"As Israelis and Palestinians ratchet up the violence, dimming prospects for Middle East peace, their supporters in the United States are conducting an ever more frenetic public relations battle," reports Reuters correspondent Christian Wiessner. But Palestinians trying to win support for their side in the U.S.
"Sadly, in the face of the grand spin machine, the nine American lives that were lost this week will just get caught up in the patriotic, hero-propping fervor that has seized the country ever since the World Trade Center bombings," writes Mark Brown. "Anyone who dies in the line of duty, especially servicemen and law enforcement officers, are instantly heroes. I don't think there is anything wrong with fallen soldiers receiving that treatment, for the record. But the greater tragedy here is when nobody asks the question: 'Why are those men there dying in the first place?' "
The Rendon Group received close to $100-million dollars from the CIA for work it did in Iraq in the five years following the Gulf War according to reporter Seymour Hersh in a New Yorker article. Between 1991-96, The Rendon Group did "media relations" work for the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition opposition group supported at the time by the CIA.
John Rendon of the Rendon Group likes to quote gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson's remark: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." Jeff Stein thinks this is probably an apt characterization of Rendon's current PR work for the Pentagon. In a profile of Rendon's past work for clients such as the Kuwaiti Royal Family, the embattled Colombian Army and the CIA, Stein paints a picture of corruption and ineptitude.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and President Bush have backed away from the Pentagon's new propaganda arm, the Office of Strategic Influence. The administration is scrambling to deal with public backlash against the idea of a Pentagon propaganda office that would, among other actions, disseminate false and misleading information to US allies.
On February 19 the New York Times reported that the Pentagon's new propaganda agency, the Office of Strategic Information, was planning unethical, possibly illegal activities such as misleading the press in friendly countries. The Pentagon and White House responded to the story by going into damage control mode with a flurry of "clarifications" and backpedalling. "What people have to understand about this is very clear," Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said.
"The Pentagon is developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries, military officials said. ... (The US military) recently created the Office of Strategic Influence, which is proposing to broaden that mission into allied nations in the Middle East, Asia and even Western Europe. ...
"President Bush has decided to transform the administration's temporary wartime communications effort into a permanent office of global diplomacy to spread a positive image of the United States around the world and combat anti-Americanism, senior administration officials said today. ... While discussions are at a preliminary stage, officials said there was general agreement in the administration that the intense shaping of information and coordination of messages that occurred during the fighting in Afghanistan should become a permanent feature of national security policy. ...
The PBS NewsHour aired a report tonight titled "Public Diplomacy: U.S. Outreach to the Muslim World." 'Public diplomacy' is a euphemism for government propaganda, and this report is an overview of US efforts already reported elsewhere, with no new insights or perspectives.
"The images that streamed from inside Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul were a propaganda dream for the United States government," notes the Independent. "Afghan women, after years of cruel subjugation by the Taliban, were daring to shed their veils and to expose their faces once again to the world and to sunlight." Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the first woman ever to become a U.S.