The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies and the Mess in Iraq

Exactly three years ago our book Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq was published. Our publisher pitched it this way: "Rampton and Stauber take no prisoners as they reveal - headline by headline, news show by news show, press conference by press conference - the deliberate, aggressive, and highly successful public relations campaign that sold the Iraqi war to the American public. Rampton and Stauber show us a brave new shocking world where savvy marketers, 'information warriors,' and 'perception managers' can sell an entire war to consumers." Our new book, The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies and the Mess in Iraq, is a month away from publication; it will hit bookstores September 14th.

This time the publisher writes, "They told us so. The first authors to expose the blatant deceptions that got us into the Iraq War now reveal how the same lies have led us toward defeat. Here is a vital account of what transpires when a government believes its own deceptions and the news media fails to challenge them. Now that even US generals agree that war critics were right in the first place, Rampton and Stauber show us how to wake up and not be misled again."

Our book Weapons of Mass Deception was briefly a 2003 New York Times best seller, even though the mainstream media we criticized in it generally ignored the book. Today, three years later, the same propagandists and the same methods of propaganda that sold the war on Iraq are keeping the United States mired in a horrific and self-defeating quagmire. Just this past week one of the leading advocates for war, Weekly Standard editor and founder of the Project for a New American Century Bill Kristol editorialized that the United States should launch a strike against Iran. Of course for Bill Kristol this extremist warmonger is just business as usual; his neoconservative agenda, as we noted in Weapons of Mass Deception, is a dominant US empire astride the world from space, what the disgraced Tom DeLay called a "super duper power" ruling the world.

Former House Speaker and historian Newt Gingrich has also been upping the ante of pro-war rhetoric, referring to the current world situation as World War III, as if acknowledging that the old brand, the global war on terror, has lost its glitter in light of the truths that have emerged regarding the disastrous deception that is the war on Iraq. Gingrich is widely regarded as a contender for the presidency of the United States in 2008 and his marketing of World War III is the result of political strategic thinking, however offensive and hyperbolic it might be. Presidents and presidential candidates have a long history of successfully using fear and pro-war rhetoric to advance their political careers and political agendas.

Sheldon Rampton and I look forward to hitting the road nation-wide in September and October, speaking out on the propaganda behind the US war in Iraq, both then in 2003 and now in 2006. As dire as the situation seems, there are solutions to the current crisis of political jingoism, and one is as old-value American as can be: vote the rascals out. If you don't like what the political leadership in Washington has done and is doing by misleading America into war and keeping US troops occupying Iraq, show them with your vote. There is today a movement called Voters for Peace with a website that let's you join and pledge to do just that.

The months ahead are crucial. The world teeters on the edge of what some gleefully brand World War III, while Bill Kristol advocates spreading the war exponentially. Proponents of these positions are fixtures in TV's talking head parade, and their point of view gets plenty of free airtime that is denied to critics and advocates for saner and more effective alternatives. The mainstream US news media seem little changed or chastened by their role as cheerleaders for war. It falls to critics and opponents of the war in Iraq and its expansion into some neocon vision of World War III to find ways to reach the majority of Americans with the facts that are routinely absent in mainstream media.

Opponents of US militarism need to show that there is a movement for peace and justice that can move itself beyond the politics of protest to the politics of power by showing up at the ballot box to make the changes necessary. We need to reign in the dissembling extremists who helped sell the current mess in Iraq and who continue to pour gasoline on the flames of terror and war.


If this site chooses to watch PR groups, that's fine, but it would be appreciated if you at least tried to remain objective. Presenting a liberal viewpoint by reinforcing it with manipulating the public's perception of PR practitioners is pretty low. Don't confuse spin with advocacy...

"If this site chooses to watch PR groups, that's fine, but it would be appreciated if you at least tried to remain objective." It's not just a matter of watching the PR groups, but of realizing what is being done to our civil society and our democracy with the active help of many of those groups. One symptom of our society's profound dysfunction is the huge class of people who make a cushy living assuring the public that everything is hunky-dory when it really isn't. We're not talking church bake sale PR here. We're talking war and peace, slavery and freedom. Here's one person who appreciates CMD's work exactly as they're doing it.

The issue is that it contains a worldview that not all PR practitioners follow, but paints them all with the same brush. The people in charge of this forum must think that PR folks are liars, not to be trusted, as opposed to advocates of their clients, which is what they're mandated to be. Not everyone follows this. TBH, if you want to place PR folks in the same camp as this administration you'll have equal amounts that love that as hate it. The whole forum therefore has no real platform. Don't confuse spin with advocacy...

Of course not all PR people are untrustworthy, but I for one wish that the honest ones would speak out more assertively. You talk about advocacy. If the PR industry as a whole were truly honest, the clients with harmful agendas would have a much harder time finding "advocacy" for hire. This advocacy isn't like that for criminal defendants, who are entitled by law to representation. There's no law that says anyone with an agenda is entitled to PR services. <i>"Don't confuse spin with advocacy."</i> Well, let's see: I think of an advocate as someone who speaks out in the open for a particular person or cause. You know who he is and for whom and what he is speaking; you know his own stake in the matter if he has one. But a spinner works in secret to manipulate what gets printed, broadcast and talked about. Often the agenda he's promoting has no obvious connection to the overt matter it's inserted into; the idea is just to plant thoughts or change attitudes without the targeted audience even noticing it. Usually the spinner would hate to have his role in the undertaking publically known, because that would shatter the illusion he seeks to create, and the whole thing wouldn't look so good to the people he's trying to influence. If truth and justice are ever well served under such conitions, it's more likely by chance than by design. I would love to see high-profile industry groups like "PR Professionals Against Homelessness" or "PR Professionals Against Militarism." But I'm not holding my breath, for the simple reason that these hired "advocates" mostly go where the money is, just like anyone else with services to sell. This or that firm may take on this or that pro bono project now and then, but, when you get down to it, there really isn't much money in promoting progressive political and social policies. It's the people with the money who would have to accept the limitations on their accumulations of power and wealth that progressive policies entail. As they say, money talks. But contrary to the saying, b.s. doesn't walk; it usually flies luxury class. This, as I understand it, is the imbalance that CMD is working to rectify. If their work doesn't satisfy your own idea of "balance," you may have to resign yourself to looking elsewhere.