Sunday, June 04, 2006

US Propaganda in Iraq: Bullshit Manufactured by Bush & Co. by Christopher Brauchli

All propaganda has to be popular and has to adapt its spiritual level to the perception of the least intelligent of those towards whom it intends to direct itself. -- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
It keeps coming up roses. Now the roses are being fertilized by manure manufactured by Bush & Co. instead of fertilizer purchased from outside sources.

In 2005 we learned that the administration paid a group known as the Lincoln group $5 million for manure. The Lincoln Group is an American company that is paid for putting out favorable news about the war in Iraq to the Iraqi people who, seeing their friends and neighbors being blown up daily, might otherwise think things were not going well. Here is how it works.

The Pentagon has something called a "storyboard". It is literary fertilizer prepared by the Pentagon and given to the Lincoln Group that then translates the text into Arabic and disseminates it in Iraq under the by-lines of Iraqi writers thus causing it to look like homegrown manure instead of Pentagon offal. That was only one example of propaganda disseminated by the administration.

In 2005 it was disclosed that Armstrong Williams, a conservative television personality, accepted $240,000 from the administration to spread fertilizer on the airways to grow the perception the "No Child Left Behind Act" was a success. The Department of Health and Human Services paid Maggie Gallagher and Mike McMannus to promote the Healthy Marriage Initiative on the airwaves. Now we have learned that the administration has started producing and distributing its own fertilizer.

According to a story by Al Kamen in the Washington Post in early May, the Department of Agriculture (for whom fertilizer creation and spreading is second nature) has begun issuing talking points to its employees that are designed to create a favorable impression among listeners as to how the war in Iraq is going. According to Mr. Kamen an e-mail containing the talking points was sent to about 60 undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and other political appointees giving them suggested language they could insert in speeches to remind people how well things in Iraq are going.

The talking points can be viewed at but for those of you who can’t be bothered to go there to look them up here is an example of how they might be used. This is of course just my idea and people in the USDA will certainly come up with their own examples.

If an undersecretary were invited to go to Ault, Colorado, in order to address a group of 10 year-olds at a Future Farmers of America meeting, instead of starting right out by discussing the role of the family farm in America and why the administration wants to repeal the federal estate tax to protect the family farm so the 10-year olds will have a place to work when they grow up, the speaker would begin by saying: "Several topics I'd like to talk about today-Farm Bill, [your role as future leaders of your community], trade with Japan, WTO, avian flu, animal ID-but before I do, let me touch on a subject people always ask me about. . . progress in Iraq." The speaker then spends a few minutes reading from the script describing all the wonderful things the USDA is doing in Iraq even if it isn't. The speaker describes a November visit by Secretary Johanns with Iraq's Minister of Agriculture and how impressed he was with the minister’s optimism. (Since that visit more than 325 U.S. service people have been killed and since the end of December more than 4,168 Iraqis have been killed.) The speaker then goes on saying: "The Iraqis have also discussed specific products, like tomatoes, which they are anxious to export into the world community." That is the sort of uplifting sentiment that will have the Future Farmers sitting on the edges of their chairs.

The Department of Agriculture speaker is not, of course, limited to talking about agricultural fertilizer. Another talking point discusses civil rights and is an especially moving piece. It starts out explaining that our democracy has evolved for two hundred thirty years and we’re still working to become a more perfect union. The speaker then goes on to say that "before I begin talking about the civil rights climate at USDA, (a topic that most listeners had probably never thought would be addressed in a speech given by someone from the USDA) I'd like to address the situation in another nation that is just now forging the path to democracy." And with that, the speaker is off and running telling the 10-year olds about how well things are going in Iraq.

If any of my readers thinks that the fertilizer that is thus being spread by the USDA speakers is nothing more than BS they may be right. They should keep their sentiments to themselves lest their phones get tapped.

Christopher Brauchli is a Boulder, Colorado lawyer. He can be reached at Brauchli.56@post.harvard.eduSee his website at