by Jay Taber
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.
Amnesty International (a shill for US wars) supports the Purpose/Avaaz Syrian campaign.