How about Some Government Propaganda for the People Paid for by the People Being Propagandized?

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Investigative journalist Michael Hastings recently broke a story on BuzzFeed about an amendment that is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill. The amendment would “legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences.” Hasting reported that the amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon. He says the “tweak” to the bill would “neutralize” two other acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—which were passed in order “to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.” Rep. Mark Thornberry (R, Texas) and Rep. Adam Smith (D, Washington) are co-sponsors of the bipartisan amendment.

Hastings says that “the new law would give sweeping powers to the State Department and Pentagon to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public.” One Pentagon official who is concerned about the amendment told Hastings, “It removes the protection for Americans. It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.” The official added that there are “senior public affairs” officers in the Department of Defense who would like to “get rid” of the Smith-Mundt Act “and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to prop up unpopular policies—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

In a Mediaite piece last week, Josh Feldman wrote of how the US military has been looking for new ways to spread U.S. propaganda “on social media websites for a while now.” Feldman also made reference to an article that was published in Wired last July. In the article, Pentagon Wants a Social Media Propaganda Machine, Adam Rawnsley told of how the DoD “has been working on ways to monitor and engage in ‘countermessaging’ on social media sites like Twitter.”

According to Hastings, the Pentagon already spends about $4 billion dollars annually to “sway public opinion.”

Here’s something to chill you to the bone: Hastings reported that USA Today had recently published an article about the DoD having spent “$202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.” Well, it appears that the reporters who worked on the USA Today article were targeted by “Pentagon contractors, who created fake Facebook pages and Twitter accounts in an attempt to discredit them.” (Read about that story here.)

One of Hastings sources on the Hill told him, “I just don’t want to see something this significant – whatever the pros and cons – go through without anyone noticing.” The source added that the law would allow “U.S. propaganda intended to influence foreign audiences to be used on the domestic population.”

Michael Hastings:

The evaporation of Smith-Mundt and other provisions to safeguard U.S. citizens against government propaganda campaigns is part of a larger trend within the diplomatic and military establishment.

In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.

The upshot, at times, is the Department of Defense using the same tools on U.S. citizens as on a hostile, foreign, population.

Is this how we want our tax dollars being spent—to produce propaganda aimed at us Americans to sway public opinion?


Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban (BuzzFeed)

Congress May Reverse Ban On Domestic Distribution Of Propaganda Material (Mediaite)

Pentagon Wants a Social Media Propaganda Machine (Wired)

Misinformation campaign targets USA TODAY reporter, editor (USA Today)

An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill. The bi-partisan amendment is sponsored by Rep. Mark Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State. (Investment Watch Blog)

238 thoughts on “How about Some Government Propaganda for the People Paid for by the People Being Propagandized?”

  1. Elaine: I was in Vicenzia, Italy last year- where we have a big military base and found the Voice of America on the car radio. They were playing the Rush Limbaugh Show.

    On one other program, the announcer was making really inappropriate false remarks about Obama and taxes, statements that were more inference than fact based. Truly weird.

    Wow, the great things that could be done with that $4 billion a year. The Pentagon just flushes our tax dollars down the toilet.

    And these entrapment programs are a total waste of money, just like they were in the 1960’s.
    We paid someone to watch and report on John Lennon, the Quakers and MLK, a ridiculous waste of time and money.

  2. So, he says, the federal government’s foreign-information services have to be able to reach terrorists where they live — and that means inside America.
    Maybe the federal government’s so-called foreign-information services can get their heads out of their asses and prevent terrorists from flying jumbo jets into skyscrapers. But lets hold hands with the Saudi prince and kiss him on the cheek instead. What state did that happen in?

  3. Consider this: American Dollars on American Propaganda to Brainwash American Citizens
    Lisa Cerda

    VOICES – The National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) was passed by the House, on Friday afternoon, with a vote of 299-120. (77 Democrats and 222 Republicans voted FOR it). The hollow threats came early in the week, from the White House, to veto it. The White House can not distance itself from their bold and in your face agenda to strip away the constitutional rights of every American.

    The power grab began after 9/11, and has since escalated to a protracted crescendo.
    Very little has been reported on the amendment # 114 to the NDAA, an amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda, produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, on Americans.

    By striking the existing ban on domestic misinformation campaigns, Americans can expect to be programmed on an even greater scale than ever before. Many would argue that the most prolific misinformation campaign comes in the way of our American History books in our schools. Others would say it is the gag order fueled by corporate interests on our mainstream media.

    Sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State, the amendment nullifies or neutralizes the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987, meant to protect US audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.

    You should take heart that this attack on American truth and justice, came from a “bipartisan” effort and a bipartisan fear of the power of the internet age.

    Thornberry could actually say with a straight face, that the Smith-Mundt Act and Foreign Relations Authorization Act “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.” It must be difficult to lie with “credibility” when at the touch of our latest hi-tech communication device, we can search out a more credible source of truth than that of the US government.

    The bill’s supporters say that new techniques are needed to help fight Al-Qaeda, while the critics of the bill say that a rigorous debate over such an important issue should have happened. “It removes the protection for Americans. It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.” says a Pentagon official who voiced concern about the law.

    Let’s scrutinize the expense of duping America. According to USA Today, the Pentagon spends nearly $4 billion a year to sway public opinion already. This is a world wide effort. Now a new cost will be incurred, keeping Americans misinformed.

    Could it be merely a coincidence that the bill was passed just prior to the NATO Summit? The arrest of three Occupy protestors, accused of manufacturing Molotov cocktails in a plot to attack President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters as well as other sites, may not seem as plausible when you consider that the suspects, Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; and, Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla. have no history of violence but law enforcement has a history of setting up organizers.

    Their attorney Michael Deutsch, said “This is just propaganda to create a climate of fear,” My clients came to peacefully protest. We believe this is all a setup and entrapment to the highest degree.”

  4. Rachel Marsden: Are government’s ‘strategic communications’ coming to American airwaves?–tms–amvoicesctnav-a20120522-20120522,0,2900013.column

    Did you hear about the new bill that would allow the U.S. government’s official overseas information agency to rebroadcast its content onto American TV and radio? The bipartisan Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 was introduced in Congress last week by Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.), both of whom are presumably dissatisfied with their satellite TV package and think more government-produced content would go down better with an after-work beer.

    Not really. As Thornberry explains on his website: “While the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 was developed to counter communism during the Cold War, it is outdated for the conflicts of today. Effective strategic communication and public diplomacy should be front-and-center as we work to roll back al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among disaffected populations. … To do this, Smith-Mundt must be updated to bolster our strategic communications and public diplomacy capacity on all fronts and mediums — especially online.”

    I see. So the Smith-Mundt Act was strictly limited to countering communist propaganda overseas, because the idea of conducting government propaganda operations within a country at a time when Joseph Goebbels was a household name would have triggered post-traumatic stress. Thornberry says the legislation is uselessly dated because terrorism is now our main security threat, and it’s not just based overseas. So, he says, the federal government’s foreign-information services have to be able to reach terrorists where they live — and that means inside America.

    All right, and while we’re at it, why don’t I just submit verbatim copies of press releases I receive from various federal government departments so you can read them in this space each week? Government or otherwise, I don’t reflexively trust anything that anyone tells me. If someone said the sky was blue, I’d look out the window and ask two more people if it looked blue to them as well. It’s the very least of the media’s responsibilities.

    And I’m especially skeptical when I know that the source of any given information has an agenda. In the case of the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors and Voice of America information services, Thornberry describes the proposed domestic objective as “remov(ing) a barrier to more effective and efficient public diplomacy programs.”

    There’s certainly no barrier to anything online. The firewall is effectively limited to traditional media. Anything delivered as a pre-packaged item to the conventional media from the government or any other source should be vetted, tested, evaluated and packaged appropriately before being presented to a larger audience.

    Even when an event occurs overseas, as in the case Thornberry cites, whereby Sirius Satellite Radio couldn’t get the green light under the Smith-Mundt Act to carry live Voice of America broadcasts in the Creole language from the 2010 Haiti earthquake zone, I’m sure there are foreign correspondents, credible freelance journalists and other reliable independent analysts who would provide an adequate, objective take on events. If any of them prove inept or biased, then the free market will weed them out. Americans who are interested in such coverage will find the best alternative available to them. It’s not only unnecessary for the government to create legislation in order to insert itself into this domain, but also a slippery slope.

  5. Rep. Smith on his controversial bills
    The Washington Democrat discusses his bills to ban domestic indefinite detention but allow domestic “propaganda”
    By Glenn Greenwald
    May 22, 2012

    Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) is the co-sponsor of two controversial amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act: one which would ban the use of indefinite detention for any accused Terrorist apprehended on U.S. soil (the House rejected that amendment earlier this week), and the other, as Michael Hastings first reported, which would repeal a long-standing prohibition under the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 on the dissemination inside the U.S. of State Department information campaigns (what the State Department calls “public diplomacy” and what others call “state propaganda”). Rep. Smith was my guest today on Salon Radio to discuss both of his proposed amendments, and the 15-minute interview, which heavily focuses on his Smith-Mundt proposal, can be heard on the player below (the Smith-Mundt discussion begins at 5:15).

    A few of points on the domestic propaganda issue that we discussed:

    (1) Rep. Smith claimed that legal prohibitions on the domestic dissemination of government propaganda apply only to the State Department, whereas other agencies (such as the Pentagon) are already free of such restrictions; I explained that I believed that was untrue, that there are clear legal frameworks in place barring the use of domestic propaganda by all agencies, and this ( was what I was referencing;

    (2) Rep. Smith repeatedly insisted that his bill would not permit the domestic dssemination of any State Department program “intended to” influence public opinion inisde the U.S., but only ones intended for a foreign audience; aside from the impossibility of enforcing that distinction, I pointed out that the Press Release distributed by him and his GOP co-sponsor clearly argues that one reason this repeal was needed was to enable the State Department to influence public opinion among certain population segments within the U.S. The Press Release I referenced is here (, and it states:

    Contemporary interpretations of the law interfere with a range of communications activities, including public diplomacy, military communication efforts, and emergency and disaster response activities. It has also led to inaccurate reporting by American media about issues affecting global security.

    For example, in 2009 the law prohibited a Minneapolis-based radio station with a large Somali-American audience from replaying a Voice of America-produced piece rebutting terrorist propaganda. Even after the community was targeted for recruitment by al-Shabab and other extremists, government lawyers refused the replay request, noting that Smith-Mundt tied their hands.

    If one of the problems this bill seeks to solve is the inability of the State Department to “rebut terrorist propaganda” by targeting U.S. citizens with its own information campaign, then, by definition, the bill seeks to allow the State Department to attempt to influence public opinion within the U.S.

    (3) This morning, Mother Jones published a piece defending this legislation. It was written by Adam Weinstein, a former Navy vet and ex-Iraq contractor who (as he acknowledged) himself wrote propagnada for the U.S. military in Iraq (what Weinstein calls “upbeat, if technically accurate, press releases for the US Army in Iraq”). Rep. Smith unsurprisingly touted this article (, and it is here.

    Everyone can, and should, listen for themselves to Rep. Smith’s defense of the bill and decide if they are persuaded by his assurances that this bill would not legally empower the State Department to propagandize the U.S. citizenry directly.


    NOTE: I added the links to the articles that Greenwald referenced in his Salon article.

    Click on the link to Greenwald’s article to listen to Adam Smith’s defense of his amendment.

  6. NDAA 2013: Congress approves domestic deceptive propagand
    Published: 22 May, 2012

    Reauthorizing the indefinite detention of US citizens without charge might be the scariest provision in next year’s defense spending bill, but it certainly isn’t the only one worth worrying about.

    An amendment tagged on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 would allow for the United States government to create and distribute pro-American propaganda within the country’s own borders under the alleged purpose of putting al-Qaeda’s attempts at persuading the world against Western ideals on ice. Former US representatives went out of there way to ensure their citizens that they’d be excluded from government-created media blasts, but two lawmakers currently serving the country are looking to change all that.

    Congressmen Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced “The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012” (H.R. 5736) last week during discussions for the NDAA 2013. It was voted on by the US House of Representatives to be included in next year’s defense spending bill, which was then voted on as a whole and approved. The amendment updates the antiquated Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1987, essentially clarifying that the US State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors may “prepare, disseminate and use public diplomacy information abroad,” but while also striking down a long-lasting ban on the domestic dissemination in America. For the last several decades, the federal government has been authorized to use such tactics overseas to influence foreign support of America’s wars abroad, but has been barred from such strategies within the US. If next year’s NDAA clears the US Senate and is signed by President Obama with the Thornberry-Smith provision intact, then restrictions on propaganda being force-fed to Americans would be rolled back entirety.

    Both Congressmen Thornberry and Smith say that the amendment isn’t being pushed to allow for the domestic distribution of propaganda, but the actual text of the provision outlines that, if approved by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama, that very well could be the case.

  7. Big oil is the number one threat to the Big Apple. Figure that out. You need to have electricity. Where are you going to get it?

  8. War Propaganda Corporate Media Steers World Toward Disaster
    By Kurt Nimmo
    February 18, 2012

    The establishment media has slipped into overdrive. It is determined to fan the flames of hysteria and set the stage for a devastating attack on Iran.

    On Thursday, CNN’s Erin Burnet interviewed New York’s Rep. Peter King who said Iran will unleash Hezbollah in America and the result will be worse than an attack with ballistic missiles.

    King and Burnet threw around a slew of lies and fabrications in order to fan the flames of hysteria – from the cartoonish plot by a failed Iranian used car salesman to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador cooked up by the DEA and the FBI to highly suspect and largely inept attacks on Israeli diplomats in India, Georgia and Thailand.

    Law enforcement officials in New York and Los Angeles “are keeping an eye out for potential Iranian operatives or anyone with links to the country’s proxy terrorist group, Hezbollah,” reports Fox News. The public can now expect more cops dressed in black with automatic weapons at airports, subways and bus terminals.

    Following attacks in India, Georgia and Thailand attributed to Iran and Hezbollah by Israel, the United States and the corporate media, the NYPD’s intelligence boss said Iran is the number one threat to the Big Apple.

  9. Elaine,

    Ronald Reagan was a member of the Army Band. He played the piano at officer’s clubs in California for all of WWII.

  10. NDAA Authorizes War Against Iran
    Posted: 05/17/2012
    By Dennis Kucinich

    This week, Congress is considering two pieces of legislation relating to Iran. The first undermines a diplomatic solution with Iran and lowers the bar for war. The second authorizes a war of choice against Iran and begins military preparations for it.

    H.Res.568: Eliminating the Most Viable Alternative to War

    The House is expected to vote on H.Res. 568. Read the resolution. Section (6) rejects any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran. Section (7) urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and opposition to any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to Iranian enrichment.

    This language represents a significant shift in U.S. policy and would guarantee that talks with Iran, currently scheduled for May 23, would fail. Current U.S. policy is that Iran cannot acquire nuclear weapons. Instead, H. Res. 568 draws the “redline” for military action at Iran achieving a nuclear weapons “capability,” a nebulous and undefined term that could include a civilian nuclear program. Indeed, it is likely that a negotiated deal to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and to prevent war would provide for Iranian enrichment for peaceful purposes under the framework of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty with strict safeguards and inspections. This language makes such a negotiated solution impossible.

    At the same time, the language lowers the threshold for attacking Iran. Countries with nuclear weapons “capability” could include many other countries like Japan or Brazil. It is an unrealistic threshold.

    The Former Chief of Staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated that this resolution “reads like the same sheet of music that got us into the Iraq war.”

    H.R. 4310: Authorizing War Against Iran and Preparing the Military for it

    While H. Res. 568 undermines our diplomatic efforts and lowers the bar for war, H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 begins military preparations for war. Section 1221 makes military action against Iran a U.S. policy. Section 1222 directs our armed forces to prepare for war.


    (a) Findings- Congress makes the following findings:

    (2) At the same time, Iran may soon attain a nuclear weapons capability, a development that would threaten United States interests, destabilize the region, encourage regional nuclear proliferation, further empower and embolden Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provide it the tools to threaten its neighbors, including Israel.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as U.S. and Israeli intelligence, have all agreed that Iran does not currently have a nuclear bomb, is not building a nuclear weapon and does not have plans to do so. Both U.S. and Israeli officials also agree that a strike on Iran would only delay their nuclear program and actually encourage them to pursue a nuclear weapon.

    Sustained, diplomatic engagement with Iran is the only way to ensure transparency and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Rejecting or thwarting any inspections-based deal we are currently seeking with Iran, even when analysts are expressing guarded optimism that a near term deal is achievable, makes pre-emptive military action against Iran more likely.

    (7) In order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the United States, in cooperation with its allies, must utilize all elements of national power including diplomacy, robust economic sanctions, and credible, visible preparations for a military option.

    Pursuing these non-diplomatic options, contrary to popular myth, does not help negotiations. U.S. policy toward Iran for the last three decades has primarily taken the form of economic sanctions, threats and isolation. None of these things has created meaningful change in the behavior of the Iranian government or achieved the transparency we seek. In fact, history has demonstrated that sanctions often preclude war; they do not prevent it. Sanctions hurt the same ordinary Iranians that we claim to support, and undermine their efforts to encourage democratic change in their country. Threatening military action against Iran can only undermine sensitive and critical diplomatic negotiations that could be our last chance to achieve the transparency and cooperation we seek from the Iranian government.

    (8) Nevertheless, to date, diplomatic overtures, sanctions, and other non-kinetic actions toward Iran have not caused the Government of Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

    The United States, IAEA and Israel have all publically recognized that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. In a January 2012 interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated unequivocally that Iran is not trying to build a nuclear weapon. This clause further ignores that the U.S. and Iran have barely engaged in direct negotiations. Prior to last month’s negotiations, the U.S. and Iran had only engaged in 45 minutes of direct talks since 2009.

    (b) Declaration of Policy- It shall be the policy of the United States to take all necessary measures, including military action if required, to prevent Iran from threatening the United States, its allies, or Iran’s neighbors with a nuclear weapon.

    This is an authorization for the use of military force against Iran. It ignores the warnings of both current and former U.S. top military brass who have spoken in opposition to the use of military force against Iran, including former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. A February 2012 poll demonstrated that less than 20% of the Israeli public supports an Israeli strike on Iran if approved by the United States. Congress must avoid the same mistakes it made in the Iraq war and reject any language that can be construed as authorizing war against Iran.

  11. NDAA Amendment Would Legalize War Propaganda
    John Glaser, May 21, 2012

    The legislation banning propaganda aimed at Americans has not meant the end of propaganda, with a sycophantic mass media filling in for the state all along the way. But even the government’s war propaganda has managed to persist. Recent reports published by USA Today exposed the dubious nature and exorbitant costs of the Pentagon’s “Information Operations,” (IO) which the newspaper described as “the modern equivalent of psychological warfare,” or war propaganda. In fact, soon after the reports were published, the journalists were targeted in a misinformation campaign. If it was done using federal funds, it could be a direct violation of Smith-Mundt or the FRAA.

    Propaganda has always been with us. During the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson set up the Committee on Public Information (CPI), a propaganda ministry meant to build public support for the war effort. The CPI distributed propaganda in news stories, street posters, advertisements, and hollywood films. It launched pro-war lecture circuits to mobilize public opinion, and publicly criticizing the president or the war effort was essentially criminalized.

    “The propagandists in World War II,” writes historian Susan A. Brewer, ” following in the footsteps of the Committee on Public Information, while attempting to avoid their predecessor’s mistakes.”

    The OWI’s [Office of War Information] objective, acknowledged privately, was the “coordination, synchronization, embellishment, emphasis, manipulation and distribution of facts as information rather than…gross overstatements and exaggerated misrepresentations.” To mobilize the population, the OWI drew on familiar advertising techniques such as repetition, catchy slogans, and celebrity endorsement.

    …On December 16, 1941, President Roosevelt set up the Office of Censorship, headed by Associated Press executive news editor Byron Price. The Office of Censorship had authority over all civilian communication…Before news organizations released a story, Price wanted them to ask themselves, “Is this information I would like to have if I were the enemy?” In a 1942 press conference, he and [OWI Director Elmer] Davis explained the relationship of the Office of Censorship and the OWI with the news media. Price announced, “We tell what they cannot print.” Davis said, “We give them stuff we hope they will print.”

    But a modern phenomenon really put a stick in the spokes of the government’s attempts to treat the public like mushrooms and the mass media’s efforts to dominate the airwaves with regurgitated state spin. By making vast amounts of historical, political, and economic literature freely and immediately accessible, the Internet has belittled the the government’s aim of keeping the public ignorant. As the saying goes, information is power – and when citizens have more of it, the government has less.

    According to the report from Hastings, the amendment’s sponsors have the Internet specifically in mind:

    …Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”

    The bill’s supporters say the informational material used overseas to influence foreign audiences is too good to not use at home, and that new techniques are needed to help fight Al-Qaeda, a borderless enemy whose own propaganda reaches Americans online.

    In other words, people are getting information online that we don’t want people to have – therefore, legalize domestic propaganda. So NDAA is the latest effort by Congress (after SOPA, CISPA and the others) to take control of the best resource the American people have. The Internet is too open, too free, too…subversive. We need information the government wants us to have, not all that other stuff.

  12. Elaine,

    Ask the British how they got along in Afghanistan. Perhaps you should ask the Russians instead. Nothing has changed.

  13. Truth, lies and Afghanistan: How military leaders have let us down
    Written by LT. COL. DANIEL L. DAVIS
    Posted: 11 February 2012

    I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy. Over the course of 12 months, I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.

    What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.

    Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.

    Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.

  14. Elaine M.,

    The Sunnis and Shiites hate each other the same way the Catholics and Protestants hate each other. Do you think that’s going to change? I don’t need to read Weinstein’s article.

    If they don’t have any one else to fight with, they will fight with each other. Stop buying their oil. Mr. Kissinger was asked about the Iraq/Iran war. He said, as long as they’re killing each other we don’t have to worry about it. That won’t change.

  15. Adam Weinstein of Mother Jones thinks that Juan Cole, I, and other progressives are worked up over nothing:

    Is Congress Really Authorizing US Propaganda at Home?
    Progressives are worked up over a new “brainwashing” law for misguided reasons.
    —By Adam Weinstein
    | Tue May. 22, 2012


    Read Weinstein’s article. Let me know what you think about his argument.


    Excerpt from Weinstein’s article:
    “The argument against Thornberry’s and Smith’s amendment appears to be pretty straightforward: We only want US propaganda peddled to foreign populations, but not to our own! In reality, though, most “public diplomacy” is mundane boilerplate about America’s purple mountains’ majesties. (And a lot of it is laughably ineffective. I should know: I spent nearly a year preparing upbeat, if technically accurate, press releases for the US Army in Iraq about Sunni militias reconciling with the Shiite-dominated government. Four years later, the two sides still don’t get a long very well.)”

    1) Was that my argument? I don’t think so–but maybe Weinstein knows better than I.

    2) Weinstein wrote that he spent a year “preparing upbeat, if technically accurate, press releases for the US Army in Iraq…” Would that be propaganda that he prepared for the army? He also asks: “And isn’t the American public capable of sorting through self-serving state PR?”

    Is Weinstein’s argument that propaganda is often ineffective and that the American public is “capable of sorting through it” so we shouldn’t get our knickers in a twist over it?

  16. Those eight killed were not that different in age from Lance Cpl Osbrany Montes De Oca, 20, of North Arlington, New Jersey. He was killed two days later, 10 February, while on duty in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
    We used to make fun of the New Jersey guys. I’m not sure why, they didn’t deserve it.

  17. Spinning Afghanistan, America’s longest war
    According to a military whistleblower, army leaders are practising a deception on the US public about this unwinnable war
    By Amy Goodman

    Eight youths, tending their flock of sheep in the snowy fields of Afghanistan, were exterminated last week by a Nato airstrike. They were in the Najrab district of Kapisa province in eastern Afghanistan. Most were reportedly between the ages of 6 and 14. They had sought shelter near a large boulder, and had built a fire to stay warm.

    At first, Nato officials claimed they were armed men. The Afghan government condemned the bombing and released photos of some of the victims. By Wednesday, Nato offered, in a press release, “deep regret to the families and loved ones of several Afghan youths who died during an air engagement in Kapisa province Feb 8.”

    Those eight killed were not that different in age from Lance Cpl Osbrany Montes De Oca, 20, of North Arlington, New Jersey. He was killed two days later, 10 February, while on duty in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. These nine young, wasted lives will be the latest footnote in the longest war in United States history, a war that is being perpetuated, according to one brave, whistleblowing US Army officer, through a “pattern of overt and substantive deception” by “many of America’s most senior military leaders in Afghanistan”.

    Those are the words written by Lt Col Danny Davis in his 84-page report, “Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leaders’ Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort” (pdf). A draft of that report, dated 27 January 2012, was obtained by Rolling Stone magazine. It has not been approved by the US Army public affairs office for release, even though Davis writes that its contents are not classified. He has submitted a classified version to members of Congress.

    Davis, a 17-year army veteran with four combat tours behind him, spent a year in Afghanistan with the army’s rapid equipping force, traveling more than 9,000 miles to most operational sectors of the US occupation and learning firsthand what the troops said they needed most. In a piece he wrote in Armed Forces Journal (AFJ), titled “Truth, Lies and Afghanistan”, Davis wrote of his experience:

    What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by US military leaders about conditions on the ground.

    Speaking out is strongly discouraged in the US military, especially against one’s superiors. His whistleblowing was picked up by the New York Times and Rolling Stone, whose reporter, Michael Hastings, told me:

    “The fact is that you have a 17-year army veteran who’s done four tours – two in Afghanistan and two in Iraq – who has decided to risk his entire career (he has two and a half more years left before he gets a pension) because he feels that he has a moral obligation to do so.”

    Davis interviewed more than 250 people – US military personnel and Afghan nationals – in his recent year in the war zone. He compared what he learned from them with optimistic projections from the likes of David Petraeus, former head of the military’s CentCom and of the US military in Afghanistan, and now head of the CIA, who told Congress on 15 March 2011, that:

    “[T]he momentum achieved by the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2005 has been arrested in much of the country, and reversed in a number of important areas.”

    In his AFJ piece, Davis wrote:

    “Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level … insurgents controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of a US or International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) base.”

    His observations concur with the death of Osbrany Montes de Oca. His girlfriend, Maria Samaniego, told the New York Daily News, “He was walking out of the base and he was immediately shot.”

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