Thought Control: The Rendon Group and Iraq War Opinion Formation
The Rendon Group Convenes a Congress
SourceWatch: “The Rendon Group is a secretive public relations firm that has assisted a number of U.S. military interventions in nations including Argentina, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Panama and Zimbabwe. Rendon’s activities include organizing the Iraqi National Congress, a PR front group designed to foment the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. …. ‘In the Pentagon, in addition to the normal public affairs structure, the Special Plans Office was deeply involved in this effort, supported (with information) by the Iraqi National Congress. There was the Rendon Group, headed by John Rendon who gave media advice to OSD, the Joint Staff and the White House. Finally, there were connections to large PSYOPS activities. The Rendon Group worked for the Government of Kuwait during the Gulf I. John Rendon proudly tells that it was he who shipped small American flags to Kuwait for the citizens to wave as troops entered Kuwait City. … The Rendon Group worked for both OSD and the Joint Staff during this war. John Rendon says he was part of the daily 9:30 phone calls with the key information players to set themes. …
On the Rendon Group and the CIA
SourceWatch cont’d: ” … A February 1998 report by Peter Jennings cited records obtained by ABC News which showed that the Rendon Group spent more than $23 million dollars in the first year of its contract with the CIA. It worked closely with the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an opposition coalition of 19 Iraqi and Kurdish organizations whose main tasks were to ‘gather information, distribute propaganda and recruit dissidents.’ According to ABC, Rendon came up with the name for the Iraqi National Congress and channeled $12 million of covert CIA funding to it between 1992 and 1996. Writing in The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh says the Rendon Group was ‘paid close to a hundred million dollars by the CIA’ for its work with the INC. … “
Come Again? (Or, Let Main Street Eat Foreclosures and Illicit Wars)
” … Rendon came up with the name for the Iraqi National Congress and channeled $12 million of covert CIA funding to it between 1992 and 1996 . … Seymour Hersh says the Rendon Group was ‘paid close to a hundred million dollars by the CIA’ … “
Pentagon Deceit on Media Manipulation Confirmed
By Chris Floyd
Empire Burlesque | August 28, 2009
A few days ago, we noted the revelations by Stars and Stripes that the Pentagon was using a shadowy PR firm to identify the political leanings of journalists trying to cover the “Good War” in Afghanistan (as well as the “Forgotten War” in Iraq). The idea, clearly, was to encourage and reward “pro-war” reporters while planting a big red flag on the backs of any writers considered less than gung-ho about the imperial bloodshed in Muslim lands.
Naturally, the Pentagon denied that the vetting program operated by the Rendon Group – which was hired by the Bush gang to help instigate the mass murder in Iraq – was in any way a sinister, slimy attempt to manipulate the news in order to make the endless slaughter of the Terror War more palatable for the folks back home. Perish the thought! declared the brass. Why, goodness mercy me, the only aim of the program is to help reporters tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may. As Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman put it after S&S first broke the story: “It’s a good article if it’s accurate. It’s a bad article if it’s inaccurate. That’s the only measurement that we use here at the Defense Department.” Makes you want to puddle up, don’t it?
Well, Stars and Stripes has done something almost unheard-of in modern journalism – followed up on a story with a skeptical stance toward the bland assurances of authority – and guess what they found? Go ahead, try – you’ll never guess. They found that the Pentagon was lying! From S&S:
Contrary to the insistence of Pentagon officials this week that they are not rating the work of reporters covering U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Stars and Stripes has obtained documents that prove that reporters’ coverage is being graded as “positive,” “neutral” or “negative.”
Moreover, the documents — recent confidential profiles of the work of individual reporters prepared by a Pentagon contractor — indicate that the ratings are intended to help Pentagon image-makers manipulate the types of stories that reporters produce while they are embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon — run by honest Brother Bob Gates, who is such a straight arrow that the saintly progressive Barack Obama carried him over from the Bush Regime to keep running our “overseas contingency operations” — has been caught lying through its teeth!
Back to S&S:
“The purpose of this memo is to provide an assessment of [a reporter from a major U.S. newspaper] … in order to gauge the expected sentiment of his work while on an embed mission in Afghanistan,” reads the preamble to one of the reporter profiles prepared for the Pentagon by The Rendon Group, a controversial Washington-based public relations firm.
S&S also shreds the post-revelations denials by the Pentagon and Rendon, including the lie by Gates’ mouthpiece that the vetting program (that isn’t a vetting program, of course) ended last October, in the bad old Bush days:
But the Rendon profiles reviewed by Stars and Stripes prove otherwise. One of the profiles evaluates work published as recently as May, indicating that the rating practice did not in fact cease last October as Whitman stated.
And the explicit suggestions contained in the Rendon profiles detailing how best to manipulate reporters’ coverage during their embeds directly contradict the Pentagon’s stated policies governing the embed process.
By week’s end, the Pentagon was in full retreat on the story (in public, at least), pulling out the old stand-by used to cover a multitude of sins, from torture to corruption to atrocity to systematic deceit: a “review” of the program. Whitman, who days before had been loudly trumpeting the program’s decency and goodness, was now declaring — what else? — that he didn’t know the first thing about it, but he was sure enough gosh-dang-diddley-darn going to find out:
“For me, a tool like this serves no purpose and it doesn’t serve me with any value,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters as some of the affected war correspondents began demanding to see their secret military profiles….“I haven’t seen anything that violates any policies, but again, I’m learning about aspects of this as I question our folks in Afghanistan,” Whitman said. “If I find something that is inconsistent with Defense Department values and policies, you can be sure I will address it.”
And we’re sure a grateful nation gives its thanks for this great diligence. Whitman, a former Special Forces op whose last wetwork was back in the bug-out from Somalia, has long shown a dogged fealty to the truth: for example, planting stories of Iranian “threats” to U.S. boats in the powderkeg of the Strait of Hormuz; or early on in the mass murder in Iraq, ardently peddling the Pentagon’s knowingly false stories about the “heroic” rescue of Jessica Lynch. There is perhaps one aspect of his promised “review” that might trouble a cynic, however:
Whitman told Pentagon reporters that he was inquiring about the issue, but he added that the Pentagon is not launching any formal inquiry to the matter.
No “formal” review, then. No official inquiry. Just a couple of phone calls from good old Bryan to a few top brass and their mercenary manipulators: “You doing something dirty over there?” “Nope. Everything’s jake.” “Cool.”
Whitman, by the way, is not really a holdover from the Bush Administration, like his boss, Bob Gates. He is actually a holdover from the Clinton Administration, having ascended into the higher Pentagon PR ranks back in 1997, where he helped shape the presentations of Clinton’s “good war” against Serbia in 1998, then went on to serve the the cause of imperial message massage into Afghanistan and Iraq.
As we always say around here: Continuity! It’s what makes America great!
Pentagon terminates controversial contract with The Rendon Group
ThinkProgress | Aug 30th, 2009
Last week, Stars and Stripes revealed that the Pentagon had contracted The Rendon Group to screen journalists seeking to embed with U.S. forces. Rendon was rating whether reporters were giving the military “positive” coverage. Journalism groups immediately criticized the arrangement, calling it “alarming.” One week later, the Pentagon has announced that it is canceling the contract with Rendon:
“The decision to terminate the Rendon contract was mine and mine alone. As the senior U.S. communicator in Afghanistan, it was clear that the issue of Rendon’s support to US forces in Afghanistan had become a distraction from our main mission,” said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, in an e-mail sent Sunday to Stars and Stripes.
“I have been here since early June and at no time has anyone who worked for me ever conducted themselves in a manner as your newspaper alleged. I cannot and will not speculate on the past, although I have found no systemic issues with fairness or equity in the way U.S. forces have run their media embed program.”
Although military officials denied using Rendon’s work to reject reporters wishing to embed with U.S. troops, a public affairs officer with the 101st Airborne Division said that “when his unit was in Afghanistan and in charge of the Rendon contract, he had used the conclusions contained in Rendon profiles in part to reject at least two journalists’ applications for embeds.”
On John Rendon: “The CIA Made Him”
The Pentagon PR Guru
Chicago Tribune | 08-11-2009
When U. S. troops go into a war zone, John Rendon is rarely far behind. He was in Panama in 1989 for the brief invasion that toppled strongman Manuel Noriega. He was in Kuwait when allied forces took it back from Saddam Hussein in 1991, making sure that citizens had little American flags to wave for the conquering troops and television cameras. He has worked in Haiti and in the Balkans, and is now fully engaged in the war against terrorism.
But John Rendon is not a military officer, government adviser, diplomat, spy or journalist. He is, to use his own words, “an information warrior and a perception manager.”
Rendon makes images, manipulates scenes and manages news. He advises politicians and spreads propaganda.
Rendon and his public-relations firm, The Rendon Group, have many clients, but none bigger–or more loyal–than the U.S. government. Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Pentagon gave Rendon a $100,000-a-month contract to track foreign news reports and offer advice on media strategy. Rendon also worked for the Defense Department in the Balkans, according to a Pentagon spokesman.
The State Department, Central Intelligence Agency and foreign governments also have turned to Rendon in recent years for help in relaying and shaping messages for the mainstream, according to government officials and federal records. Rendon has beamed radio broadcasts into hostile countries, helped design leaflets for distribution in war-torn areas, and designed Web sites and run PR campaigns to give the U.S. spin on world events.
When the Pentagon earlier this year wanted to create an Office of Strategic Influence to spread its own version of the news in foreign lands, it asked Rendon for advice. President Bush ultimately nixed the office after a storm of protest over reports that it planned to spread false information through foreign news outlets. But the controversy raised even more questions about the government’s need to pay someone to manage its image, and about the man hired to do the job.
Over two decades of navigating Washington’s inner circles, Rendon has built a unique business. While maintaining his political and public-relations credentials, he also has channeled his energies and staff into the murky bog of intelligence and defense work. In the course of that career, Rendon has garnered contracts worth millions of dollars, a good bit of it, government sources say, from classified work. “
I have a feeling that The Agency helped make him, filled his coffers,” said one former senior CIA official. …
Last fall, the White House named advertising executive Charlotte Beers undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, and she is developing a full-fledged campaign to sway minds abroad. And the administration has been quick to send top officials to appear on Al Jazeera, the Arabic television station.
“Our own government propagandizing its position–it’s not like it didn’t happen before,” said John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper‘s Magazine and author of “Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War. ” “But this is a sophisticated, mass-market approach to it.” …