Tuesday, December 13, 2005

NYT: Pushing the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk

Kirk Semple does his part for Operation Happy Talk . . . III? IV? It's so hard to keep track. So elections in Iraq. Don't the reporters get tired of pimping the nonsense of 'freedom on the move'? Not Semple (but then he's aided by the "award winning" Dexter Filkins -- Filk is listed in the end credit). From "Iraqi Ministry Denies Captives Were Abused:"

A series of military sweeps this year in towns along the Euphrates River, particularly in the Qaim region near the Syrian border, will mean that tens of thousands of people will have their first opportunity to vote since the fall of Saddam Hussein, military officials said.

That's a curious way, to the say the least, of describing what happened. It's not the way voices from that area would describe it, but we're in the midst of the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk. Note the headline again: "Iraqi Ministry Denies Captives Were Abused." You can't take part in the latest wave without promoting the (false) positive.

For reality, you have to leave the home of the "award winning" Dexter Filkins (big surprise there) and the press releases reported live from the Green Zone. We'll note a non-embed, Patrick Cockburn's "Iraq: the Beginning of the End" (CounterPunch):

All the institutions of the state are becoming fiefdoms of one community or another. When Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the prime minister, took power all previous employees of his office were fired. Bayan Jabr, the interior minister from Sciri, has been turning his ministry, which has 110,000 men under arms, into a Shia stronghold. Sunni military units have been dissolved. The Badr Organisation, the militia of Sciri, has infiltrated the paramilitary police commandos whom the Sunni see as licensed death squads.
Badr is not the only militia growing in strength. If they control the police commandos then the Mehdi Army militia of Muqtada al-Sadr has much of the police force in Baghdad. The US has tried to keep control over the defence ministry but army battalions are Shia, Sunni or Kurdish. Out of 115 battalions reportedly only one is mixed.
The ability of the US and Britain to determine the fate of Iraq is growing less by the month. The US is trying to reach out to countries such as Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which it was ignoring two years ago. There is no more talk of changing the Middle East. British troops have largely withdrawn to their bases around Basra. The Sunni will take part in the election but will continue to try to end the occupation.
Iraq will still remain a name on the map. Baghdad will be difficult to divide, though it is largely a Shia city. Most Iraqi Arabs say they would like to be part of a single country. But the most likely future is for Iraq to become a loose confederation.

From Danny Schechter's "News Makes News: Info War Now Page One in the NY Times" (MediaChannel.org):

New York, December 12: The new bible on how to massage the media begins with a quotation from Cosmo: "There is a war out there, friend, a world war. And it's not about those who got the most bullets; it's about who controls the information: what we see and hear; how we work, what we think. It's all about the information."
The quote appears in a book called "Information Operations." Edited by Leigh Armstrong, the focus is
"warfare and the hard reality of soft power." Published in 2004, it is a textbook produced in conjunction with the Joint Forces Staff College and the National Security Agency.
Soft-power sounds like something out of William Burroughs "Soft Machine." And we are not talking about ice cream here, but rather a set of well-hidden techniques designed to put real news, as we once knew it, on ice.
Soft power as an idea is no longer even top secret. I found it via Google for sale on Amazon.com.The book has been out there for more than a year. It describes itself as a "book about power and how the face of power has changed over the last fifteen years." The authors have a thesis, namely that "information AS AN ELEMENT OF POWER is the most transferable and USEFUL force, at all political levels including the systemic structure of international relations in the post cold war era." (Emphasis mine.) This book updates arguments put forth in a seminal study by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt called "The Emergence of Noopolitik: Toward an American Information Strategy." (Noopolitik? That's a noo one!) It took the New York Times several years to catch on, but on this Sunday December 11, 2005, the lead story on the front page was "Military's Information War Is Vast and Often Secretive."
Jeff Gerth reports: "The Bush administration has been conducting an information war that is extensive, costly and often hidden, according to documents and interviews with contractors, government officials and military personnel."
"The campaign was begun by the White House, which set up a secret panel soon after the Sept. 11 attacks to coordinate information operations by the Pentagon, other government agencies and private contractors."
This secret war was perhaps a secret to the New York Times but not to those of us who have been tracking the deployment of information warfare for several years. It's a sign of the times (and The TIMES) that our media is just getting hip to a multi-million dollar government strategy designed in part to spin news, reinforce message points, cover up crimes and plant information that ends up being punted by analysts on Fox News and other TV outlets. It is part of the methodology for turning lies into "credible" news.

Cindy notes Joan Vennochi's "The New Machismo" (Common Dreams) which addresses how Congressiona leaders fall into false traps:

It's macho time in America.
When Democrats challenge the Bush administration regarding its policy in Iraq, Republicans challenge their patriotism and toughness.
On Friday, the Republican National Committee released a new Web video. It features a white flag of surrender and this theme: ''Our country is at war. Our soldiers are watching, and our enemies are too. Message to Democrats: Retreat and Defeat is not an option." The video highlights recent critical comments about the Iraq war made by Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, and Senator Barbara Boxer of California.
In essence, to the GOP, ''staying the course" is a measure of strength and masculinity, whether or not the course proves to be successful. And some top Democrats buy into the thesis.

Cindy also notes Leila Fadel's "In Iraq, Campaign Turns Ugly in Days Before Election" (Knight Ridder via Common Dreams) which takes a look at the actual election lead up than Semple (or Filkins) appears capable of.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.