Weapons of Mass Deception: War Is Sell

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"War Is Sell" is the title of chapter two of the book, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq.

Key points

  • The Bush administration strategized how they were going to convince Congress, the public and allies that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat. Rampton and Stauber list the members of organizations who advocated for an Iraq War including Vice President Dick Cheney, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, businessman and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, and former House majority leader Newt Gingrich, to name a few.
  • The public relations industry's clients are usually the elite in business and government circles. People like John Rendon and Eleana Benador work behind the scenes to help their clients hone their messages to be as persuasive as possible. Benador instructed clients to focus on the Iraq War, downplaying intentions to press for further invasions, in countries such as Iran, Libya, Syria and Sudan. Another group, the Project for the New American Century, advocates for taking measures against Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
  • Backdrops for press conferences are not accidental. Someone working for President Bush selected Ellis Island as the location for Bush's 2002 9/11 speech (the year following the hijacking). The image of the Statue of Liberty gave the president's speech creditability by being in the camera frame.
  • Top Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke - until her government appointment - was head of the Washington office of Hill & Knowlton, a powerful PR firm that helped sway public opinion for the first Gulf War in 1991.
  • Because "should we attack Iraq" was the most considered political question during the 2002 elections, many other issues were moved to the back burner of media attention including the corporate scandals (Enron, Worldcom, etc.), the state of the economy, administration attacks on civil liberties, and the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.
  • The public relations industry relies on the concept that if it keeps hammering on the same message, it will eventually find its way into public perspective.
  • Public relations consultant John Rendon helped create the Iraqi National Congress (INC) in 1992 to get Hussein's opponents to join forces against his dictatorship. He picked Ahmed Chalabi, a neo-conservative protégé and exiled Iraqi, to head up the INC. Despite many examples of him providing dubious information and submitting a questionable accounting of U.S. taxpayer money, he remains an administration favorite, serving on the Iraqi Governing Council and attending Bush's 2004 State of the Union address.

Questions

  1. What did the White House do to pave the way for the "roll-out" of Operation Iraqi Freedom?
  2. What does Bush's administration say publicly about Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority? How about Sudan and Libya? When will the United States' War on Terrorism end?
  3. When you watch the news, do you study what's going on in the background? Look at the Behind the Scenes images in the Weapons of Mass Deception study guide. What do you notice about the pictures?
  4. Do you remember the news coverage leading up to the United States air strike on Afghanistan? How about Iraq? What role does the media play in preparing the country for war?

Exercises

  1. Visit the White House Office of Global Communications website. Look at the Global Message of the Day. What kind of information do it convey? Is it reflected in media reports?
  2. What have some of the people associated with the Project for a New American Century or the clients of Eleana Benador been up to lately? Pick one and do an Internet search to find out.