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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

More on the lies that lead to war

Journalist James Bamford has a tremendously explosive story about the Rendon Group in Rolling Stone magazine (posted November 17, 2005). The story mentions some of the Rendon group's activites over much of the past twenty years, "selling" virtually every war and military intervention the US has fought since Panama.

Most of the article is about Iraq's non-existent WMD.

For some years, the Rendon Group has been a Defense Department contractor, after years of working with CIA. The contracts have apparently been worth between $50-100 million between 2000 and 2004. The story credits Rendon with essentially creating the Iraqi National Congress and explicitly linking dubious Iraqi defectors to journalist Judith Miller of the New York Times. Consider the story of Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, who claimed to be an Iraqi
civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad.
The CIA determined that this story was a complete fabrication in December, 2001.

But the Rendon Group worked with the INC, the White House's Office of Global Communications, and the White House Iraq Group in order to coordinate the Iraq message in the buildup to war. Rendon and the INC took al-Haideri to Bangkok to meet with a couple of journalists:
[The INC's] Zaab Sethna, who organized the al-Haideri media exclusive in Thailand for [Australian freelance television reporter Paul] Moran [a covert Rendon operative] and Judith Miller...

...the falsified story about weapons of mass destruction that he [Moran] and Sethna had broadcast around the world lived on....In a report ironically titled "Iraq: Denial and Deception," the administration referred to al-Haideri by name and detailed his allegations -- even though the CIA had already determined them to be lies. The report was placed on the White House Web site on September 12th, 2002, and remains there today. One version of the report even credits Miller's article for the information.
Apparently, Rendon also worked with Donald Rumsfeld's short-lived Office of Strategic Influence and its less prominent successor, Information Operations Task Force.

The entire story reminds me of the false reports from the first Persian Gulf war claiming that Iraqi soldiers had removed babies from incubators in Kuwait -- and left them to die. In that case, the PR firm Hill and Knowlton coached the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the United States to tell this lie to Congress.

President George Herbert Walker Bush, former director of the CIA, personally referenced this story when making the case for the earlier war. More than once. OK, many, many times.

Obviously, this is a followup to The Lies that Lead to War.

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