In 1990, George H. W. Bush built a case for war with Iraq by claiming that 250,000 Iraqi troops were positioned and threatening to invade Saudi Arabia. "It was a pretty serious fib," says journalist Jean Heller, who investigated the administration's claim and found no evidence for it. Now the administration of George the Younger seems to be using very similar disinformation.
"There is nothing new about using public relations with a commercial twist in foreign policy," writes Victoria De Grazia. "The Romans demonstrated their power from Gaul to Galilee by stamping the emperor's face on their coins, and Her Majesty's government publicized the Pax Britannica by celebrating Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee with global distribution of figurines and cups with her image.
Leni Riefenstahl, the director of Nazi propaganda films including "Triumph of the Will," marked her 100th birthday while continuing to insist that she "just did my job" and "never intended any harm to anyone."
Ever since September 11, politicians like Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde have been wondering why "the popular press overseas, often including the government-owned media, daily depict the United States as a force for evil." Hyde thinks that "public diplomacy" (the government's term for "public relations") can turn the tide.
"Hollywood is churning out one war flic after another," notes Bill Berkovitz. "VH-1 recently premiered 'Military Diaries,' a first person POV series on life in the military; Country-Western stars are popularizing 'kick ass' patriotic songs; Iran/Contragate figure, Oliver North, is hosting 'War Stories' on the Fox News Channel. Welcome to America's escalating militarization -- designed by the Bush administration, in cahoots with defense contractors, and aided and abetted by America's culture mavens." Now the U.S.
"From a ground-floor office in a nondescript building in
"Lauri Fitz-Pegado, the former Hill and Knowlton staffer who promoted the story about armed Iraqi troops tossing Kuwaiti babies out of their incubators - one of the biggest PR stories of the `90s - is now handling PR for the Cayman Island Cultural Center in New York," noted O'Dwyer's PR Daily on May 28. "H&K, on behalf of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait front group of exiled royals, produced a 15-year-old girl 'Nayirah' who testified that she saw Iraqi troops committing the atrocity in a Kuwaiti hospital. She testified before the Congressional Human Rights caucus in Oct.
"The widely publicized and highly orchestrated public relations campaign adopted by the Bush administration in this 'war on terrorism' is eerily reminiscent of the propaganda war waged during World War II," says Frank Mankiewicz, vice chairman of Hill and Knowlton (the PR firm that orchestrated the campaign to win public support for the war in the Persian Gulf).
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett says it's "virtually a certainty" that terrorists will inflict "a major nuclear event" on the United States sometime soon - probably in New York or Washington. "What makes Buffett so pessimistic?" askes commentator James Pinkerton. "Maybe he read the Capitol Hill testimony of Undersecretary of State Charlotte Beers before the House Appropriations Committee on April 23." Beers wants to spend $595 million on public relations to address seething anti-U.S.
U.S. Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs chief Charlotte Beers told a House subcommittee she needs $595 million to "improve and magnify the ways in which we are addressing people of the world--not necessarily other world governments--but people," O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports. Her request represents a five percent increase for the public diplomacy budget. "That outreach is especially targeted at 'disaffected populations' in the Middle East and South Asia, where a poor perception of the U.S.