‘Good News’ From Iraq

The news that the Lincoln Group, a heretofore obscure public relations firm owned and operated by GOP hacks, has been planting “good news from Iraq” stories in the Iraqi media (and now even paying Sunni Muslim clerics to get on board the “democracy” choo-choo train) has been all over the media, but less noted is the fact that at least one prominent neoconservative with a number of interesting views and connections – Michael Rubin, formerly with the Coalition Provisional Authority, and now a freelance kvetch – is also milking the same cash cow.

A New York Times story published last month that reported the Sunni payola scheme cited Rubin, who said:

“I’m not surprised this goes on. Especially in an atmosphere where terrorists and insurgents – replete with oil boom cash – do the same. We need an even playing field, but cannot fight with both hands tied behind our backs.”

Of course he wasn’t surprised – because, as it turns out, Rubin is feeding at the same trough. As he told the Times:

“‘I visited Camp Victory and looked over some of their proposals or products and commented on their ideas,’ Mr. Rubin said in an e-mailed response to questions about his links to Lincoln. ‘I am not nor have I been an employee of the Lincoln Group. I do not receive a salary from them.'”

“Disingenuous” doesn’t even begin to describe these verbal gymnastics, because government contractors typically pay for piecework instead of putting people on salary, and that is the case here, as Rubin himself tells the Times:

“He added: ‘Normally, when I travel, I receive reimbursement of expenses including a per diem and/or honorarium.’ But Mr. Rubin would not comment further on how much in such payments he may have received from Lincoln.”

In the tradition of Richard Perle, Halliburton, and the “military-industrial complexDwight David Eisenhower presciently warned us against, Rubin and his fellow neocons have combined their ideological and financial interests into one seamless agenda – and when their shenanigans are exposed, they are cited in the “mainstream” media saying it’s no big deal.

Yeah, right: millions in government subsidies for the War Party, plus affirmative action for neocons. That’s Rubin’s idea of creating “an even playing field.”

The “information warfare” campaign being carried out by the Lincoln Group and other sub rosa government contractors is not primarily directed at the Iraqis: the real target audience is Americans, whose support for the war is waning to near zero. After all, these subsidies depend on some combination of popular support and congressional acquiescence, and for such programs to continue, the American public must be convinced that the Iraq war is not only justified but viable: the generation of “good news” is key to ensuring that the neocons’ government-subsidized gravy train keeps on keeping on. While we still don’t know if Operation Pollyanna is formally restricted to the Iraqi media, the record of this administration when it comes to paying offindependentcolumnists to tout the government line leads us to suspect that the effort is not limited to overseas outlets, nor focused exclusively on domestic issues.

Rubin’s role as defender and beneficiary of “information warfare” payola is just one instance in which the government’s war propaganda is clearly being directed at the American people: there are clear indications that our government is using bloggers as a transmission belt to sell the bogus “all’s well in Iraq” line. The Washington Post reports that two self-described “Internet journalists,” Bill Roggio and Michael Yon, now in Iraq, are telling us what the Pentagon wants us to hear – with their connection to official propaganda efforts unclear, at best. Roggio was supposedly “invited by the Marines” – a vague description of the origins of his mission, which sounds like the brainchild of some Lincoln Group whiz kid. There is, too, a peculiar, Soviet-era agitprop flavor to this kind of product, as a typical “news” story filed by Señor Yon makes tiresomely clear:

“I cannot remember all the times I’ve seen Iraqi mothers put their children into the arms of American soldiers.

“Coalition troops and others are fighting to save another Iraqi child. They do this every day all over Iraq, and today we see an example of the Georgia National Guard going the extra mile. I caught the story today on the news and it’s always great seeing these kids get the help they need. I’ve also seen firsthand how it increases troop morale, and it makes Iraqi parents extremely happy. Full credit to the Georgia National Guard for making us all look good. An excerpt from the story:

“‘As the young parents of an infant girl nervously watched the soldiers search their modest home, the baby’s unflinching grandmother thrust the little girl at the Americans, showing them the purple pouch protruding from her back.'”

Readers are then advised to check out “the rest of the story via CNN.”

American soldiers aren’t kicking down doors, terrorizing women and children, locking up innocents in Abu Ghraib, torturing prisoners with the likes of Lynndie England, and wiping out entire families – they’re cuddling Iraqi children in their arms as grateful mothers hail them as liberators.

Fake “news,” reported by phony “reporters,” in support of a war ginned up under false pretenses and launched on the basis of a whole series of lies – when you’re in the business of “creating reality,” as one senior White House official put it to New York Times Magazine writer Ron Suskind, you aren’t really reporting it. So much is explained by that anonymous top aide’s candor that it is worth repeating here, in full, just to remind those of us residing in “the reality-based community” of who and what we’re up against:

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ … ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

Supporters of this futile and horrifically destructive war don’t want “objective” reporting of what we’re doing in and to Iraq: they want reporters to exist in the same ideological fantasyland that they inhabit, where U.S. troops are busy walking old ladies across the road and anyone who looks crosseyed at Uncle Sam is a jihadist terrorist in the pay of Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden. Their complaint isn’t that much of the media fails to report the truth – because they don’t believe in truth. They are creating their own truth, and the bought-and-paid-for “reporting” subsidized (directly and indirectly) by American taxpayers via the Lincoln Group is part and parcel of the act of creation.

Here is what Laurie Adler, a spokesperson for the Lincoln Group, had to say in response to press reports:

“We counter the lies, intimidation, and pure evil of terror with factual stories that highlight the heroism and sacrifice of the Iraqi people and their struggle for freedom and security. We are encouraged by their sacrifice and proud to help them tell their side of the story.”

Where have we heard this kind of rhetoric before? In style and tone, it sounds like something out of Pravda during the Cold War era. As Chris Lehmann noted in the New York Observer:

“After all, substitute ‘capitalism’ for ‘terror’ and, oh, ‘Romanian’ for ‘Iraqi,’ and Ms. Adler’s thundering official statement transmogrifies into an unalloyed specimen of Cold War-era agitprop right out of the Khrushchev playbook.”

Actually, by the time Khrushchev got in there, the Soviet Commies had already mellowed to the extent of singing the praises of peaceful coexistence: Ms. Adler’s militant philippics – “pure evil,” “heroism,” “struggle,” “sacrifice” – are more akin to the Stalinist propaganda of the 1930s. It is the neocon equivalent of “proletarian fiction,” or “The Red Detachment of Women” – and equally unconvincing.

Yes, we too are engaged in “information warfare” here at Antiwar.com – and we don’t pretend otherwise, or seek to fool our readers into believing that we don’t come at these issues with a very definite point of view. However, we hold that truth does exist independently of consciousness, a philosophical view that might be summarized by the popular aphorism “wishing doesn’t make it so.”

The truth, as far as we are concerned, is on our side: it verifies what we said before the invasion of Iraq, and in spades. Iraq never possessed “weapons of mass destruction” – just as we, Scott Ritter, and a few others insisted in the long run-up to war. There was no link between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government – again, just as we consistently reported. Going on three years after the “liberation” of Iraq, the country is splintering into ethnoreligious fiefdoms, with Iran extending its influence via the elected Iraqi government and through the Shi’ite militias – exactly as we warned.

The “information warfare” being waged by this administration, and paid for by you, the American taxpayers, is an exercise in deception, dissimulation, double-dealing duplicity, and outright denial of reality.

Antiwar.com was founded to counteract the War Party’s radical subjectivist assault on the very concept of truth. Not that we don’t make mistakes: we do. But that is quite different from basing one’s entire outlook and efforts on promulgating an elaborate mythology founded on fabrications. We don’t have to pay people to reprint our material: it is copied and distributed as a result of that spontaneous process though which individuals bypass the gatekeepers and government shills and find out the truth for themselves via the Internet. In a sense, the Internet acts like the market processes described by Friedrich von Hayek: a kind of spontaneous order develops on the veracity of this or that purported “fact,” and, because the market for truth is much bigger than the market for lies, the “reality-based community” has an inherent advantage. That’s why so much money is being pumped into this administration’s Lie Machine – it takes a lot of cash to push products no one really wants. That’s what Monsieur Rubin really means by “leveling the playing field.”

This also explains why it is possible for a small nonprofit organization like Antiwar.com to take on the neocon propaganda colossus. The War Party is fully-backed by the U.S. Treasury as well as any number of “private philanthropists,” whose “charitable” work consists of relentless wamongering. We, on the other hand, just need a steady stream of relatively minor contributions – minor, that is, compared to the billions poured into the War Party’s coffers – to debunk the latest batch of dubious “intelligence,” unsubstantiated rumors, and outright forgeries being touted as yet more “proof” that we must immediately attack Iran, or Syria, or whomever the enemy of the moment happens to be.

And there’s another big difference between Antiwar.com’s writers and the War Party’s myrmidons – you aren’t forced to subsidize us! We don’t take a dime of government money – because we insist on the principle of voluntarism. All contributions to Antiwar.com are freely given by individuals committed, in a general sense, to our anti-interventionist stance.

If this is information warfare we’re engaged in, then it truly is an asymmetrical conflict – and Antiwar.com clearly has the advantage. Why, I almost feel sorry for those poor little neocon bloggers, government contractors, and Lincoln Groupies – it’s clearly going to be an uphill battle for them to somehow pull the wool over the eyes of the American people, who are now so clearly opposed to this war.

And another thing: from here on out, each and every one of these guys is going to be suspect, and the question is going to inevitably arise: are they or aren’t they on the government dole, paid by the word to rationalize a bankrupt and counterproductive foreign policy?

That’s what we call “blowback” – and it couldn’t have happened to a better bunch of war-crazed opportunists. The next time one of these neocons starts talking about how swimmingly the war is going, look for the price tag dangling off his or her sleeve.


Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].