Home Front ‘Surge’

In a disgusting display of mendacity not seen since the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, a pro-war advertising campaign spearheaded by former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer is buying $15 million worth of 30-second television spots that repeat the lies linking 9/11 to Iraq – and explicitly threatening another terrorist attack in the US if we “surrender.” It’s the first storm in a season of fear.

The content of the ads – four of them, so far – is so completely dishonest that one wonders what the producers were thinking: do they really imagine the American people are going to swallow another round of complete fabrications? It’s hard to believe, but there you have it. Even more surreal than the assertions tying the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Iraqis is the blatant exploitation of US troops in Iraq: this one, for example, shows a soldier who has lost a leg declaiming that he will have lost it for nothing if we allow “politics” – i.e. the overwhelming majority of Americans – to influence our policy. Then “everything I’ve given and sacrificed will mean nothing.” Here is the complete text:

“Congress was right to vote to fight terrorism in Iraq and I re-enlisted after September 11 because I don’t want my sons to see what I saw. I want them to be free and safe. I know what I lost. I also know that if we pull out now everything I’ve given and the sacrifices will mean nothing. They attacked us and they will again. They won’t stop in Iraq. We are winning on the ground and making real progress. It’s no time to quit. It’s no time for politics.”

So the liars who lied us into war, who fabricated “evidence” of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction,” aren’t to blame – oh no, of course not! It’s those of us who oppose this monstrous and mistaken invasion who are to be targeted as advocating “surrender” in a conflict that cannot be won without murdering half the population of Iraq and enslaving the other half. Because we allowed the Scooter Libbys and the Ari Fleischers to lure us into a quagmire, we must remain submerged there forever – or the loss of this soldier’s leg was all for naught.

What kind of morality is it that lets the perpetrator of a fraud off scot-free while blaming the victim who has been defrauded? It’s called neocon morality – where the neocons are always in the clear, and the rest of us are dunned to pay the price of their immeasurable hubris.

This ad features a grieving mom who opines “we’ve already had one 9/11 – we don’t need another,” while giving out the administration-neocon line that we’re “making progress” in Iraq, and can’t “surrender” now. Yet how will withdrawing from the midst of the Iraqi civil war, where Sunnis fight Shi’ites and we are caught in the middle, result in an attack on the U.S.? Logic has nothing to do with the message behind this ad, which is all about pure fear, plain and simple. Again, the implication is that the fallen soldiers will have died in vain if we leave – not, you understand, because the war we started had no clear rationale, and was based on a series of carefully-forged lies.

Here is a vet in a wheelchair who glowers at the camera as he contemplates Congress “considering surrender.” There is a vaguely threatening tone to his words, as if all the wounded veterans of this misguided war will descend on the Capitol and exact vengeance if we don’t “emerge victorious.”

Here the neocons – let’s name the real enemy, after all – are quite explicitly pushing their “stab-in-the-back” theory, which blames our looming defeat in Iraq not on the inherent impossibility of winning over the Iraqis while we occupy their country and brutalize their people, but on the evils of “politics” (i.e. democracy, where the majority supposedly rules) and scheming politicians, who are somehow manipulating the popular will in order to betray our fighting men and women.

“They attacked us” avers the wounded vet, but that’s not true: Iraq never attacked us, never had the capacity to attack us, and was never even a credible threat. We attacked them – i.e. the Iraqis, not al-Qaeda – and we’re still attacking them, four years after the “liberation” of Iraq.

In this one, a woman talks about the tragic loss of her uncle and her husband – the former was a New York City fireman on 9/11, the latter a soldier fallen in Iraq – and warns that if we leave Iraq, “it will mean more attacks in America.” Her husband died so that her children won’t have to fight. Blah blah blah blah – it’s just one lie after another, with sinister speed-freaky music playing in the background and all of it overhung with an all-pervasive fear. Logic, reason, and facts – all are absent from this emotive narrative, which simply reiterates the conflation of Iraq and al-Qaeda, and reinforces the urban legend that has Iraqi rather than Saudi hijackers ramming into the World Trade Center towers.

Here is the real face of the War Party: openly and brazenly peddling long-debunked myths designed to appeal to the emotions, rather than the intellect. This is classic war propaganda produced without respect for the facts of reality or the most basic human decency.

So what else is new?

What’s interesting, aside from the crude content of these ads, is their funding: who’s paying for this pack of lies? The Washington Post lists the major donors:

Mel Sembler – A multi-billionaire shopping center magnate and real estate developer, CEO of the Sembler Company, and former ambassador to Australia, Nauru, and Italy, Sembler was also chairman of the Scooter Libby Defense Trust. His tenure in Rome was coincident with a series of rather dubious goings-on connected to the Niger uranium forgeries, including secret back channel meetings between leading neocons in the Pentagon, Iranian arms dealer and Iran-Contra figure Manucher Ghorbanifar, and convicted spy Larry Franklin, who was caught red-handed funneling classified top secret information to Israeli embassy personnel via two officials of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group. As Joshua Micah Marshall put it:

“There’s a lot that’s still really murky about what was happening at the U.S. embassy in Rome after 9/11 with the forgeries and other matters. That was on Sembler’s watch. And Libby’s bad acts stem from the whole forgeries bamboozlement. (Whacking Wilson was part of the larger White House effort to keep the forgeries scam covered up – a cover-up that’s still underway.)

“So Sembler just seems like a pretty big part of this story to be collecting money for the one person under indictment for their role in it.”

Sembler’s bio veers from the neoconnish to the nightmarish when we consider his founding of “Straight, Inc.,” a teen drug rehabilitation program that was forced to close on account of numerous successful lawsuits by former clients who were tortured, raped, and systematically humiliated. Their hair-raising testimony of sadistic abuse while in custody at Sembler’s teen-Guantánamo can be read here. Apparently, an entire movement of Sembler’s victims has risen up spontaneously – that’s how many lives “Straight, Inc.” destroyed. All this bad publicity required a name change, and “Straight, Inc.,” was reconstituted, in 1996, as the Drug Free America Foundation. As a result of Sembler’s political clout, the Foundation is prospering, thanks to federal subsidies, $720,000 in the year 2000 alone.

The drug war, the Iraq war, Scooter Libby’s private war against Valerie Plame and her husband – with Sembler, it’s always wartime, and that’s the way he likes it.

John Templeton, Jr. – The son of renowned investor John Templeton, is in charge of the Templeton Foundation, which, last year, poured some $60 million into numerous projects broadly dedicated to “bringing science under the guiding hand of religion.” Templeton is an evangelical Christian, and his generosity has funded a wide variety of projects dear to conservative hearts, such as the theory of “intelligent design” and the re-election of George W. Bush. Some libertarians have also been in on the gravy train: the Cato Institute received funding for its Russian-language web site, cato.ru – and presumably to pay for the dubious services of such pro-war blowhards as Cato senior fellow Andrei Illarionov, who has openly called for the West to prepare for a military conflict with Russia.

Sheldon G Adelson – He’s the third richest person in the U.S., worth $20.5 billion, with a rags-to-riches story: the son of a Boston cabdriver, Adelson inaugurated the Comdex computer trade show, and then went into tourism, real estate, and casinos. He is CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates the Venetian Casino Resort and the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Adelson is a major contributor to Jewish and Israeli causes, and to the GOP. This series of ads isn’t his only propagandistic foray: the Vegas casino king has also gone into the newspaper business – in Israel. Yisrael Hayom is a new daily paper closely tied to the ultra-nationalist wing of the Likud party, and Benjamin Netanyahu‘s political aspirations. It was recently launched with a massive free mailing to hundreds of thousands, and has attracted considerable attention.

Richard Fox – He made his fortune in real estate, with properties centered in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, and is a co-founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Gary Erlbaum, owner of Greentree Properties in Ardmore, Pa., an ardent Republican organizer in the Orthodox community and a Giuliani supporter, as well as a staunch advocate for Israel.

Anthony Gioia, former ambassador to Malta, and the head of Gioia Management. He’s on Giuliani’s “finance team.”

Howard Leach, former ambassador to France, CEO of Leach Capital Corp. and president of Foley Timber and Land Co.

Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast Spectacor, which includes TicketMaster and the Philadelphia Spectrum sports center. He also is the proprietor of Prism, the biggest pay-per-view TV network in America. Snider sits on the board of the Simon Wiesenthal Holocaust museum in Los Angeles, and is owner of the Philadelphia Flyers pro hockey team.

Kevin E. Moley, once a senior advisor to Dick Cheney and formerly US representative to international organizations in Geneva.

President of this astroturf outfit is Bradley A. Blakeman, formerly a deputy assistant to the president and now with the public relations firm of Gordon and Gregg.

Most of the above are closely tied into the Lobby, and their agenda is pretty clear: to manipulate the American people into once again supporting a foreign policy that serves the interests of a very narrow sector of foreign opinion, rather than distinctly American interests. This is, in short, a revolting attempt to pimp out the misery of those who have lost loved ones in the neocons’ war to make the Middle East safe for Israel – while sacrificing American lives to do so.

The “Freedom’s Watch” ad campaign is going to boomerang, and badly, hitting the War Party in the face with a loud wallop – and a richly deserved one. To argue, as these ads do, that we have to keep fighting a war in spite of a complete lack of public support – “politics” – or else we’re going to be attacked again, just like on September 11, 2001, is a thinly disguised threat – almost as if the War Party is wishing, hoping, and praying for another 9/11-style attack.

You’ll note that this propaganda campaign is being launched as we approach the sixth anniversary of that signal event, and we can expect the atmosphere of impending doom to thicken considerably as the day approaches. These ads are part of it, as is the crazed rhetoric coming from the administration, including the President’s evocation of the “stabbed-in-the-back” thesis as applied to the Vietnam war.

The American people are not going to be won over by a cabal of money-laden ideologues who use the suffering of others to promote and ensure yet more suffering. The judgement of the majority is clear, and the margin of the antiwar movement’s victory in the battle for public opinion is growing by the day: Americans oppose this war, and want it to end as soon as possible. No amount of scare-mongering and slick appeals to primitive emotions are going to revive the war hysteria of the immediate post-9/11 period. Nothing short of another 9/11 will accomplish that – which is why we have the more honest neocons, like Stu Bykofsky, openly pining for just that.

What’s pathetic, really, and quite telling, is that Señor Fleischer, asked by guest “Hardball” host Mike Barnicle the name of the soldier in the first ad, didn’t know it. “I don’t have it here in front of me.” So for all the emotionalism of these ads, they are offered in the most cold-blooded, manipulative manner – typical of the tactics of the War Lobby, and utterly repulsive to most normal people.

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].