Saturday, 22 November 2008
Agents of war: How British papers did Bush's dirty work
Posted on MEDIALENS, November 22, 2008
Morning Star 21/11
SOLOMON HUGHES investigates how British papers did Bush's dirty work.
IF YOU or I told the editors of the Times, Telegraph or Sun that their coverage of the "war on terror" was just a lot of US Department of Defence propaganda, I am sure that they would say that we were crass and crude and conspiracy theorists to boot.
The intelligent and well-educated journalists on those newspapers would be proud to say that they swallowed all the lies about weapons of mass destruction and failed to see the truth of secret US torture camps entirely of their own accord.
Well, actually, it turns out that they were helped to these rotten conclusions over drinks and dinners in smart London clubs and the US Department of Defence picked up the tab.
Since 2003, the nominally private Policy Forum on International Affairs has invited British journalists to meet top US politicians in London clubs and restaurants.
However, the organisation, which introduced British editors and columnists to mostly neoconservative politicians who were arguing for the "war on terror," was actually funded by the US Department of Defence.
The Policy Forum is a British-based company with two directors - low-profile London multimillionaire Zac Gertler and high-profile New York rightwinger Devon Gaffney Cross.
They say that they wanted to counteract the way that "American foreign policy and its goals and motivations in undertaking the war on terror were increasingly subject to caricature and worse in the European media."
The organisation, "based in London," says that it "began hosting a series of roundtable discussions, often off-the-record, with key American policy-makers and leading columnists, editors, writers and producers from the UK."
People like James Woolsey and Paul Wolfowitz were introduced to British journalists at posh clubs and restaurants. The Forum says that "editors of The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The London Times, The Economist, The Sun and The Spectator have all participated in our discussions" as well as "leading columnists."
Gertler and Gaffney Cross are independently very wealthy, but they didn't pay for the dinners after all. At the end of last year, the US Department of Defence paid the Policy Forum around $80,000 for "consulting services for public liaison and media outreach services in support of the diplomacy mission, including addressing and informing European and Middle Eastern audiences on the challenges facing US national security policies."
Three months later, the Policy Forum officially dissolved itself. It seems that the Department of Defence was actually paying for the previous five years of private diplomacy aimed at British journalists.
The forum looks like yet another way that the Bush administration ran foreign policy outside official structures. As a private organisation, the forum could invite speakers mostly from the neocons rather than represent the whole of the US leadership to all British papers. However, the initiative was ultimately funded by the US government, although, as with other Bush schemes, through the Department of Defence rather than the State Department.
Obama's election presumably means the end of this kind of clandestine diplomacy.
Devon Gaffney Cross's brother Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan official, wrote in the press that Obama's election would lead to "global theocratic rule under shariah and the end of our constitutional, democratic government." His sister Devon may not have made similar comments, but it is hard to imagine her being invited to run secret lobbying of the British press for president Obama.
The dinners-with-neocons scheme also shows yet again how London was central to Washington's propaganda effort over Iraq and the war on terror.
The US government liked placing stories in the British press to pass its dubious stories out to Europe and the Middle East and back to the US.
Placing lies in the US newspapers was too obvious. Tall tales about terrorism in the US media look like US propaganda. However, if the same stories are "confirmed" in supposedly independent British papers, the propaganda is sanitised.
Our newspapers acted as a laundering scheme to wash the US government fingerprints from official lies. If we ever get a real inquiry into the Iraq deception, that inquiry should concentrate on what was written in British newspapers as well as by British officials.