oil-tocracy ruled by a family of wealthy sheiks. When newspapers began reporting that many Kuwaitis were actually living it up in nightclubs in Cairo as Americans were dying in the Kuwaiti sand, the Rendon Group quickly counterattacked. Almost instantly, a wave of articles began appearing telling the story of grateful Kuwaitis mailing 20,000 personally signed valentines to American troops on the front lines, all arranged by Rendon….

And, it didn’t hurt that Rendon was alreadyintimate with the INC.

…By the time the Gulf War came to a close in 1991, the Rendon Group was firmly established as Washington’s leading salesman for regime change. But Rendon’s new assignment went beyond simply manipulating the media. After the war ended, the Top Secret order signed by President Bush to oust Hussein included a rare “lethal finding” — meaning deadly action could be taken if necessary. Under contract to the CIA, Rendon was charged with helping to create a dissident force with the avowed purpose of violently overthrowing the entire Iraqi government…

Thomas Twetten, the CIA’s former deputy of operations, credits Rendon with virtually creating the INC. “The INC was clueless,” he once observed. “They needed a lot of help and didn’t know where to start. That is why Rendon was brought in.” Acting as the group’s senior adviser and aided by truckloads of CIA dollars, Rendon pulled together a wide spectrum of Iraqi dissidents and sponsored a conference in Vienna to organize them into an umbrella organization, which he dubbed the Iraqi National Congress. Then, as in Panama, his assignment was to help oust a brutal dictator and replace him with someone chosen by the CIA. “The reason they got the contract was because of what they had done in Panama — so they were known,” recalls Whitley Bruner, former chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad. This time the target was Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the agency’s successor of choice was Ahmad Chalabi, a crafty, avuncular Iraqi exile beloved by Washington’s neoconservatives….

So, you got all that? Basically, what it’s saying is that this fellow, Rendon, under the direction of the CIA and Pentagon, created the Iraqi National Congress, sold it to the world as a legitimate alternative to Saddam’s administration, and then began making the case (with faulty intelligence) for WMD that would lead our country into war… Then, in the immediate wake of September 11, things got thrown into overdrive. And the rest, as they say, is history… (An interesting side-note raised in the article is that almost “half of the CIA’s work is now performed by private contractors — people (like Rendon) completely unaccountable to Congress.”) Rendon, by the way, has been charging the CIA and the Pentagon $311.26 an hour for his services during all this time.

And here, for the other side of the story, is the response from the Rendon Group to the article in Rolling Stone… Brilliantly, they end by pointing out that the writer for Rolling Stone had been drinking “French” wine during the interview. (The bastard!)

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  1. Tony Buttons
    Posted November 23, 2005 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    The lesson? Never send Steve Guttenberg to do a man’s job.

  2. terry
    Posted November 23, 2005 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Hey Mark, the AVN award nominations came out today. Every person in the adult video industry has been anxiously awaiting them. Kami got nominated in two categories, best actress in a video and best solo sex scene. Root for Kami!

  3. mike_1630
    Posted November 26, 2005 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    I’ve got to get my hands on that rolling stone’s article.

    Mark – you should listen to this audio clip I’ve posted at caliblog, it’s… I don’t even know how to describe it…

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