AGENTS OF CHAOS
By Jay Taber
Having inadvertently supplied ISIS with thousands of surface-to-air missiles during the Libya intervention, the US is now arming the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra with rocket-launcher systems. In case you’ve been in a coma for fifteen years, Al-Qaeda is the outfit that brought down the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City, and ISIS is the extended villain family on a holy murderous rampage from Tripoli to Baghdad. The one hitch in this, as noted at the Wall Street Journal, is that these guys might get it in their heads to do some target practice on commercial jetliners, which is potentially embarrassing to the CIA.
When it comes to the annals of shady people in the U.S. federal bureaucracy, few figures in American history figure so prominently, if obscurely, as Richard Armitage. As U.S. Deputy Secretary of State under George W. Bush (2001-2005), Armitage was deeply involved in events surrounding 9/11 and the Plame affair. As Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush (1983-1989), he was connected to the Iran-Contra affair.
In part of his taped March 24, 2004 testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Armitage noted that getting arms to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan was not so difficult: “It was making sure that we wouldn’t be, one, embarrassed by what they were. And no matter the charismatic nature of Ahmed Shah Massoud – and he was quite charismatic – that doesn’t make up for raping, drug dealing, et cetera, which many of the Northern Alliance had been involved with. So it’s not easy.”
As Deputy Secretary of State, Armitage was responsible for outing undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame in retaliation for her husband Ambassador Wilson’s refusal to go along with the fraudulent Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) campaign promoted at the UN by Secretary Powell.
One of the myths deposed by the 2010 Wikileaks U.S. State Department embassy cable cache is the notion of diplomacy as a benign exercise, above the fray of dirty dealing that takes place at the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. With the revelation of spying on UN officials — authorized by Secretary of State Clinton — the continuity of malpractice under the previous White House by Secretary Powell, with help from his long-time associate at the Department of Defense, Richard Armitage, proceeded seamlessly under the Obama administration.
As documented by Jerry Sanders in his book Peddlers of Crisis, Cold War hawks in Washington made their bones by producing and disseminating misperceptions about the Russian threat, that in turn justified the inordinate military buildup by the US and NATO. In essence, says Sanders, the national security military industrial complex, while perhaps warranted at some level, was nevertheless a colossal fraud concocted by Washington insiders at Langley and the Pentagon.
Deliberately falsified information and wildly exaggerated threats were, in fact, not only used to enable looting of the U.S. Treasury to meet these false threats, but also to promote some notorious characters into the halls of power. People like Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney, and Richard Armitage.
Today, through agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and USAID, lessons in psychological warfare learned by Cold War hawks and private sector friends like George Soros are still being applied in the interest of US hegemony, albeit in more creative ways. As noted in this 2011 article about NED-funded political opposition groups in Russia, the exaggerations, while containing an element of truth, are leveraged to perpetuate popular myths that can be capitalized on by US interests.
Wag the Dog: Campaigns of Purpose
In 1997, Robert De Niro and Barry Levinson produced a movie called Wag the Dog, a fictional film about a Washington-based PR firm — days before a presidential election — “that distracts the electorate from a sex scandal by hiring a Hollywood film producer to construct a fake war with Albania.” The film was released one month before the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the bombing of Sudan by President Clinton.
Some might also recall the false testimony by a Kuwait Royal Family member about Iraqi human rights abuses — part of a campaign created for $11 million by US PR firm Hill & Knowlton on behalf of Citizens for a Free Kuwait (a front for the Kuwait Government) — that was used by the Pentagon to justify the 1991 invasion of Iraq, otherwise known as the Gulf War. As noted at Wikipedia:
Among many other means of influencing U.S. opinion (distributing books on Iraqi atrocities to U.S. soldiers deployed in the region, ‘Free Kuwait’ T-shirts and speakers to college campuses, and dozens of video news releases to television stations), the firm arranged for an appearance before a group of members of the U.S. Congress in which a woman identifying herself as a nurse working in the Kuwait City hospital described Iraqi soldiers pulling babies out of incubators and letting them die on the floor.
The story was an influence in tipping both the public and Congress towards a war with Iraq: six Congressmen said the testimony was enough for them to support military action against Iraq and seven Senators referenced the testimony in debate. The Senate supported the military actions in a 52–47 vote. A year after the war, however, this allegation was revealed to be a fabrication. The woman who had testified was found to be a member of Kuwait’s Royal Family, in fact the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the U.S. She hadn’t lived in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion.
The details of the Hill & Knowlton public relations campaign, including the incubator testimony, were published in John R. MacArthur‘s Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War (Berkeley, CA: University of CA Press, 1992), and came to wide public attention when an Op-ed by MacArthur was published in The New York Times. This prompted a reexamination by Amnesty International, which had originally promoted an account alleging even greater numbers of babies torn from incubators than the original fake testimony. After finding no evidence to support it, the organization issued a retraction. President Bush then repeated the incubator allegations on television.
The Pentagon statement claiming a buildup of Iraqi forces on the Kuwaiti border were later also shown to be false, as evidenced by satellite images acquired by the St. Petersburg Times.
This type of choreography was used again in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, known as the Iraq War, when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell — waving a vial of fake anthrax and displaying mischaracterized photos — testified before the UN Security Council that the Pentagon had proof weapons of mass destruction were being manufactured by Iraq. Exposure of this fraud in the New York Times by former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson led to the leaked identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame (Wilson’s wife) by Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby.
Libby was subsequently convicted on federal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. An investigation after the invasion showed Iraq’s WMD program had ended in 1991. Despite all the claims made by Powell being discredited at the time by US and UN agencies, the momentum generated by Powell, Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld led to a war currently in its twelfth year.
Now, it turns out this scenario has repeated itself in the US campaign leading up to the 2011 bombing of Libya. The Syrian Civil War is presently in its fifth year.
In 2014, the New York public relations firm Purpose created a campaign to rally international support for the Syrian “humanitarian intervention.” A euphemism for armed aggression by the US and NATO in places like Libya, this Syrian campaign in 2012 was backed by the New York lobby Avaaz, which in turn set up communications support for the so-called Syrian resistance.
In 2012, Avaaz was allegedly implicated in sponsoring fabricated videos of civilian massacres, to back deeper foreign intervention in Syria. YouTube video links of phony reporting by Avaaz associates are available in this blog report.
The CEO of Purpose, Jeremy Heimans, is a co-founder of Avaaz. His associate, David Madden — a World Bank and UN Development Program consultant — is co-founder of Purpose, Avaaz and MoveOn.
Avaaz was created in part by MoveOn, a Democratic Party associated PAC, formed in response to the impeachment of President Clinton. Avaaz and MoveOn are funded in part by convicted inside-trader and billionaire hedge fund mogul George Soros.
Fog of War
In Smart Power & The Human Rights Industrial Complex, Patrick Henningsen reveals ‘perception management’ by the NGO sector as ‘co-marketing’ of foreign policy objectives of the US State Department, Pentagon and NATO. As Henningsen notes, leading human rights organizations — such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — “have become virtual clearinghouses for interventionist propaganda”.
Says Henningsen, in the Balkans, Ukraine, Syria and Yemen — where they supported regime change — “NGOs function as public relations extension to a United Nations western member Security Council bloc, namely the US, UK and France”. To successfully frame geopolitical narratives on which these NGOs derive their fundraising campaigns, the lucrative revolving door between NGOs, government and media “converge to form a highly efficient, functioning alliance”.
Underwritten by some of the world’s leading transnational corporations, these organizations have well-developed links “leading straight into the heart of the military industrial complex”. Blinded by the fog of mass media and bombarded with faux moral imperatives, public opinion is led by these NGOs into supporting western-backed rebels and terrorists “under the banner of ‘human rights’.”
Something for Everyone
Under Hillary Clinton, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments had given millions to the Clinton Foundation.
Back in March 2010, Harper’s magazine looked at the Pentagon’s relationship with the dictatorship of Uzbekistan, a notorious abuser of human rights, including boiling dissidents alive. In the article, Ken Silverstein sheds light on the Pentagon’s shady deals with a company owned by the dictator’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova—a friend of Bill Clinton, and benefactor of his foundation.
In December 2012, in an article at Toward Freedom, Puck Lo reported on the Cotton Campaign calling for an international boycott of Uzbek cotton, which according to human rights organizations is harvested by forced labor — including hundreds of thousands of young children – for the benefit of the Government of Uzbekistan.
As noted by Lo, the European Union – due to the child and forced labor issue – refused to extend a bilateral trade agreement with Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, the United States restored military aid to Uzbekistan that was cut off in 2003 due to the country’s dismal record of human rights abuses. As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked, “We have other interests.”
Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website:www.jaytaber.com