The CIA recommendations for influencing the European public into continuing their support for the mission in Afghanistan is receiving a lot of attention both in The Netherlands and beyond. But in a military conflict, war is only one stage of the struggle. The biggest struggle is for the hearts and minds of the public at large. What’s special about the case of the document is not so much its content, but the fact that it is now available for all to see.
At the top of the CIA-document it states: ‘Why counting on apathy might not be enough’. The document continues: ‘The fall of the Dutch Government over its troop commitment to Afghanistan demonstrates the fragility of European support for the NATO-led ISAF mission’. The drafters of the CIA Red Cell report fear that the public’s apathy could turn into hostility if the fighting this summer – which according to forecasts could be bloody – results in a lot of casualties. This could lead to the problem of politicians listening to the voice of the electorate, such as what happened in The Netherlands. Because of this the authors of the report feel that it is important to influence public opinion.
The document is shocking, but the reality is that its contents prove the rule, not the exception.
In my book The Next War – The Attack on Iran – A preview I’ve listed a number of facts that point to this type of attempt to influence the public. From page 156: ‘In early 2008 author Nick Davies, known for his book Flat Earth News, described how it had become the strategy of intelligence services to actively manipulate public perception. In England there is the Directorate of Targeting and Information Operations under the Ministry of Defence. For their ‘InfoOps’ – information operations – they work side-by-side with specialists from fifteen psychological operations of the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre in Chicksands, Bedforshire, and with the American PR firm The Rendon Group.
On America Davies writes: ‘The Pentagon has now designated “information operations” as its fifth “core competency”, alongside land, sea, air and special forces. Since October 2006, every brigade, division and corps in the US military has had its own “psyop” element producing output for local media.’ For the domestic media and thereby often the global media, the Pentagon deploys a ‘media Trojan Horse’, as The New York Times put it in 2008. After issuing a Freedom of Information request, the paper discovered in 2008 that the Pentagon was the unseen hand behind many of the military analysts in the media that continuously informed the American public over the war in Iraq.
Page 19: ‘In May of 2007 it became known that President Bush had signed a document making it possible for the CIA to carry out ‘black’ propaganda and disinformation campaigns in order to destabilize the regime in Tehran, and America deployed the terrorist groups Jundullah and Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK), among others, for military action and acts of sabotage.’
In chapter 4, The lead-up to the war with Iraq, it states: ‘The final document [with the British 45-minute claim about Saddam’s WMD’s] was put together by two people in the Downing Street press office and two people from the Coalition Information Center. This information center was established in October 2001 under assignment from the White House and Downing Street by Karen P. Hughes and John Rendon, of the Rendon Group. This is the same organization that had a hand in Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress from the beginning, and also scored gains during the run-up to the Persian Gulf War. John Rendon: ‘Did you ever stop to wonder how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American flags and, for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries? Well, now you know the answer. That was one of my jobs.”
Translated by Ben Kearney
[The English translation of part two of this article will follow soon].
Daan De Wit currently works at the NOS Journaal, Dutch tv news, website, is the programmer and interviewer for Docs at the Docks, a monthly series of evenings with critical journalistic documentaries, interviews and performing arts, and the author of De Volgende Oorlog The Next War – The Attack on Iran – A Preview.