Wednesday, February 20, 2002

News item: "A developing Pentagon campaign to influence public opinion in both hostile and friendly countries could include planting false information." Propaganda. Disinformation. Or, to you and me, "lies."

"This is a battle for minds," says Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and the Bush II administration doesn't care how they get those minds.

The plan is to use third-parties to plant news stories in the foreign press. Some of the stories will be true, some of them, well, ..., is it really a lie if the point is to get people to like you?

The only problems here (beyond ones of, oh, I don't know, ... maybe morality?) are that a) Most lies are eventually exposed, which might not be too good for our credibility, and b) In this high-speed, cross-border, information age, it's kind of hard to keep the disinformation over there, and the "real" information over here.

According to Ted Galen Carpenter, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute, "We're already viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. If we're caught in blatant lies, that hostility will increase."

For his part, retired General H. Norman Schwarzkopf said he doesn't believe the reports. "We don't deliberately lie to other people. ... That's not America. That's not what we do." Yippee. Stormin' Norman didn't deliberately lie to us during the Gulf War. Maybe.

The use of propaganda and disinformation by the U.S. is nothing new, of course. It was a daily process during the cold war, and was used extensively in our efforts to topple a few regimes (sometimes successfully, other times, not so) in Central and South America.

In the late 1980s, former newsman Bernard Kalb quit as the State Department spokesman after reports that the Reagan administration devised a misinformation policy. That policy included leaking false information to reporters in an effort to convince Libyan leade Moammar Gadhafi that the United States was about to attack.

But since the fall of the Berlin Wall we've lived in a kinder, gentler, possibly more honest, nation. Not to worry, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters last fall, he would never lie to them.

Gosh, thanks for the reassurance, Don. I feel much better now.

More information and sources on quotes? Pentagon Plan to Influence Opinion - Yahoo! News

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