War Propaganda and the Capture of Saddam Hussein
Centre for Research on Globalisation
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GLOBAL RESEARCH (CANADA) : FEATURE ARTICLE
WAR PROPAGANDA AND THE CAPTURE OF SADDAM HUSSEIN
by Michel Chossudovsky
29 December 2003
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Saddam Hussein, identified in military jargon as a "High Value Target" (HVT) was allegedly found caught in a dirt-tunnel hideout near a remote farm some 12 km south of Tikrit:
"Troops clear the opening of the tunnel, revealing a vertical shaft about 2m deep. They discovered Saddam Hussein, sitting in the bottom of the tunnel cradling a pistol in his lap. When asked who he was, he reportedly replied ""I'm Saddam Hussein, I'm the President of Iraq and I'm willing to negotiate."
"...Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division literally dug him out with shovels. He is being held by coalition forces at an undisclosed location."
The reported circumstances and photographic evidence of his arrest in a dirt hole, unshaved with thousands of crisp $100 banknotes and two AK 47s and a pistol at his side, have all the ingredients of a carefully planned media scam.
The hole was described in media reports either as a "spider hole" or a "rat hole."
'Don't shoot,' the bearded, submissive man said to the soldiers. He was Saddam Hussein, hiding in a hole, the man the Pentagon called 'High Value Target Number One.' The story of his capture--and what's next.( Newsweek, 22 December 2003)
This Hollywood style ploy, including the choice of photos and video clips, was not only intended to destroy the image of Saddam as a political leader (whose Baathist regime had previously been supported by the CIA), but also to intimidate and humiliate the entire Arab World. Whether the images are genuine or not is not the issue. The official story could easily have been fabricated or distorted for media release, without manipulating the photographic evidence.
What actually happened remains to be firmly established. There are several flaws in the reported circumstances of Saddam's arrest, which cast doubt on the official narrative.
Following the raid by the Fourth Infantry division, the soldiers were sworn to secrecy by their commanding officer Colonel James Hickley: "OK? Again, nobody mentions anything. Got it?" Following this instruction, the soldiers were described by CNN as "a little bit dazed and confused" as to what actually happened. (CNN, Wolf Blitzer Reports, 17 December 2003, Videocast at http://www.freedomfiles.org/war/ds2/troops-warned-secrecy.wmv )
The tone in the Arab world, barely reported in the (corporate or State controlled) Arabic press, was one of deep skepticism and distrust of the US-led Coalition:
It is not judicious to believe all the stories of the coalition's foreign and Arab media on the state and circumstances of the capture of Iraqi President Saddam Husayn. They might be telling the truth or they might be lying. They have accustomed us to believe that they are lying. Perhaps the issue of the weapons of mass destruction represents their biggest lie and we still remember the story about taking control of Umm Qasr six times.
We do not know how Saddam was captured. Was he captured after some sort of gas was pumped into the hole to drug him? We do not know when he was captured and when it was decided to announce the capture at the appropriate time. What the coalition said could be true or false, and we are inclined to believe that it was false, based on precedents.
They filmed the prisoner for many hours after putting him in certain situations and positions, and then they chose a few seconds of the videotape that suited their aims and the impressions they wanted to leave among the public. They wanted to humiliate every Arab by insulting an Arab leader and the head of a major Arab country who once headed the Arab summit conference.
This insulting display of an exhausted prisoner in front of the television cameras is an explicit violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and represents disgraceful behaviour and a deliberate insult to the feelings of the Arabs. (Fahd al-Fanik "The arrest and the media fanfare", Al-Ra'y, Amman, 17 December 2003 (original Arabic)
Following Saddam Hussein's capture, the US authorities proceeded with a so-called "positive identification", apparently using DNA samples. Yet in a subsequent statement, "U.S. officials said DNA tests are not yet complete." And they were obliged to rely on "positive identification" by other political detainees of the deposed Baathist government, as well as by the leader of Iraqi National Congress (INC) Ahmed Chalabi.
According to Al Mu'tamar (Congress) newspaper, Saddam Hussein had requested, "permission" to meet INC leader Ahmad Chalabi. Al Mu'tamar, owned by the INC, is a Baghdad daily which surfaced in the wake of the war. While it constitutes the mouthpiece of the INC, it is also an instrument of the US intelligence apparatus, used to channel disinformation into the Iraqi news chain.
Other reports suggested that Saddam Hussein may have been drugged.
THE ROLE OF THE RENDON GROUP (TRG)
Al Mu'tamar through the INC is also supported by a Washington based public relations firm, The Rendon Group (TRG), which is on contract to the CIA and the Pentagon. (Rendon Home page: http://www.rendon.com/rendon/layout7/wel.htm )
The Rendon Group specializes in disinformation, psych-ops and media spin. It has played a central role in the Pentagon's war propaganda.
"In 1991, a few months after the end of Operation Desert Storm, then-president George H.W. Bush signed a presidential directive ordering a CIA covert operation to unseat Saddam Hussein. And the CIA turned to Rendon." ( In these Times, http://www.inthesetimes.com/comments.php?id=299_0_1_0_C , 4 August 2003)
Since the Gulf War, The Rendon Group has been involved in several core disinformation operations. It worked closely with its British partner Hill and Knowlton, which was responsible for the 1990 Kuwaiti incubator media scam, where Kuwaiti babies were allegedly removed from incubators in a totally fabricated news story, which was then used to get Congressional approval for the 1991 Gulf War. A fabricated statement by a "Kuwaiti nurse" was presented to the US Congress, who claimed to have seen Iraqi soldiers removing the babies from the incubators, looting the maternity ward and killing the babies. It turned out that the "nurse" was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington. Her statement, had been commissioned by the Rendon Group. (See Financial Times, 15 July 2003)
Rendon subsequently "worked to downplay press reports of the humanitarian effects of sanctions following the Gulf War." (CASI, http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/2002/msg00838.html ).
THE OFFICE OF STRATEGIC INFLUENCE (OSI)
In the wake of September 11, 2001, the Pentagon established a propaganda outfit called the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), which had a mandate of planting disinformation in the news chain. (For further details see Michel Chossudovsky,War Propaganda by Michel Chossudovsky, 16 January 2003, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO301A.html ).
The OSI was slated to collaborate with the CIA's psych-ops as well as with a unit in the State Department entrusted with propaganda. The Rendon Group (TRG), was hired by the OSI as a core consulting firm. It was to provide the public relations and psych-ops input in support of the Bush administration's "war on terrorism". It was also entrusted with a media and PR campaign to discredit the Baathist regime in the Middle East, demonize Saddam Hussein and build an Iraqi opposition.
Following the bombing of Afghanistan, Rendon was entrusted:
"to help it explain U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan to global audiences. The decision is part of a broader Bush campaign to reverse a rising tide of opposition in the Islamic world... For the anti-terrorism war, the Pentagon is paying Rendon to monitor news media in 79 countries; conduct focus groups; create a counter-terrorism Web site that will provide information on terrorist groups and the U.S. campaign against terrorism; and recommend ways the U.S. military can counter disinformation and improve its own public communications.
"The war on terrorism started without notice," said Lt. Col. Kenneth McClellan, a Pentagon spokesman. "We needed a firm that could provide strategic counsel immediately. We were interested in someone that we knew could come in quickly and help us orient to the challenge" of communicating to a "wide range of groups around the world in real time" and "across all media."
The choice of the Rendon Group to advise the Pentagon may not be a coincidence given its past work on behalf of the Iraqi opposition. Several top Pentagon officials, including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and adviser Richard Perle, are strong advocates of overthrowing Saddam and have argued that U.S. military strikes should be expanded to include Iraq.( Hamilton Spectator, 19 October 2001)
When the OSI was officially disbanded, a few months later, following pressures from the US Congress, the activities of the defunct OSI, according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, remained functionally intact, with specific propaganda operations outsourced to the private sector. The Rendon Group remained the key PR firm on contract to the Pentagon.
The Iraqi National Congress (INC)
Following the Gulf War, the CIA:
"assigned Rendon a far more delicate task: to help organize, advise, and stage-manage the Iraqi opposition... "
In fact, The Rendon Group created the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and its leader Ahmed Chalabi from scratch,--i.e. from a virtually nonexistent entity into a US sponsored political proxy, which would faithfully serve US interests. "Were it not for Rendon," a State Department official remarked, "the Chalabi group wouldn't even be on the map.". In fact, the Rendon Group even chose the name of the INC:
"At the helm of the INC is Ahmed Chalabi, a US-trained mathematician who fled from Jordan in 1989 in the trunk of a car after the collapse of a bank he owned. He was subsequently charged and sentenced in absentia to 22 years in prison for embezzlement. Back home in Iraq, he's referred to by some as the so-called limousine insurgent and is said to hold little actual standing with the Iraqi public. Shuttling between London and DC, Chalabi hasn't been in Iraq for over years, and draws "more support on the Potomac than the Euphrates," says Iraq specialist Andrew Parasiliti of the Middle East Institute in Washington DC.
With funding first from the CIA throughout the 1990s and more recently the Pentagon, Rendon managed the INC's every move, an INC spokesperson acknowledges, even choosing its name, coordinating its annual strategy conferences, and orchestrating its meetings with diplomatic heavy hitters, such as James Baker and Brent Scowcroft. Not that the Rendon Group was the first purveyor of psy-op tactics for promoting US foreign policy in the region. In fact, some of the most impressive spin maneuvers and disinformation campaigns occurred during the Gulf War in 1991, the lessons of which are particularly pertinent as the US again gears up (See Ian Urbina, This War Brought to You by Rendon Group, Asia Times Online, 12 November 2002, http://www.gvnews.net/html/Shadow/alert3553.html).
In all likelihood, The Rendon Group played a role in mounting the media spin for the Pentagon's "Liberation of Baghdad" disinformation campaign on April 8th, including the pulling down of the statue of Saddam on Fardhus square. Members of the INC had allegedly been brought in for a media staged event. (for further details, see The pulling down of the Statue was a staged media event, 11 April 2003 http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/NYI304A.html. See also Michel Chossudovsky, Killing the "Unembedded Truth" by Michel Chossudovsky, 11 April 2003, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO304B.html).
Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq, the INC had two clandestine radio stations, Radio Freedom and the Iraqi Broadcasting Corp.
In the wake of the war, it supported the creation of the INC's daily newspaper Al Mu'tamar, which played a key role in releasing the story of Saddam's capture. A (former) staff member of the Rendon Group, Francis Brooke, who is adviser to Chalabi, is behind the "opposition media" in Baghdad, including TV and news print (including the Al Mutamar project). Brooke is said to very close to National Security Council Chairman Condoleezza Rice as well as to the Pentagon's office of special plans (OSP).
OSP, which was set up by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. has taken over several functions of the defunct Office of Strategic Influence (OSI). TRG president John Rendon has close links to the OSP, which was also was behind the media spin and disinformation campaign regarding WMDs in the months leading up to the war. One of the main channels for carrying out the OSP's media spin and psych-ops in Iraq was through INC's adviser Francis Brooke. (For further details, see http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/whispers/documents/truth_6.pdf.)
More generally, the Rendon group is one of the main media companies involved in bidding for the "reconstruction" of Iraq's media and information system including newspapers, TV and Radio. It is currently part of a nine-member consortium bid "to rebuild" the State controlled Iraqi Media Network. The contract which is led by WorldSpace Corp also "calls for development of an "exit strategy" to pave the way to the privatization of IMN" leading to the takeover of IMN by Western media conglomerates. (Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, December 17, 2003)
AHMED CHALABI MEETS SADDAM HUSSEIN
According to Fox News, (14 December 2003), the US military had summoned Ahmed Chalabi and three other members of the Governing Council "for the purpose of identifying him [Saddam Hussein] which they did."
Al Mu'tamar, the INC Mouthpiece, confirmed that this meeting "to verify his identity" took place a few hours after his capture and well before the news of his arrest was made public.
The delegation to meet Saddam was, according to the reports, composed of Governing Council members Rubaiye, Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi, pre- Saddam -era foreign minister Adnan Pachaci and Shiite Muslim politician Adel Abdel Mahdi.
The role of Ahmed Chalabi was central in the alleged "identification" of Saddam Hussein.
However, Chalabi could not possibly have come up with a positive identification of Saddam Hussein.
Chalabi is an an Iraqi emigre, handpicked by US intelligence to preside over the Iraqi Governing Council. He left Iraq and emigrated to the US with his family at age 12. He holds a US passport. Chalabi returned after 45 years to Kurdish-held northern Iraq in February 2003, barely one month before the war. On April 6, US troops escorted him to Nasiriya, where he established, with the support of the US military, the so-called Free Iraqi Forces, a paramilitary army of some 600 fighters.
In other words, there is no way Chalabi could have made a positive identification of Saddam Hussein for the simple reason that he left Iraq at age 12 and had no recent encounters with Saddam Hussein.
On the 18th of December, Al-Mu'tamar published a photo of Chalabi's meeting with Saddam, under the headline "After Saddam begged his jailers to meet Al-Chalabi"
The photo was taken on the 13th of December "when a delegation from Iraq's interim Governing Council, including Chalabi, were brought by the Americans to identify Saddam". This meeting was held prior to the official announcement of Saddam's capture. In other words, the press was not present at this meeting. The photo may have been taken by the INC delegation or provided by a US official to Al Mu'tamar (Congress), which was then fed it into the news chain. In all likelihood, in view of the CIA's close ties to Chalabi's INC, US intelligence was no doubt also involved.
The capture of Saddam constitutes the climax of the Rendon Group's gruesome media spin. TRG President John Rendon refers to "perception management" as a psych-ops used to mislead people and change their perceptions through disinformation and distorted images.
Saddam had allegedly "begged his captors to meet with Chalabi". Whether this meeting actually took place remains to be established.
Not only is Saddam Hussein denigrated and humiliated, Chalabi, a man with a criminal record, created from scratch by The Rendon Group on the orders of the CIA, is now portrayed as the new "Democratic" leader of Iraq. Chalabi was convicted in Jordan for 31 counts of embezzlement, theft, and currency speculation, and sentenced to 22 years. Perhaps that's what is meant by "regime change": install a man with a criminal record, who will always obey orders.
It goes without saying that "foreknowledge" of Saddam's alleged capture, on Friday the 13th of December, as later announced by the CPA, has provided amply opportunity for "inside trading" in financial markets, on crude oil, oil stocks as well as on oil futures, prior to the opening of financial markets on Monday morning the 15th. While the movement in the price of crude was not dramatic in the course of the day, financial actors with links to the intelligence apparatus, who had foreknowledge of the alleged capture of Saddam prior to its official announcement on the 14th, would be able to "take their profits" in the first hours of trading.
The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO312B.html
© Copyright Michel Chossudovsky 2003
RELATED CRG ARTICLES
Capture of Saddam Hussein: Was the Photographic Evidence Manipulated? Centre for Research on Globalization, 22 December, http://globalresearch.ca/articles/ATW312A.html
Doubt regarding Capture of Saddam , several authors, 22 December 2003, Centre for Research on Globalization, http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CRG312B.html
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