Vets for Freedom (VFF), the well-funded pro-war lobby group, is cranking-up its PR campaign on behalf of President Bush's war in Iraq with a news conference held July 17th in the US Capitol. A slate of pro-war Republican Senators including Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl, Lindsey Graham, along with former Democratic (now independent) Senator Joe Lieberman, all participated with Pete Hegseth and other VFF lobbyists.
In June 2006, I reported that:
a new organization with mysterious funding and a flashy website designed by Campaign Solutions, part of the Donatelli Group. Vets for Freedom's hollow claim of "non-partisanship" took another blow Sunday, June 25, when the Buffalo News published a front page story by Jerry Zremski, their Washington correspondent, linking Vets for Freedom to the Bush White House.
Describing Vets for Freedom as a "pro-war group with deep Republican ties," the Buffalo News revealed that Taylor Gross, who until last year worked as a spokesman for President Bush under White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, is conducting PR work for Veterans for Freedom. Gross attempted to convince the Buffalo News and other papers that two decorated military veterans with the group, Wade Zirkle and David Bellavia, could report cheaply for the newspapers from Iraq while embedded with the US military.
VFF is today a powerful, well-funded pro-war lobby, essentially a front group for Bush policies in Iraq that is often treated with kid gloves by reporters unfamiliar with its funding and connections, journalists who often depict the lobby group as simply another military veterans organization. In fact, the group's sole mission is to lobby on behalf of Bush's global war on terror.
Republican funders and PR experts have created and bankrolled astroturf pro-war groups including Vets for Freedom and Move America Forward. However, there is a genuine grassroots movement of Iraq war veterans, but it doesn't have the budget or political backing of pro-war lobby groups like VFF, and it is truly non-partisan, criticizing both Republicans and Democrats for failing to end the US occupation of Iraq.
The group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was begun by current and former soldiers putting themselves on the line, speaking out, blogging, demonstrating (often in uniform), and rallying to stop the war.
On Sunday, July 15 the New York Times reported on page one regarding the growing opposition of soldiers and their families to the war, noting that:
Iraq Veterans Against the War, started in July 2004, has grown to 500 members, with 100 joining in the past two months. The Appeal for Redress Project, which since last September has been advising active duty military members and reservists on how to write to their representatives in Congress expressing their opposition to the war, has about 2,000 members, almost half of whom have joined in the past six months.
No wonder the pro-war Republicans are cranking-up their PR machine and holding news conferences with Vets for Freedom. The real story is that, as in Vietnam, the troops themselves are taking charge and moving out, leading the ever growing, majority opposition to the war in Iraq.
John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, is co-author with CMD's Sheldon Rampton of two books on the propaganda surrounding the war in Iraq. They are 2006's The Best War Ever and 2003's Weapons of Mass Deception, a New York Times best seller.