The Disinformation Campaign
War Propaganda: Fabricating an Outside Enemy
The US intelligence apparatus has created its own terrorist organ-izations. And at the same time, it creates its own terrorist warn-ings concerning the terrorist organizations which it has itself created. In turn, it has developed a cohesive multibillion dollar counterterrorism program “to go after” these terrorist organizations.
Counterterrorism and war propaganda are intertwined. The propaganda apparatus feeds disinformation into the news chain. The terror warnings must appear to be “genuine”. The objective is to present the terror groups as “enemies of America”.
One of the main objectives of war propaganda is to fabricate an enemy. As anti-war sentiment grows and the political legitimacy of the Bush Administration falters, doubts regarding the existence of this illusive “outside enemy” must be dispelled.
Propaganda purports not only to drown the truth but to kill the evidence on how this “outside enemy”, namely Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda was fabricated and transformed into “Enemy Number One”. The entire National Security doctrine centers on the existence of an “outside enemy”, which is threatening the Homeland.
The “Office of Disinformation”
Waged from the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA, a fear and disinformation campaign was launched. The blatant distortion of the truth and the systematic manipulation of all sources of information is an integral part of war planning.
In the wake of 9/11, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld created the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), or “Office of Disinformation” as it was labeled by its critics:
The Department of Defense said they needed to do this, and they were going to actually plant stories that were false in foreign coun-tries-as an effort to influence public opinion across the world.(1)
And, all of a sudden, the OSI was formally disbanded following political pressures and “troublesome” media stories that “its pur-pose was to deliberately lie to advance American interests.”(2) “Rumsfeld backed off and said this is embarrassing.”(3) Yet despite this apparent about-turn, the Pentagon’s Orwellian disinformation campaign remained functionally intact:
“[T]he secretary of defense is not being particularly candid here. Disinformation in military propaganda is part of war.(4)
Rumsfeld in fact later confirmed in a November 2002 press interview that while the OSI no longer exists in name, the “Office’s intended functions are [still] being carried out”.5
A number of government agencies and intelligence units-with links to the Pentagon-are involved in various components of the propaganda campaign.
Realities are turned upside down. Acts of war are heralded as “humanitarian interventions” geared towards “regime change” and “the restoration of democracy”.
Military occupation and the killing of civilians are presented as “peace-keeping”. The derogation of civil liberties-in the context of the so-called “anti-terrorist legislation”-is portrayed as a means to providing “domestic security” and upholding civil liberties. And underlying these manipulated realties, “Osama bin Laden” and “Weapons of Mass Destruction” statements, which circulated pro-fusely in the news chain, were upheld as the basis for understanding World events.
The twisting of public opinion at home and around the World had become an integral part of the War agenda. In the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration and its indefectible British ally had multiplied the “warnings” of future Al Qaeda terrorist attacks.
War propaganda is pursued at all stages: before, during the mil-itary operation as well as in its cruel aftermath. The enemy has to appear genuine: thousands of news stories and editorials linking Al Qaeda to the Baghdad government were planted in the news chain.
War propaganda serves to conceal the real causes and conse-quences of war.
Shortly after the OSI had been officially disbanded amidst con-troversy, the New York Times confirmed that the disinformation campaign was running strong and that the Pentagon was:
considering issuing a secret directive to American military to conduct covert operations aimed at influencing public opinion and policy-makers in friendly and neutral nations…. The proposal has ignited a fierce battle throughout the Bush administration over whether the military should carry out secret propaganda missions in friendly nations like Germany…. The fight, one Pentagon official said, is over ‘the strategic communications for our nation, the message we want to send for long-term influence, and how we do it…. “We have the assets and the capabilities and the training to go into friendly and neutral nations to influence public opinion. We could do it and get away with it. That doesn’t mean we should.”(6)
Feeding Disinformation into the News Chain
To sustain “the War on Terrorism” agenda these fabricated reali-ties, funneled on a day to day basis into the news chain, must become indelible truths which form part of a broad political and media consensus. In this regard, the corporate media-although of this evolving totalitarian system.
In close liaison with the Pentagon and the CIA, the State Department had also set up its own “soft-sell” (civilian) propa-ganda unit, headed by Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Charlotte Beers, a powerful figure in the adver-tising industry. Working in liaison with the Pentagon, Beers was appointed to head the State Department’s propaganda unit in the immediate wake of 9/11. Her mandate was “to counteract anti-Americanism abroad.”7 Her office at the State Department was to:
ensure that public diplomacy (engaging, informing, and influencing key international audiences) is practiced in harmony with public affairs (outreach to Americans) and traditional diplomacy to advance US interests and security and to provide the moral basis for US lead-ership in the world.
The Role of the CIA
The most powerful component of the Fear and Disinformation Campaign rests with the CIA, which secretly subsidizes authors, journalists and media critics, through a web of private founda-tions and CIA sponsored front organizations. The CIA also influ-ences the scope and direction of many Hollywood productions. Since 9/11, one third of Hollywood productions are war movies:
Hollywood stars and scriptwriters are rushing to bolster the new message of patriotism, conferring with the CIA and brainstorming with the military about possible real-life terrorist attacks.(9)
“The Sum of All Fears” directed by Phil Alden Robinson, which depicts the scenario of a nuclear war, had received the endorse-ment and support of both the Pentagon and the CIA.(10)
Disinformation is routinely “planted” by CIA operatives in the newsroom of major dailies, magazines and TV channels. Outside public relations firms are often used to create “fake stories”:
A relatively few well-connected correspondents provide the scoops, that get the coverage in the relatively few mainstream news sources, where the parameters of debate are set and the “official reality” is consecrated for the bottom feeders in the news chain.(11)
Covert disinformation initiatives under CIA auspices are also funneled through various intelligence proxies in other countries. Since 9/11, they have resulted in the day-to-day dissemination of false information concerning alleged “terrorist attacks”.
A routine pattern of reporting had emerged. In virtually all of the reported cases of terrorist incidents (Britain, France, Indonesia, India, Philippines, etc.) the alleged terrorist groups are identified as having “links to Al Qaeda”, without of course acknowledging the fact (amply documented by intelligence reports and official documents) that Al Qaeda is US intelligence asset.
TEXT BOX 11.1
The Secret Downing Street Memo
“The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”
SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL-UK EYES ONLY
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
cc: Defense Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard
Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally
Morgan, Alastair Campbell
Iraq: Prime Minister’s Meeting, 23 July
C [head of British Intelligence MI-6, Sir Richard Dearlove] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable….
Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intel-ligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
…. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthu-siasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after mili-tary action.
Excerpts from the “Secret Downing Street Memo” to Prime Minister Tony Blair, leaked in May 2005 to the London Times.
The Doctrine of “Self Defense”
The propaganda campaign is geared towards sustaining the illusion that “America is under attack”. Relayed not only through the mainstream media but also through a number of alternative Internet media sites, these fabricated realities continue to portray the war in Afghanistan and Iraq as bona fide acts of self-defense, while carefully concealing the broad strategic and economic objec-tives of the war.
In turn, the propaganda campaign develops a casus belli, a jus-tification, a political legitimacy for waging war. The “official real-ity” (conveyed profusely in George W’s speeches) rests on the broad “humanitarian” premise of a so-called “preemptive”, namely “defen-sive war”, “a war to protect freedom”:
We’re under attack because we love freedom…. And as long as we love freedom and love liberty and value every human life, they’re going to try to hurt us.12)
The National Security Strategy (NSS) includes two essential building blocks:
– The preemptive “defensive war” doctrine,
– The “war on terrorism” against Al Qaeda.
The objective is to present “preemptive military action”-mean-ing war as an act of “self-defense” against two categories of ene-mies, “rogue States” and “Islamic terrorists”:
The war against terrorists of global reach is a global enterprise of uncertain duration…. America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.
… Rogue States and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction.
… The targets of these attacks are our military forces and our civilian population, in direct violation of one of the principal norms of the law of warfare. As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction.
The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction-and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend our-selves…. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.(13)
In early 2005, the Pentagon called for the development of a more “pro-active” notion of preemptive warfare, where military opera-tions could also be launched not only against a “declared enemy” but also against countries, which are not openly hostile to America, but which are considered strategic from the point of view of US interests. (See Chapter 19.)
How is War Propaganda carried out?
Two sets of eye-popping statements emanating from a variety of sources (including official National Security statements, media, Washington-based think tanks, etc.) are fed on a daily basis into the news chain. Some of the events (including news regarding pre-sumed terrorists) were blatantly fabricated by the intelligence agen-cies. (See Chapters 19 and 20.)
However, once the core assumptions of the disinformation cam-paign have been embedded in the news chain, both the printed press and network TV establish their own self-sustaining routine of fabricating the news.
Disinformation relies on a pattern of reporting which tends to dismiss the substance behind the news. In the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the disinformation campaign centered on two simple and catchy “buzzwords”, which were used profusely to justify US military action:
– Buzzword no. 1. “Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda” (Osama) is behind most news stories regarding the “war on terrorism” including “alleged”, “future”, “presumed” and “actual” terrorist attacks.
– Buzzword no. 2.”Weapons of Mass Destruction”(WMD) state-ments were used profusely to justify the “pre-emptive war” against the “State sponsors of terror”-i.e., countries such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea which allegedly possess WMD. Amply documented in the case of Iraq, a large body of news on WMD and biological attacks, were fabricated.
In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, “WMD” and “Osama bin Laden” statements continued to be used. They have become part of the day to day debate, embodied in routine conversations between cit-izens. Repeated ad nauseam, they penetrate the inner consciousness of people, molding their individual perceptions on current events. Through deception and manipulation, this shaping of the minds of entire populations sets the stage-under the façade of a functioning democracy-for the installation of a de facto Police State.
In turn, the disinformation regarding alleged “terrorist attacks” or “weapons of mass destruction” instills an atmosphere of fear, which mobilizes unswerving patriotism and support for the State, and its main political and military actors.
Repeated in virtually every national news report, this stigmatic focus on WMD and Osama/Al Qaeda essentially serves as a dogma, to blind people on the causes and consequences of America’s war of conquest, while providing a simple, unquestioned and author-itative justification for “self defense”.
In the months leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, both in speeches by President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as in the news, WMD statements were carefully blended into Osama statements. UK Defense Minister Jack Straw had warned in early 2003 “that ‘rogue regimes’ such as Iraq were the most likely source of WMD technology for groups like Al Qaeda.”(14) Also, two months before the March 2003 invasion, a presumed Al Qaeda cell “with links to Iraq” had been discovered in Edinburgh, allegedly involved in the use of biological weapons against people in the UK.
The hidden agenda of “the links to Iraq” statement is blatantly obvious. Its objective was to discredit Iraq in the months leading up to the war: the so-called “State sponsors of terror” are said to support Osama bin Laden. Conversely, Osama is said to collaborate with Iraq in the use of “weapons of mass destruction”.
Prior to the 2003 invasion as well as in its wake, several thousand news reports had woven an “Osama connection” into the WMD stories.
The WMD pretext for waging the war was finally dismissed, shortly before Bush’s Second Term inauguration in January 2005, by which time the justification for having waged the war on Iraq was no longer considered an issue. The media spin behind WMD was never questioned, to the extent that the elimination of WMD is still regarded by public opinion as a central objective of US for-eign policy.
TEXT BOX 11.2
The Secret Crawford-Iraq Memo from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to Prime Minister Tony Blair
SECRET AND PERSONAL PM/02/019/PRIME MINISTER CRAWFORD/IRAQ
If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the US would now be considering military action against Iraq. In addi-tion, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL [Osama bin Laden] and Al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September. What has however changed is the tolerance of the international commu-nity (especially that of the US), the world having witnessed on September 11 just what determined evil people can these days perpetuate.
(Jack Straw) Foreign and Commonwealth Office, March 2002
Excerpt of Secret-Personal Memo to Prime Minister Tony Blair from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, The “Secret and Personal” Crawford-Iraq Memo, 25 March 2002.
While Iraq was the main target of the propaganda campaign, North Korea was also described, without a shred of evidence, as possibly having links to Al Qaeda:
Skeptics will argue that the inconsistencies don’t prove the Iraqis have continued developing weapons of mass destruction. It also leaves Washington casting about for other damning material and charges, including the midweek claim, again unproved, that Islamic extremists affiliated with Al Qaeda took possession of a chemical weapon in Iraq last November or late October.(15)
North Korea has admitted it lied about that and is brazenly crank-ing up its nuclear program again. Iraq has almost certainly lied about it, but won’t admit it. Meanwhile Al Qaeda, although dispersed, remains a shadowy, threatening force, and along with other terror-ist groups, a potential recipient of the deadly weaponry that could emerge from Iraq and North Korea.(16)
Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair listed Iraq, North Korea, the Middle East and Al Qaeda among “difficult and dangerous” problems Britain faced in the coming year.(17)
The WMD-Osama statements were used profusely by the main-stream media. In the wake of 9/11, these stylized statements had become an integral part of day to day political discourse, perme-ating the workings of international diplomacy and the functioning of the United Nations.
Secretary of State Colin Powell underscored this relationship in his presentation to the Davos World Economic Forum, barely two months before the invasion as well as in his historic February 5, 2003 speech at the UN Security Council:
Evidence that is still tightly held is accumulating within the admin-istration that it is not a matter of chance that terror groups in the Al Qaeda universe have made their weapons of choice the poisons, gases and chemical devices that are signature arms of the Iraqi
Meanwhile,”anti-terrorist operations” directed against Muslims, including arbitrary mass arrests, had been stepped up:
The US and Western interests in the Western world have to be pre-pared for retaliatory attacks from sleeper cells the second we launch an attack in Iraq.(19)
The Smallpox Vaccination Program
In the context of these emergency measures, preparations for compulsory smallpox vaccination were initiated in 2003 in response to a presumed threat of a biological weapons attack on US soil. The vaccination program-which had been the object of intense media propaganda-contributed to creating an atmosphere of insecurity:
A few infected individuals with a stack of plane tickets-or bus tick-ets, for that matter-could spread smallpox infection across the country, touching off a plague of large proportions…. It is not incon-ceivable that a North Korea or an Iraq could retain smallpox in a hidden lab and pass the deadly agent on to terrorists.(20)
The hidden agenda was clear. How best to discredit the anti-war movement and maintain the legitimacy of the State? Create conditions which instill fear and hatred, present the rulers as “guardians of the peace” committed to weeding out terrorism and preserving democracy. In the words of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, echoing almost verbatim the US propaganda dispatches:
I believe it is inevitable that they [the terrorists] will try in some form or other [to wage attacks]…. I think we can see evidence from the recent arrests that the terrorist network is here as it is around the rest of Europe, around the rest of the world…. The most frightening thing about these people is the possible coming together of fanati-cism and the technology capable of delivering mass destruction.(21)
The mass arrests of Muslims and Arabs on trumped up charges since September 11, 2001 is not motivated by security considerations. Their main function is to provide “credibility” to the fear and prop-aganda campaign.
Each arrest, amply publicized by the corporate media and repeated day after day, “gives a face” to this illusive enemy. It also serves to obscure the fact that Al Qaeda is a creature of the CIA. In other words, the propaganda campaign performs two important functions.
First, it must ensure that the enemy is considered a “real threat”.
Second, it must distort the truth-i.e., it must conceal “the rela-tionship” between this fabricated enemy and its creators within the military-intelligence apparatus. The nature and history of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and the Islamic brigades since the Soviet-Afghan war must be suppressed or distorted.
“Possible” or “Future” Terrorist Attacks based on “Reliable Sources”
The propaganda campaign exhibits a consistent pattern. The objec-tive is to instill credibility and legitimacy focusing on supposedly “reliable sources” of information.
The same concepts appear simultaneously in hundreds of media reports:
– These concepts refer to “reliable sources” , a “growing body of evi-dence”-e.g., government or intelligence or FBI.
– They invariably indicate that the terrorist groups involved “have ties to bin Laden” or Al Qaeda, or are “sympathetic to bin Laden”,
– The reports often point to the possibility of terrorist attacks, “sooner or later” or “in the next two months” .
– The reports often raise the issue of so-called “soft targets”, point-ing to the likelihood of civilian casualties.
– They indicate that future terrorist attacks could “take place in a number of allied countries” (including Britain, France, Germany in which public opinion is strongly opposed to the US-led war on terrorism).
– They confirm the need by the US and its allies to initiate “pre-emptive” actions directed against these various terrorist organi-zations and/or the foreign governments which harbor the terrorists.
– They often point to the likelihood that these “terrorist groups possess WMD” including biological and chemical weapons (as well as nuclear weapons). The links to Iraq and “rogue states” are also mentioned.
– The reports also include warnings regarding “attacks on US soil”, “attacks against civilians in Western cities”.
– They point to efforts undertaken by the police authorities to apprehend the alleged terrorists.
– The arrested individuals are in virtually all cases Muslims and/or Arabs.
– The reports are also used to justify the Homeland Security leg-islation as well as the “ethnic profiling” and mass arrests of pre-sumed terrorists.
“Sooner or Later”
This pattern of disinformation in the Western media applies the usual catch phrases. (In the press excerpts below, catch phrases are in italics):
Published reports, along with new information obtained from US intelligence and military sources, point to a growing body of evidence that terrorists associated with and/or sympathetic to Osama bin Laden are planning a significant attack on US soil.
Also targeted are allied countries that have joined the worldwide hunt for the radical Muslim cells hell-bent on unleashing new waves of terrorist strikes…. The US Government’s activation of antiterrorist forces comes as the FBI issued a warning Nov. 14 that a “spectacu-lar” new terrorist attack may be forthcoming-sooner rather than later….
Elsewhere, the Australian government issued an unprecedented warning to its citizens that Al Qaeda terrorists there might launch attacks within the next two months.(22)
Although [former] CIA Director George Tenet said in recent con-gressional testimony that “an attempt to conduct another attack on US soil is certain,” a trio of former senior CIA officials doubted the chance of any “spectacular” terror attacks on US soil.(23)
Germans have been skittish since the terrorist attacks in the United States, fearing that their country is a ripe target for terrorism. Several of the hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks plotted their moves in Hamburg.(24)
On Dec. 18 , a senior government official, speaking on con-dition of anonymity, briefed journalists about the ‘high probability’of a terrorist attack happening “sooner or later”…. [H]e named hotels and shopping centres as potential “soft targets”…. The official also specifically mentioned: a possible chemical attack in the London sub-way, the unleashing of smallpox, the poisoning of the water supply and strikes against “postcard targets” such as Big Ben and Canary Warf .
The “sooner or later” alert followed a Home Office warning at the end of November that said Islamic radicals might use dirty bombs or poison gas to inflict huge casualties on British cities. This also made big headlines but the warning was quickly retracted in fear that it would cause public panic(.25)
The message yesterday was that these terrorists, however obscure, are trying-and, sooner or later, may break through London’s defenses. It is a city where tens of thousands of souls [live]…. Experts have repeatedly said that the UK, with its bullish support for the US and its war on terror, is a genuine and realistic target for terror groups, including the Al Qaeda network led by 11 September mastermind Osama bin Laden.(26)
Quoting Margaret Thatcher: “Only America has the reach and means to deal with Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or the other wicked psychopaths who will sooner or later step into their shoes.”(27)
According to a recent US State Department alert: “Increased secu-rity at official US facilities has led terrorists to seek softer targets such as residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, hotels, schools, outdoor recreation events, resorts, beaches and planes.” 
Actual Terrorist Attacks
To be effective, the fear and disinformation campaign cannot solely rely on unsubstantiated warnings of future attacks. It requires a credible system of terror alerts, actual arrests of alleged terror sus-pects (on trumped up charges) as well as “real” terrorist occur-rences or “incidents”, which provide credibility to the “war on terrorism”.
Propaganda endorses the need to implement “emergency measures” as well as implement retaliatory military actions. The triggering of “war pretext incidents” is part of the Pentagon’s assumptions. (See Chapter XIX.)
- Interview with Steve Adubato, Fox News, 26 December 2002.
- Air Force Magazine, January 2003, emphasis added.
- Adubato, op. cit. emphasis added.
- Ibid, emphasis added.
- Quoted in Federation of American Scientists (FAS), Secrecy News, 27 November 2002 http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/2002/11/112702.html, Rumsfeld’s November 2002 press interview can be consulted at: http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2002/11/dod111802.html.
- New York Times, 16 December 2002.
- Sunday Times, London, 5 January 2003.
- See US State Department at http://www.state.gov/r/
- Ros Davidson, “Stars earn their Stripes”, The Sunday Herald (Scotland), 11 November 2001.
- See Samuel Blumenfeld, “Le Pentagone et la CIA enrôlent Hollywood”, Le Monde, 24 July 2002.
- Chaim Kupferberg,”The Propaganda Preparation for 9/11″, Centre for Research on Globalization, June 2002, p.19, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/ KUP206A.html
- Remarks by President Bush in Trenton, New Jersey, Welcome Army National Guard Aviation Support Facility, Trenton, New Jersey, 23 September 2002.
- National Security Strategy, White House, 2002, http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html
- Agence France Presse (AFP), 7 January 2003.
- Insight on the News, 20 January 2003.
- Christian Science Monitor, 8 January 2003.
- Agence France Presse (AFP), 1 January 2003.
- The Washington Post, 25 January 2003.
- Chicago Sun, 31 December 2002.
- Insight on the News, 3 February 2003.
- United Press International (UPI), 19 December 2002.
- New York Times, 6 January 2003.
- Toronto Star, 5 January 2003.
- The Scotsman, 8 January 2003.
- United Press International (UPI), 10 December 2002.
- States News Service, State Department Advisory, similar texts published on several dates, 2002-2005.