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Monday, November 21, 2005

The liars of Baghdad

You read of sting stories about people, in Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Dubai and other regional metropolies, who will try to tempt you to buy the one or more of the pyramides, a central railway station, a bus terminal, or even a single bus.

Now you can read a story about a man, in Washinton DC, sold a war.

In a recent report by JAMES BAMFORD in the Rollingstone one can follow parts of an unfloding story of how the maghtiest power in the post-cold war world has been duped just as miserably as the unsuspecting new arrivals to the Middle Eastern metropoles.

Bamford writes of the role played by Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, "a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein. For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad".

It could have just one of those pyramide stings, or just a desparate story fabricated by a person "in the hopes of securing a visa" to the States.

Bamford notes that "just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon.

Read more about this sultan of spin Rendon , "a leader in the strategic field known as 'perception management'", and the services provided by his firm, the The Rondon Group TRG.

According to TRG , homepage the company continues to maintain a presence in our region including the six GCC states, Jordan and Egypt.

The TRG boasts that it has "played in integral part in maintaining the global coalition that liberated Kuwait by designing and implementing a campaign to deliver messages to key international media and governmental decision-makers worldwide. Within days of the 1990 invasion and during the course of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, TRG placed teams of crisis management personnel in the Middle East, North America and Europe. TRG personnel were among the first U.S. civilians to enter Kuwait after its liberation by allied forces, and continued to provide assistance for many months after the country achieved freedom".

An interesting footnote to this story is the role played by another discredited former queen, Judith Miller (formerly of The New York Times) whose association with the indicted Lewis Libby and other neoconservatives in the Bush administration is well documented.

Judith Miller interview with al-Haideri in Bangkok became, according to Bamford, a front-page story in NYT (December 20th, 2001). It is the same Miller whose highly imaginative spin on WMD gave her employer, the NYT
some good reasons to apologise for.

BTW, she is the same Miller that figured so much in mid-1990s in every corner of the public debates on the Middle East trading, to use Edward Said's wrord, in "the Islamic threat".

Judith Miller's particular mission, the late Edward Said writes, (back in 1996) "has been to advance the millennial thesis that militant Islam is a danger to the West. The search for a post-Soviet foreign devil has come to rest, as it did beginning in the eighth century for European Christendom, on Islam, a religion whose physical proximity and unstilled challenge to the West seem as diabolical and violent now as they did then. Never mind that most Islamic countries today are too poverty-stricken, tyrannical and hopelessly inept militarily as well as scientifically to be much of a threat to anyone except their own citizens; and never mind that the most powerful of them -- like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan -- are totally within the U.S. orbit. What matters to "experts" like Miller, Samuel Huntington, Martin Kramer, Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, Steven Emerson and Barry Rubin, plus a whole battery of Israeli academics, is to make sure that the "threat" is kept before our eyes, the better to excoriate Islam for terror, despotism and violence, while assuring themselves profitable consultancies, frequent TV appearances and book contracts".

Enjoy re-reading Edward Said's article A Devil Theory of Islam [from the August 12, 1996 issue of the Nation.
link to Said's archives


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