It was a day for the history books. On April 9th, 2003, millions of Americans sat glued to their television sets as U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens joined together to topple the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. Like the fall of the Berlin wall, the fall of Saddam’s statue appeared to be one of those iconic moments that proved – spontaneously and undeniably – that democracy would always triumph over totalitarianism, that freedom was the great equalizer.
“If you don’t have goose bumps now,” said Fox News anchor David Asman as the extraordinary footage rolled, “you will never have them in your life.”
“Jubilant Iraqis Swarm the Streets of Capital,” read the New York Times headline.
Or did they?
In their eye-opening new exposé, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq, Rampton and Stauber take no prisoners as they reveal – headline by headline, news show by news show, press conference by press conference – the deliberate, aggressive, and highly successful public relations campaign that sold the Iraqi war to the American public. April 9th seemed to confirm what Washington and pro-war pundits had been saying for months: that the Iraqi people would eventually come to see America as their liberator, not their enemy. Yet the American media chose to focus on headlines such as “Iraqis Celebrate in Baghdad” (Washington Post) rather than on a Reuters long-shot photo of Firdos Square showing it to be nearly empty, or the Muslim cleric who was assassinated by an angry crowd in Najaf for being too friendly to the Americans, or the 20,000 Iraqis in Nasiriyah rallying to oppose the U.S. military presence.
We’ve always known what good PR and advertising could do for a new line of sneakers, cosmetics, or weight-loss products. In Weapons of Mass Deception, Rampton and Stauber show us a brave new shocking world where savvy marketers, “information warriors,” and “perception managers” can sell an entire war to consumers. Indeed, Washington successfully brought together the world’s top ad agencies and media empires to create “Operation: Iraqi Freedom” – a product no decent, patriotic citizen could possibly object to. With meticulous research and documentation, Rampton and Stauber deconstruct this and other “true lies” behind the war:
· Top Bush officials advocated the invasion of Iraq even before he took office, but waited until September 2002 to inform the public, through what the White House termed a “product launch.”
· White House officials used repetition and misinformation – the “big lie” tactic – to create the false impression that Iraq was behind the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, especially in the case of the alleged meeting in Prague five months earlier between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence officials.
. “big lie” tactic was also employed in the first Iraq war when a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl named Nayirah told the horrific – but fabricated – story of Iraqi soldiers wrenching hundreds of premature Kuwaiti babies from their incubators and leaving them to die. Her testimony was printed in a press kit prepared by Citizens for a Free Kuwait, a PR front group created by Hill and Knowlton, then the world’s largest PR firm.
· In order to achieve “third party authenticity” in the Muslim world, a group called the Council of American Muslims for Understanding launched its own web site, called OpenDialogue.com. However, its chairman admitted that the idea began with the State Department, and that the group was funded by the U.S. government.
· Forged documents were used to “prove” that Iraq possessed huge stockpiles of banned weapons.
· A secretive PR firm working for the Pentagon helped create the Iraqi National Congress (INC), which became one of the driving forces behind the decision to go to war.
Weapons of Mass Deception is the first book to expose the aggressive public relations campaign used to sell the American public on the war with Iraq. It is a must-read for those who want to know how and why they bought this war.
U.S. publisher: Tarcher/Penguin
Bookstore price: $11.95 U.S. / $17.99 Canada
United Kingdom publisher: Constable & Robinson
Bookstore price: £6.99
Australian Publisher: Hodder Headline Australia
Bookstore price: AU $19.95
Courtesy Chris and tnet