When the President of the United States of America is reduced to quoting propaganda nonsense fabricated by his own neocon supporters, that's pathetic.
When he does so specifically in order to justify failed policies which continue to see dozens, if not hundreds, dead every day in Iraq, that's worse than tragic. It's criminal.
Here's what President Bush just said today:
The missions I described are only the opening salvos in what is going to be a sustained effort. Yet, the Iraqi people are beginning to say -- see positive changes. I want to share with you how two Iraqi bloggers -- they have bloggers in Baghdad, just like we've got here -- (laughter) -- "Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve."That's a direct quote from the Fadhil brothers' Wall Street Journal piece I just linked to five minutes ago. Bush is really scraping the bottom of the propaganda barrel here, folks.
Where do I start? Let's hope Bush's remarks shine some long-overdue light on the neocons' favourite fantasists.
For anyone not familiar with the story, which is a long-running saga on this blog, Omar and Mohammed Fadhil run a blog called Iraq The Model (ITM). They have a brother named Ali Fadhil who angrily departed the blog under very odd circumstances just before the 2004 US election, when Omar and Mohammed went to Washington to meet with Bush and Wolfowitz in the Oval Office. The White House meeting was organized by a bogus US "charity" called Spirit of America (SoA), whose CEO Jim Hake was also present.
Ali Fadhil alleged that the SoA staff were using the Fadhil brothers for propaganda purposes. He said that SoA CEO Jim Hake and his former "Director of Logistics and Procurement" Kerry Dupont were "stealing donors money" and lying to both Iraqis and Americans. He said Dupont offered the brothers $300,000 "that we could use to do what we want".
Mohammed seemed to recall her saying tht it was Kerry's personal money while I recall her saying it wasn't.As I have said previously:
Three hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money to be throwing around, folks. And let's remember, this was happening while Paul Bremer was (supposedly) running Iraq and US$800 million was disappearing! Add two and two together and you would have to think that the money Dupont was offering came from those same taxpayer-funded coffers. But how the hell did Kerry Dupont get authorised to hand it out? Prior to her (extensive) involvement with Iraq The Model, Dupont was (as far as I can tell) just a plain old mother of two from Topsham, Maine. What happened on the way to Baghdad, Kerry?When Ali complained to Jim Hake about Dupont's behaviour, Hake dumped him from the trip to the USA. Afterwards he promised Ali "any position I wanted and any salary I would find suitable". Instead of taking the offer, Ali went public with a barrage of blog posts exposing SoA projects where he claimed money had gone missing and SoA's claimed goals had proved illusory. Then suddenly - after discussions with his two brothers - Ali deleted his blog posts, aplogized for causing any trouble, and refused to discuss his allegations any further.
Ali maintained a blog of his own for a while, but the URL later pointed to a porn site and now suggests that Ali may be living in "freedom" in Germany. His brothers quickly removed Ali's blog link from their Iraq The Model site and no longer even mention his name.
That's just the start of it! When you look at the people who were behind setting up Iraq The Model and Spirit of America, a whole new ball game opens up.
Spirit of America was originally set up and supported by Cyber Century Forum (CCF), a group dedicated to spreading US influence worldwide, with a particular emphasis on covert cyber-intelligence measures. Cyber Century Forum’s three ageing members are old guard warhorses from the Cold War days. And they used oil company finances to set up Spirit Of America:
Cyber Century Forum's tax return for 2003 shows that it holds $109,440 in corporate stocks from Schlumberger Ltd, "the leading oilfield services technology company supplying technology, project management and information solutions to the oil and gas industries". It also holds a further US$9,292 in stocks from Transocean Sedco Forex, the world's largest offshore drilling company. Now isn't that a big surprise? "Freedom and Democracy for Iraq", sponsored by the US oil and gas industry.There is even more if you want to keep digging. For example, two of the three members of Cyber Century Forum are also members of a top-level think-tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which is also dedidicated to spreading US influence.
And Spirit of America is a client of Direct Impact, a "grassroots marketing" organisation, whose marketing involves creating a "Buzz" by getting seemingly ordinary people (or better yet, influential people) to promote a product by word-of-mouth. Online promoters include people like Jeff Jarvis, who also helped set up Iraq The Model.
And Jim Hake went on to set up a media company called SignalOne media with people like Ahmad al-Rikaby (from Baghdad's own Radio Dijla and formerly U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe) and former US Ambassador and Kissinger speech-writer Mark Palmer (a member of the Committee for Present Danger).
I am not suggesting that Bush is familiar with this whole ITM/SoA story, but the fact that he is reduced to quoting such blatant propagandists just goes to show how desperate he now is.
For more information, use the search box in the top left of this blog, or check out feedback from other (genuine) Iraqi bloggers like Iraqi Konfused Kid. Any comments are welcome.
UPDATE: Jeebus! I posted this at TPM Cafe ten minutes ago and I am already getting hits from the US military's Directorate of Automation Services! Let's hope I make it home tonight!
UPDATE 2: Reuters picks up the story and the SMH runs with it. Well done! Even better, the article suggests that Reuters staff have questioned the Bush White House about their source:
In a speech, Bush did not identify them, but the White House said he was referring to an opinion article published March 5 in the Wall Street Journal by the two bloggers, Omar and Mohammed Fadhil.
UPDATE 3: RawStory is also on the case:
During his speech, Bush also quoted from an editorial written by bloggers from Iraq the Model published in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago to argue that his "surge" or escalation plan has already been successful.UPDATE 4: JuliaAnn at Kos has picked up the story, but the "kids" in the comments are running all over the place with it (points for enthusiasm). Someone has the good sense to link to this post but it's obvious others have not followed the links. FYI, Kos folks: the Texas-based blog registration address for ITM has previously been explained as a result of US-based bloggers like Jarvis and the decidedly dodgy Tom Villars very thoughtfully "helping" to get the blog started.
And meanwhile there seems to have been a "surge" in propaganda from the Fadhils. An editorial in Investors Business Daily cited their upbeat blog on March 14th. A week later, Omar Fadhil was spreading even more "good news" for the Christian views section of World Magazine:
Is the change in U.S. military strategy evident on the streets of Baghdad?Notice how the Fadhils never even mention these media scoops (I'm thinking WSJ more than IBD or WM) on their blog. As I write, they have not even bothered to post a story mentioning that Bush is quoting them. You'd think that might be a memorable thing for a couple of humble Iraqi dentists, wouldn't you?
Fadhil said: "Absolutely! A lot more troops, Iraqi and American, are available and visible in Baghdad than there were a couple months ago—checkpoints are more abundant and security measures are far stricter than before. And yes, civilian activity is much better now than before...
But without focussing too narrowly on these bogus bloggers, the real issue here is surely the very sad fact that George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America, is living in a dreamy cocoon of fictional fantasy. Where does he get his information? Who fed him the quotes from the Fadhil brothers (please tell me he is not a regular reader at ITM!)? Does he really believe this crap, or is he just bullshitting for all he is worth?
UPDATE 5: The New York Times has this rather thin story. Associated Press's story is also laced with scepticism but assumes readers are a few years behind the times:
Blogs are Web sites that tend to be narrow in focus and directed at a niche audience. Most operate without editors and give instant reaction to the news. Their freewheeling, open nature makes them popular but also ripe for unverified statements.Greg Mitchell does a better job, quoting White House spokeswoman Dana Perino defending Bush's decision to quote bloggers:
"I think that maybe somebody found it compelling, the President wanted to include it in his speech..."Oh my God, he does read ITM, doesn't he?! Or maybe just the WSJ (not much better)? I guess if you are desperate to believe your own "surge to victory" fantasy, where else are you going to go?
Meanwhile, Jillian at Kos reminds us that paid blogging propaganda is most certainly a happening thing, citing this Austin Statesman story:
These days, even the U.S. State Department is blogging.When I suggest that people get paid to post comments, I am called a Conspiracy Theorist. When Karen Hughes admits it, she's a genius.
[Karen] Hughes' video blogs are one way the State Department seeks to improve America's image overseas. It's an acknowledgement that while terrorism materializes in violent attacks, it's rooted in anti-American ideas and perceptions. The department is trying to challenge those ideas before they take root.
It's why Hughes, the State Department's undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, hired a half-dozen Arabic speakers to surf international blogs and post messages that counter "propaganda and rumors with facts," she said.
What's really tragic is that these fools in the White House today think they can win a war with nothing but pure spin. They got hit by bloggers early on, so they have come back with blogs of their own. But it was never the blogs that were the real problem: it was the inconvenient FACTS the bloggers were highlighting.
UPDATE 6: Mo Fadhil has updated ITM with a predictable post aimed more at dismissing his critics than celebrating his propaganda victory:
I've seen some of them publish stories full of lies and accusations they can't support and I think it's pathetic to throw the "you're a sold-out propaganda" accusation at people just because they don't share the same point of view. This only reflects their lack of knowledge and the bankruptcy of ideas they suffer.Facts, Mo? The fact is that you routinely ignore inconvenient facts (like another hundred plus dead in Baghdad today, where you are supposedly having beers and a BBQ) and relentlessly push a line of propaganda which has been consistently in tune with the US neocons since you first chose the name "Iraq The Model". The fact is that you have never bothered to answer or explain Ali's allegations, or your shady relationship with Spirit of America and other US financial backers. The fact is that your opinions are totally out of touch with the vast majority of Iraqis, your fans are in the redneck States and Tel Aviv, and (more importantly) the US military action which your charlatan blog advocates has already killed over 600,000 of your countrymen and continues to reap more innocent victims every day.
We speak the language of facts, supported by images and statistics and more important, we live here while they don't.
UPDATE 7: This is turning into quite a trip down memory lane. There was a big, bitching, blogger-bashing brouhaha back in January 2005 when Martini Republic and Sarah Boxer at the NYT first picked up on my ITM criticisms and Juan Cole backed her up. Jeff Jarvis called Cole pond scum and screamed that my reckless allegations had foolishly endangered the Fadhil brothers' lives (as if a White House visit was not guaranteed to place a target on your back in Baghdad). Even the BBC weighed in (ever so gently, of course).
Now we have Zionist blogs like KesherTalk wading back into the fray, and media whores like Michelle Malkin pulling up the rear. My concern is that this might all come to be seen as another unsightly dustup between rival bloggers (last time the allegations against the Fadhils were being countered with claimes that Riverbend was a fake).
The most important issue here is not whether ITM is a CIA blog, or a money-making scam, or a desperate trick to earn the Fadhils a couple of US Green Cards. It's not whether SoA is a clever bit of US PsyOps, or a neocon money-laundering operations. It is the fact that this foolish nonsense is all Bush has got left in his propaganda armoury. The man is a fool, a fake and a shameless stooge. Impeach now!!!.
UPDATE 8: Glenn Reynolds jumps on the bandwagon:
Is there any enemy of America that the left won't side with? Or any friend that the left won't oppose? No.But the wingnut response seems pretty muted so far. Meanwhile, Ryeland at Kos has compiled the DC's efforts into a single decent post which begins to open the doors on Spirit of America's involvement (let's see what you Kos Kids can do with that, eh?). And for a bit of light relief, Attaturk has provided this video. To quote one dental patient:
It's your professionalism that I respect!Wo ist der weisse Engel? Hey, did somebody just mention the Nazis?
UPDATE 9: Whoo hoo! Gandhi gets linked at the world best blog site: Antiwar.com! And that, ladies and gentlemen, should be enough to push my hits on this blog over the magic 100,000 mark! I'd like to thank the Academy, my family, and of course the brothers Fadhil...! Oooh, this is just embarrassing now, isn't it George?
Let me express a little hope and a prayer here. I am an ordinary, working class Aussie father of three who has simply become so outraged by the Bush administration and my own government's War Crime participation in the invasion of Iraq that I have been compulsively blogging against these bastards for about four years. I know poor little Dubya is facing a whole host of big, nasty problems right now, from his failed war in Iraq to his failed manipulation of the justice system in the USA, but I dare hope - and pray - that this little story might just be the straw that breaks the big, fat, oil-guzzling camel's back.
Seriously, what could be more emblematic of Bush's pathetic situation today than the fact that he is reduced - nay, he chooses it because he is so out of touch! - to quoting these charlatan bloggers for proof of his desperate last "surge" policy's success?
I have been derided by wingnuts as a misguided idealist. I do not deny that I dare to dream. But it is really Bush and his supporters who are the the wilfully ignorant idealists: their fantasy vision of Iraq, an ideal that will never, ever be realised, has already cost over 650,000 lives. How many more must die before the people of the USA bring this sad horror to an end?
UPDATE 10: Amazing coincidences are a regular thing in BushWorld. One day the President is quoting your words, the next day US troops are raiding your home. A pretty transparent effort to establish some credibility, IMHO:
At the end we stood to take some pictures together.Oh yeah, that's right. The Fadhil's cannot possibly appear in photos. It's far too dangerous! Even though everything in Baghdad is just fine these days. And even though they previously had their photos in USA Today and other major publications.
These are bloggers dude, cover your face if you don't want to be seen nude on the internet tomorrow! One soldier said to his colleague as I snapped this photo, and we all chuckled.
And I know what you're thinking; Mohammed and I do not appear in this one.
The photo above was taken from their now-defunct political party website (still publicly available here). Yeah, they started their own political party, the grandly named Iraqi Pro-democracy Party, for the 2005 elections. Donations poured in from eager wingnuts. Surprise! Political party disappeared without trace. But hey! Don't let the fact that they got less than zero percent of the vote stop you from thinking that these guys represent the true hopes and dreams of intelligent Iraqis who yearn for Freedom (TM). M'kay?
Meanwhile, somebody at the Boston Herald needs a good kick in the pants:
The brothers, who met Bush in the Oval Office in 2004, are widely respected on the Internet and have become regulars on sites such as www.pajamasmedia.com, www.instapundit.com and www.memeorandum.com, with their reports on how Iraqis are experiencing life in Baghdad.What's that all about? I thought the Boston Herald used to be a decent paper.
You know, I used to think the ITM blog was a CIA operation, but that's obviously not the case. If an operation ever became this compromised, the CIA would have had the good sense to shut it down long ago.
UPDATE 11: Ryeland at Kos helps explains the timely US raid on the Fadhil's house with a link to this story:
US forces are conducting realistic mock raids of Iraqi businesses in order to "hide in plain sight," i.e. to gain access to the businesses on the US payroll in order to take stock of the progress, without revealing that the business is working with the Americans.I am still not even totally convinced the Fadhil brothers are even living in Baghdad. There are large US military bases in Germany, an Iraqi named Omar Fadhil on German radio, and Ali - whose latest blog is in German - has previously done interviews with German media. It would be easy enough to get photos and news stories from soldiers and other contacts in Iraq and then compile them in Berlin. But that's not really the point, is it? Whether it's a Baghdad-based PsyOps or not, it is clearly a farce.
And what all this reveals, as my good friend Winter Patriot says, is that THERE'S NOTHING LEFT BUT SPIN.
UPDATE 12: Omar Fadhil is now officially Pajamas Media's "Baghdad Editor". The results are totally predictable: even more of the same. Should we judge a man by the company he keeps?
I hope that by the time you read this, the cruise missiles have already impacted; the stealth bombers have taken out radar and missiles sites; the land and sea blockade is in place … nothing moving in or out of an Iranian port and any road traffic that doesn’t risk death from above. I hope, by the time you read this, the destruction of Iran’s military infrastructure is underway.How long before Bush starts quoting bloggers from Tehran?
Because we are magnanimous, and more importantly are concerned about the long-term price of oil, operations to reduce Iran’s oil production facilities can await a later phase. It’s not clear to me what the holdup has been.