The Victory of ‘Perception Management’

The origins of the Russiagate psyop unleashed on the American people can be traced back to a secret government program unearthed by this site’s founder.

Joe Lauria: On CN Live! Wednesday night, as we were interviewing journalist Matt Taibbi of Twitter Files fame about the psychological aspects of Russiagate, I thought back to one of Robert Parry’s major revelations for Consortium News: the existence of a C.I.A. perception management program begun during the Reagan administration. It had the aim of selling false stories to the American people to further the interests of the national security state. 

There had been previous programs of deception run by the C.I.A., including infiltrating the media and the arts. But the Reagan-era program was geared to a post-Vietnam public that had grown dangerously wise to U.S. militarism and official lying.

Parry discovered the documents outlining the program while rooting around in the Reagan presidential library archives, and he first wrote about it in CN on June 30, 2008 when he broke the story. It began: 

“As historians ponder George W. Bush’s disastrous presidency, they may wonder how Republicans perfected a propaganda system that could fool tens of millions of Americans, intimidate Democrats, and transform the vaunted Washington press corps from watchdogs to lapdogs.

To understand this extraordinary development, historians might want to look back at the 1980s and examine the Iran-Contra scandal’s “lost chapter,” a narrative describing how Ronald Reagan’s administration brought C.I.A. tactics to bear domestically to reshape the way Americans perceived the world.

During the show Wednesday, Chris Hedges made that very point: that the C.I.A. was now practicing at home what it previously practiced abroad. And what Taibbi uncovered showed that Hamilton 68, with former top U.S. intelligence officials on its board, operated a psyop on the American people with a bogus “dashboard” of supposed Russian twitter accounts that influenced Congress and fueled hundreds of major media stories spreading the Russiagate fable and managing the public’s perception.

As Parry explains below, C.I.A. official Walter Raymond had to quit the agency to run the perception management program so it was not officially an illegal C.I.A. domestic project. Former senior intelligence officials, including an ex-C.I.A. director, run Hamilton 68 (now rebranded Hamilton 2.0). 

Parry wrote several follow-ups describing how the perception management program was working. By Dec. 28, 2014, after the managed public reaction to the coup in Kiev, Parry was convinced the psyops had won.  We republish his article from that date:

Special Report: In the 1980s, the Reagan administration pioneered “perception management” to get the American people to “kick the Vietnam Syndrome” and accept more U.S. interventionism, but that propaganda structure continues to this day getting the public to buy into endless war, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry
Special to Consortium News
Dec. 28, 2014

To understand how the American people find themselves trapped in today’s Orwellian dystopia of endless warfare against an ever-shifting collection of “evil” enemies, you have to think back to the Vietnam War and the shock to the ruling elite caused by an unprecedented popular uprising against that war.

While on the surface Official Washington pretended that the mass protests didn’t change policy, a panicky reality existed behind the scenes, a recognition that a major investment in domestic propaganda would be needed to ensure that future imperial adventures would have the public’s eager support or at least its confused acquiescence.

This commitment to what the insiders called “perception management” began in earnest with the Reagan administration in the 1980s but it would come to be the accepted practice of all subsequent administrations, including the present one of President Barack Obama.

In that sense, propaganda in pursuit of foreign policy goals would trump the democratic ideal of an informed electorate. The point would be not to honestly inform the American people about events around the world but to manage their perceptions by ramping up fear in some cases and defusing outrage in others depending on the U.S. government’s needs.

Thus, you have the current hysteria over Russia’s supposed “aggression” in Ukraine [2014] when the crisis was actually provoked by the West, including by U.S. neocons who helped create today’s humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine that they now cynically blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yet, many of these same U.S. foreign policy operatives outraged over Russia’s limited intervention to protect ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine are demanding that President Obama launch an air war against the Syrian military as a “humanitarian” intervention there.

In other words, if the Russians act to shield ethnic Russians on their border who are being bombarded by a coup regime in Kiev that was installed with U.S. support, the Russians are the villains blamed for the thousands of civilian deaths, even though the vast majority of the casualties have been inflicted by the Kiev regime from indiscriminate bombing and from dispatching neo-Nazi militias to do the street fighting.

In Ukraine, the exigent circumstances don’t matter, including the violent overthrow of the constitutionally elected president last February. It’s all about white hats for the current Kiev regime and black hats for the ethnic Russians and especially for Putin.

Maidan coup in Ukraine, 2014. (Wikipedia)

But an entirely different set of standards has applied to Syria where a U.S.-backed rebellion, which included violent Sunni jihadists from the start, wore the white hats and the relatively secular Syrian government, which has responded with excessive violence of its own, wears the black hats. But a problem to that neat dichotomy arose when one of the major Sunni rebel forces, the Islamic State, started seizing Iraqi territory and beheading Westerners.

Faced with those grisly scenes, President Obama authorized bombing the Islamic State forces in both Iraq and Syria, but neocons and other U.S. hardliners have been hectoring Obama to go after their preferred target, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, despite the risk that destroying the Syrian military could open the gates of Damascus to the Islamic State or al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Lost on the Dark Side

You might think that the American public would begin to rebel against these messy entangling alliances with the 1984-like demonizing of one new “enemy” after another. Not only have these endless wars drained trillions of dollars from the U.S. taxpayers, they have led to the deaths of thousands of U.S. troops and to the tarnishing of America’s image from the attendant evils of war, including a lengthy detour into the “dark side” of torture, assassinations and “collateral” killings of children and other innocents.

But that is where the history of “perception management” comes in, the need to keep the American people compliant and confused. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration was determined to “kick the Vietnam Syndrome,” the revulsion that many Americans felt for warfare after all those years in the blood-soaked jungles of Vietnam and all the lies that clumsily justified the war. [See: “Fighting the ‘Psyopcracy‘”, Consortium News]

So, the challenge for the U.S. government became: how to present the actions of “enemies” always in the darkest light while bathing the behavior of the U.S. “side” in a rosy glow. You also had to stage this propaganda theater in an ostensibly “free country” with a supposedly “independent press.”

From documents declassified or leaked over the past several decades, including an unpublished draft chapter of the congressional Iran-Contra investigation, we now know a great deal about how this remarkable project was undertaken and who the key players were.

Perhaps not surprisingly much of the initiative came from the Central Intelligence Agency, which housed the expertise for manipulating target populations through propaganda and disinformation. The only difference this time would be that the American people would be the target population.

For this project, Ronald Reagan’s C.I.A. Director William J. Casey sent his top propaganda specialist Walter Raymond Jr. to the National Security Council staff to manage the inter-agency task forces that would brainstorm and coordinate this “public diplomacy” strategy.

Many of the old intelligence operatives, including Casey and Raymond, are now dead, but other influential Washington figures who were deeply involved by these strategies remain, such as neocon stalwart Robert Kagan, whose first major job in Washington was as chief of Reagan’s State Department Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America.

Now a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist at The Washington Post, Kagan remains an expert in presenting foreign policy initiatives within the “good guy/bad guy” frames that he learned in the 1980s. He is also the husband of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who oversaw the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February amid a very effective U.S. propaganda strategy.

June 2014: Left to right: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Ukraine’s post-coup President Petro Poroshenko, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt Pyatt and Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. (State Dept.)

During the Reagan years, Kagan worked closely on propaganda schemes with Elliott Abrams, then the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America. After getting convicted and then pardoned in the Iran-Contra scandal, Abrams reemerged on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council handling Middle East issues, including the Iraq War, and later “global democracy strategy.” Abrams is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

These and other neocons were among the most diligent students learning the art of “perception management” from the likes of Raymond and Casey, but those propaganda skills have spread much more widely as “public diplomacy” and “information warfare” have now become an integral part of every U.S. foreign policy initiative.

A Propaganda Bureaucracy

Declassified documents now reveal how extensive Reagan’s propaganda project became with inter-agency task forces assigned to develop “themes” that would push American “hot buttons.” Scores of documents came out during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and hundreds more are now available at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

What the documents reveal is that at the start of the Reagan administration, C.I.A. Director Casey faced a daunting challenge in trying to rally public opinion behind aggressive U.S. interventions, especially in Central America. Bitter memories of the Vietnam War were still fresh and many Americans were horrified at the brutality of right-wing regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador, where Salvadoran soldiers raped and murdered four American churchwomen in December 1980.

The new leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua also was not viewed with much alarm. After all, Nicaragua was an impoverished country of only about three million people who had just cast off the brutal dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza.

So, Reagan’s initial strategy of bolstering the Salvadoran and Guatemalan armies required defusing the negative publicity about them and somehow rallying the American people into supporting a covert C.I.A. intervention inside Nicaragua via a counterrevolutionary force known as the Contras led by Somoza’s ex-National Guard officers.

Reagan’s task was made tougher by the fact that the Cold War’s anti-communist arguments had so recently been discredited in Vietnam. As deputy assistant secretary to the Air Force, J. Michael Kelly, put it, “the most critical special operations mission we have … is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to get us.”

At the same time, the White House worked to weed out American reporters who uncovered facts that undercut the desired public images. As part of that effort, the administration attacked New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing the Salvadoran regime’s massacre of about 800 men, women and children in the village of El Mozote in northeast El Salvador in December 1981. Accuracy in Media and conservative news organizations, such as The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page, joined in pummeling Bonner, who was soon ousted from his job.

El Salvador, El Mozote. 1981. Remains of the massacre. (Unknown/Wikimedia)

But these were largely ad hoc efforts. A more comprehensive “public diplomacy” operation took shape beginning in 1982 when Raymond, a 30-year veteran of C.I.A. clandestine services, was transferred to the NSC.

A slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carré spy novel, Raymond was an intelligence officer who “easily fades into the woodwork,” according to one acquaintance. But Raymond would become the spark plug for this high-powered propaganda network, according to a draft chapter of the Iran-Contra report.

Though the draft chapter didn’t use Raymond’s name in its opening pages, apparently because some of the information came from classified depositions, Raymond’s name was used later in the chapter and the earlier citations matched Raymond’s known role. According to the draft report, the C.I.A. officer who was recruited for the NSC job had served as Director of the Covert Action Staff at the C.I.A. from 1978 to 1982 and was a “specialist in propaganda and disinformation.”

“The C.I.A. official [Raymond] discussed the transfer with [C.I.A. Director] Casey and NSC Advisor William Clark that he be assigned to the NSC as [Donald] Gregg’s successor [as coordinator of intelligence operations in June 1982] and received approval for his involvement in setting up the public diplomacy program along with his intelligence responsibilities,” the chapter said.

“In the early part of 1983, documents obtained by the Select [Iran-Contra] Committees indicate that the Director of the Intelligence Staff of the NSC [Raymond] successfully recommended the establishment of an inter-governmental network to promote and manage a public diplomacy plan designed to create support for Reagan Administration policies at home and abroad.”

During his Iran-Contra deposition, Raymond explained the need for this propaganda structure, saying: “We were not configured effectively to deal with the war of ideas.”

One reason for this shortcoming was that federal law forbade taxpayers’ money from being spent on domestic propaganda or grassroots lobbying to pressure congressional representatives. Of course, every president and his team had vast resources to make their case in public, but by tradition and law, they were restricted to speeches, testimony and one-on-one persuasion of lawmakers.

But things were about to change. In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, NSC Advisor Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. “We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding,” Clark wrote. (Just five days later, President Reagan personally welcomed media magnate Rupert Murdoch into the Oval Office for a private meeting, according to records on file at the Reagan library.)

As administration officials reached out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim not only at foreign audiences but at U.S. public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding the Nicaraguan Contras.

At the time, the Contras were earning a gruesome reputation as human rights violators and terrorists. To change this negative perception of the Contras as well as of the U.S.-backed regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Reagan administration created a full-blown, clandestine propaganda network.

In January 1983, President Reagan took the first formal step to create this unprecedented peacetime propaganda bureaucracy by signing National Security Decision Directive 77, entitled “Management of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security.” Reagan deemed it “necessary to strengthen the organization, planning and coordination of the various aspects of public diplomacy of the United States Government.”

“During his Iran-Contra deposition, Raymond explained the need for this propaganda structure, saying: ‘We were not configured effectively to deal with the war of ideas.’”

Reagan ordered the creation of a special planning group within the National Security Council to direct these “public diplomacy” campaigns. The planning group would be headed by the C.I.A.’s Walter Raymond Jr. and one of its principal arms would be a new Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America, housed at the State Department but under the control of the NSC.

C.I.A. Taint

Worried about the legal prohibition barring the C.I.A. from engaging in domestic propaganda, Raymond formally resigned from the C.I.A. in April 1983, so, he said, “there would be no question whatsoever of any contamination of this.” But Raymond continued to act toward the U.S. public much like a C.I.A. officer would in directing a propaganda operation in a hostile foreign country.

Raymond fretted, too, about the legality of Casey’s ongoing involvement. Raymond confided in one memo that it was important “to get [Casey] out of the loop,” but Casey never backed off and Raymond continued to send progress reports to his old boss well into 1986. It was “the kind of thing which [Casey] had a broad catholic interest in,” Raymond shrugged during his Iran-Contra deposition. He then offered the excuse that Casey undertook this apparently illegal interference in domestic politics “not so much in his C.I.A. hat, but in his adviser to the president hat.”

C.I.A. Director William Casey with Vice President George H.W. Bush at the White House on Feb. 11, 1981. (Reagan Library)

As a result of Reagan’s decision directive, “an elaborate system of inter-agency committees was eventually formed and charged with the task of working closely with private groups and individuals involved in fundraising, lobbying campaigns and propagandistic activities aimed at influencing public opinion and governmental action,” the draft Iran-Contra chapter said. “This effort resulted in the creation of the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Department of State (S/LPD), headed by Otto Reich,” a right-wing Cuban exile from Miami.

Though Secretary of State George Shultz wanted the office under his control, President Reagan insisted that Reich “report directly to the NSC,” where Raymond oversaw the operations as a special assistant to the President and the NSC’s director of international communications, the chapter said.

“Reich relied heavily on Raymond to secure personnel transfers from other government agencies to beef up the limited resources made available to S/LPD by the Department of State,” the chapter said. “Personnel made available to the new office included intelligence specialists from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. On one occasion, five intelligence experts from the Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were assigned to work with Reich’s fast-growing operation.”

“Raymond continued to act toward the U.S. public much like a C.I.A. officer would in directing a propaganda operation in a hostile foreign country.”

A “public diplomacy strategy paper,” dated May 5, 1983, summed up the administration’s problem. “As far as our Central American policy is concerned, the press perceives that: the USG [U.S. government] is placing too much emphasis on a military solution, as well as being allied with inept, right-wing governments and groups. …The focus on Nicaragua [is] on the alleged U.S.-backed ‘covert’ war against the Sandinistas. Moreover, the opposition … is widely perceived as being led by former Somozistas.”

The administration’s difficulty with most of these press perceptions was that they were correct. But the strategy paper recommended ways to influence various groups of Americans to “correct” the impressions anyway, removing what another planning document called “perceptional obstacles.”

“Themes will obviously have to be tailored to the target audience,” the strategy paper said.

Casey’s Hand

As the Reagan administration struggled to manage public perceptions, C.I.A. Director Casey kept his personal hand in the effort. On one muggy day in August 1983, Casey convened a meeting of Reagan administration officials and five leading ad executives at the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House to come up with ideas for selling Reagan’s Central American policies to the American people.

Earlier that day, a national security aide had warmed the P.R. men to their task with dire predictions that leftist governments would send waves of refugees into the United States and cynically flood America with drugs. The P.R. executives jotted down some thoughts over lunch and then pitched their ideas to the C.I.A. director in the afternoon as he sat hunched behind a desk taking notes.

“Casey was kind of spearheading a recommendation” for better public relations for Reagan’s Central America policies, recalled William I. Greener Jr., one of the ad men. Two top proposals arising from the meeting were for a high-powered communications operation inside the White House and private money for an outreach program to build support for U.S. intervention.

The results from the discussions were summed up in an Aug. 9, 1983, memo written by Raymond who described Casey’s participation in the meeting to brainstorm how “to sell a ‘new product’ Central America by generating interest across-the-spectrum.”

In the memo to then-U.S. Information Agency Director Charles Wick, Raymond also noted that “via Murdock [sic] may be able to draw down added funds” to support pro-Reagan initiatives. Raymond’s reference to Rupert Murdoch possibly drawing down “added funds” suggests that the right-wing media mogul had been recruited to be part of the covert propaganda operation. During this period, Wick arranged at least two face-to-face meetings between Murdoch and Reagan.

1/18/1983 President Reagan during a meeting with Rupert Murdoch with Charles Wick in the Oval Office. (White House Photographic Collection/Wikimedia Commons)

In line with the clandestine nature of the operation, Raymond also suggested routing the “funding via Freedom House or some other structure that has credibility in the political center.” (Freedom House would later emerge as a principal beneficiary of funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, which was also created under the umbrella of Raymond’s operation.)

As the Reagan administration pushed the envelope on domestic propaganda, Raymond continued to worry about Casey’s involvement. In an Aug. 29, 1983, memo, Raymond recounted a call from Casey pushing his P.R. ideas. Alarmed at a C.I.A. director participating so brazenly in domestic propaganda, Raymond wrote that “I philosophized a bit with Bill Casey (in an effort to get him out of the loop)” but with little success.

Meanwhile, Reich’s Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America (S/LPD) proved extremely effective in selecting “hot buttons” that would anger Americans about the Sandinistas. He also browbeat news correspondents who produced stories that conflicted with the administration’s “themes.” Reich’s basic M.O. was to dispatch his propaganda teams to lobby news executives to remove or punish out-of-step reporters with a disturbing degree of success. Reich once bragged that his office “did not give the critics of the policy any quarter in the debate.”

Support CN’s  
Winter Fund Drive!

Another part of the office’s job was to plant “white propaganda” in the news media through op-eds secretly financed by the government. In one memo, Jonathan Miller, a senior public diplomacy official, informed White House aide Patrick Buchanan about success placing an anti-Sandinista piece in The Wall Street Journal’s friendly pages. “Officially, this office had no role in its preparation,” Miller wrote.

Other times, the administration put out “black propaganda,” outright falsehoods. In 1983, one such theme was designed to anger American Jews by portraying the Sandinistas as anti-Semitic because much of Nicaragua’s small Jewish community fled after the revolution in 1979.

However, the U.S. embassy in Managua investigated the charges and “found no verifiable ground on which to accuse the GRN [the Sandinista government] of anti-Semitism,” according to a July 28, 1983, cable. But the administration kept the cable secret and pushed the “hot button” anyway.

Black Hats/White Hats

Repeatedly, Raymond lectured his subordinates on the chief goal of the operation: “in the specific case of Nica[ragua], concentrate on gluing black hats on the Sandinistas and white hats on UNO [the Contras’ United Nicaraguan Opposition].” So Reagan’s speechwriters dutifully penned descriptions of Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua as a “totalitarian dungeon” and the Contras as the “moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers.”

As one NSC official told me, the campaign was modeled after C.I.A. covert operations abroad where a political goal is more important than the truth. “They were trying to manipulate [U.S.] public opinion … using the tools of Walt Raymond’s trade craft which he learned from his career in the C.I.A. covert operation shop,” the official admitted.

Another administration official gave a similar description to The Miami Herald’s Alfonso Chardy. “If you look at it as a whole, the Office of Public Diplomacy was carrying out a huge psychological operation, the kind the military conduct to influence the population in denied or enemy territory,” that official explained. [For more details, see Parry’s Lost History.]

Another important figure in the pro-Contra propaganda was NSC staffer Oliver North, who spent a great deal of his time on the Nicaraguan public diplomacy operation even though he is better known for arranging secret arms shipments to the Contras and to Iran’s radical Islamic government, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal.

The draft Iran-Contra chapter depicted a Byzantine network of contract and private operatives who handled details of the domestic propaganda while concealing the hand of the White House and the C.I.A.. “Richard R. Miller, former head of public affairs at AID, and Francis D. Gomez, former public affairs specialist at the State Department and USIA, were hired by S/LPD through sole-source, no-bid contracts to carry out a variety of activities on behalf of the Reagan administration policies in Central America,” the chapter said.

Walter Raymond Jr., a CIA propaganda and disinformation specialist who oversaw President Reagan’s “perception management” projects at the National Security Council. Raymond is partially obscured by President Reagan. Raymond is seated next to National Security Adviser John Poindexter. (Reagan presidential library)

“Supported by the State Department and White House, Miller and Gomez became the outside managers of [North operative] Spitz Channel’s fundraising and lobbying activities. They also served as the managers of Central American political figures, defectors, Nicaraguan opposition leaders and Sandinista atrocity victims who were made available to the press, the Congress and private groups, to tell the story of the Contra cause.”

Miller and Gomez facilitated transfers of money to Swiss and offshore banks at North’s direction, as they “became the key link between the State Department and the Reagan White House with the private groups and individuals engaged in a myriad of endeavors aimed at influencing the Congress, the media and public opinion,” the chapter said.

The Iran-Contra draft chapter also cited a March 10, 1985, memo from North describing his assistance to C.I.A. Director Casey in timing disclosures of pro-Contra news “aimed at securing Congressional approval for renewed support to the Nicaraguan Resistance Forces.”

The chapter added: “Casey’s involvement in the public diplomacy effort apparently continued throughout the period under investigation by the Committees,” including a 1985 role in pressuring Congress to renew Contra aid and a 1986 hand in further shielding the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America from the oversight of Secretary Shultz.

“As one NSC official told me, the campaign was modeled after C.I.A. covert operations abroad where a political goal is more important than the truth. ‘They were trying to manipulate [U.S.] public opinion … using the tools of Walt Raymond’s trade craft which he learned from his career in the C.I.A. covert operation shop,’ the official admitted.”

A Raymond-authored memo to Casey in August 1986 described the shift of the S/LPD office where Robert Kagan had replaced Reich to the control of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, which was headed by Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, who had tapped Kagan for the public diplomacy job.

Even after the Iran-Contra scandal unraveled in 1986-87 and Casey died of brain cancer on May 6, 1987, the Republicans fought to keep secret the remarkable story of the public diplomacy apparatus. As part of a deal to get three moderate Republican senators to join Democrats in signing the Iran-Contra majority report, Democratic leaders agreed to drop the draft chapter detailing the C.I.A.’s domestic propaganda role (although a few references were included in the executive summary). But other Republicans, including Rep. Dick Cheney, still issued a minority report defending broad presidential powers in foreign affairs.

Thus, the American people were spared the chapter’s troubling conclusion: that a secret propaganda apparatus had existed, run by “one of the C.I.A.’s most senior specialists, sent to the NSC by Bill Casey, to create and coordinate an inter-agency public-diplomacy mechanism [which] did what a covert C.I.A. operation in a foreign country might do. [It] attempted to manipulate the media, the Congress and public opinion to support the Reagan administration’s policies.”

Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome

The ultimate success of Reagan’s propaganda strategy was affirmed during the tenure of his successor, George H.W. Bush, when Bush ordered a 100-hour ground war on Feb. 23, 1991, to oust Iraqi troops from Kuwait, which had been invaded the previous August.

Though Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had long been signaling a readiness to withdraw and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had negotiated a withdrawal arrangement that even had the blessings of top U.S. commanders in the field President Bush insisted on pressing ahead with the ground attack.

Bush’s chief reason was that he and his Defense Secretary Dick Cheney saw the assault against Iraq’s already decimated forces as an easy victory, one that would demonstrate America’s new military capacity for high-tech warfare and would cap the process begun a decade earlier to erase the Vietnam Syndrome from the minds of average Americans.

” … an inter-agency public-diplomacy mechanism did what a covert C.I.A. operation in a foreign country might do. [It] attempted to manipulate the media, the Congress and public opinion …”

Those strategic aspects of Bush’s grand plan for a “new world order” began to emerge after the U.S.-led coalition started pummeling Iraq with air strikes in mid-January 1991. The bombings inflicted severe damage on Iraq’s military and civilian infrastructure and slaughtered a large number of non-combatants, including the incineration of some 400 women and children in a Baghdad bomb shelter on Feb. 13. [For details, see’s “Recalling the Slaughter of Innocents.”]

The air war’s damage was so severe that some world leaders looked for a way to end the carnage and arrange Iraq’s departure from Kuwait. Even senior U.S. military field commanders, such as Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, looked favorably on proposals for sparing lives.

But Bush was fixated on a ground war. Though secret from the American people at that time, Bush had long determined that a peaceful Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait would not be allowed. Indeed, Bush was privately fearful that the Iraqis might capitulate before the United States could attack.

At the time, conservative columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak were among the few outsiders who described Bush’s obsession with exorcising the Vietnam Syndrome. On Feb. 25, 1991, they wrote that the Gorbachev initiative brokering Iraq’s surrender of Kuwait “stirred fears” among Bush’s advisers that the Vietnam Syndrome might survive the Gulf War.

“There was considerable relief, therefore, when the President … made clear he was having nothing to do with the deal that would enable Saddam Hussein to bring his troops out of Kuwait with flags flying,” Evans and Novak wrote. “Fear of a peace deal at the Bush White House had less to do with oil, Israel or Iraqi expansionism than with the bitter legacy of a lost war. ‘This is the chance to get rid of the Vietnam Syndrome,’ one senior aide told us.”

In the 1999 book, Shadow, author Bob Woodward confirmed that Bush was adamant about fighting a war, even as the White House pretended it would be satisfied with an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal. “We have to have a war,” Bush told his inner circle of Secretary of State James Baker, national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and Gen. Colin Powell, according to Woodward.

“Scowcroft was aware that this understanding could never be stated publicly or be permitted to leak out. An American president who declared the necessity of war would probably be thrown out of office. Americans were peacemakers, not warmongers,” Woodward wrote.

The Ground War

April 18,1991: Demolished vehicles line Highway 80, also known as the “Highway of Death”, the route fleeing Iraqi forces took as they retreated fom Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. (Joe Coleman, Air Force Magazine, Wikimedia Commons)

However, the “fear of a peace deal” resurfaced in the wake of the U.S.-led bombing campaign. Soviet diplomats met with Iraqi leaders who let it be known that they were prepared to withdraw their troops from Kuwait unconditionally.

Learning of Gorbachev’s proposed settlement, Schwarzkopf also saw little reason for U.S. soldiers to die if the Iraqis were prepared to withdraw and leave their heavy weapons behind. There was also the prospect of chemical warfare that the Iraqis might use against advancing American troops. Schwarzkopf saw the possibility of heavy U.S. casualties.

But Gorbachev’s plan was running into trouble with President Bush and his political subordinates who wanted a ground war to crown the U.S. victory. Schwarzkopf reached out to Gen. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to make the case for peace with the President.

On Feb. 21, 1991, the two generals hammered out a cease-fire proposal for presentation to the NSC. The peace deal would give Iraqi forces one week to march out of Kuwait while leaving their armor and heavy equipment behind. Schwarzkopf thought he had Powell’s commitment to pitch the plan at the White House.

But Powell found himself caught in the middle. He wanted to please Bush while still representing the concerns of the field commanders. When Powell arrived at the White House late on the evening of Feb. 21, he found Bush angry about the Soviet peace initiative. Still, according to Woodward’s Shadow, Powell reiterated that he and Schwarzkopf “would rather see the Iraqis walk out than be driven out.”

In My American Journey, Powell expressed sympathy for Bush’s predicament. “The President’s problem was how to say no to Gorbachev without appearing to throw away a chance for peace,” Powell wrote. “I could hear the President’s growing distress in his voice. ‘I don’t want to take this deal,’ he said. ‘But I don’t want to stiff Gorbachev, not after he’s come this far with us. We’ve got to find a way out’.”

Powell sought Bush’s attention. “I raised a finger,” Powell wrote. “The President turned to me. ‘Got something, Colin?’,” Bush asked. But Powell did not outline Schwarzkopf’s one-week cease-fire plan. Instead, Powell offered a different idea intended to make the ground offensive inevitable.

“We don’t stiff Gorbachev,” Powell explained. “Let’s put a deadline on Gorby’s proposal. We say, great idea, as long as they’re completely on their way out by, say, noon Saturday,” Feb. 23, less than two days away.

Powell understood that the two-day deadline would not give the Iraqis enough time to act, especially with their command-and-control systems severely damaged by the air war. The plan was a public-relations strategy to guarantee that the White House got its ground war. “If, as I suspect, they don’t move, then the flogging begins,” Powell told a gratified president.

The next day, at 10:30 a.m., a Friday, Bush announced his ultimatum. There would be a Saturday noon deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal, as Powell had recommended. Schwarzkopf and his field commanders in Saudi Arabia watched Bush on television and immediately grasped its meaning.

“We all knew by then which it would be,” Schwarzkopf wrote. “We were marching toward a Sunday morning attack.”

When the Iraqis predictably missed the deadline, American and allied forces launched the ground offensive at 0400 on Feb. 24, Persian Gulf time.

Though Iraqi forces were soon in full retreat, the allies pursued and slaughtered tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in the 100-hour war. U.S. casualties were light, 147 killed in combat and another 236 killed in accidents or from other causes. “Small losses as military statistics go,” wrote Powell, “but a tragedy for each family.”

On Feb. 28, the day the war ended, Bush celebrated the victory. “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all,” the President exulted, speaking to a group at the White House. [For more details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

So as not to put a damper on the post-war happy feelings, the U.S. news media decided not to show many of the grisliest photos, such as charred Iraqi soldiers ghoulishly still seated in their burned-out trucks where they had been incinerated while trying to flee. By that point, U.S. journalists knew it wasn’t smart for their careers to present a reality that didn’t make the war look good.

Enduring Legacy

Though Reagan’s creation of a domestic propaganda bureaucracy began more than three decades ago and Bush’s vanquishing of the Vietnam Syndrome was more than two decades ago the legacy of those actions continue to reverberate today in how the perceptions of the American people are now routinely managed. That was true during last decade’s Iraq War and this decade’s conflicts in Libya, Syria and Ukraine as well as the economic sanctions against Iran and Russia.

Indeed, while the older generation that pioneered these domestic propaganda techniques has passed from the scene, many of their proteges are still around along with some of the same organizations. The National Endowment for Democracy, which was formed in 1983 at the urging of C.I.A. Director Casey and under the supervision of Raymond’s NSC operation, is still run by the same neocon, Carl Gershman, and has an even bigger budget, now exceeding $100 million a year.

Gershman and his NED played important behind-the-scenes roles in instigating the Ukraine crisis by financing activists, journalists and other operatives who supported the coup against elected President Yanukovych. The NED-backed Freedom House also beat the propaganda drums. [See’s “A Shadow Foreign Policy.”]

Two other Reagan-era veterans, Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan, have both provided important intellectual support for continuing U.S. interventionism around the world. Earlier this year, Kagan’s article for The New Republic, entitled “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire,” touched such a raw nerve with President Obama that he hosted Kagan at a White House lunch and crafted the presidential commencement speech at West Point to deflect some of Kagan’s criticism of Obama’s hesitancy to use military force.

A New York Times article about Kagan’s influence over Obama reported that Kagan’s wife, Nuland, apparently had a hand in crafting the attack on her ostensible boss, President Obama.

According to the Times article, the husband-and-wife team share both a common world view and professional ambitions, Nuland editing Kagan’s articles and Kagan “not permitted to use any official information he overhears or picks up around the house” a suggestion that Kagan’s thinking at least may be informed by foreign policy secrets passed on by his wife.

Though Nuland wouldn’t comment specifically on Kagan’s attack on President Obama, she indicated that she holds similar views. “But suffice to say,” Nuland said, “that nothing goes out of the house that I don’t think is worthy of his talents. Let’s put it that way.”

Misguided Media

Entrance to The New York Times. (Niall Kennedy, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

In the three decades since Reagan’s propaganda machine was launched, the American press corps also has fallen more and more into line with an aggressive U.S. government’s foreign policy strategies. Those of us in the mainstream media who resisted the propaganda pressures mostly saw our careers suffer while those who played along moved steadily up the ranks into positions of more money and more status.

Even after the Iraq War debacle when nearly the entire mainstream media went with the pro-invasion flow, there was almost no accountability for that historic journalistic failure. Indeed, the neocon influence at major newspapers, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, only has solidified since.

Today’s coverage of the Syrian civil war or the Ukraine crisis is so firmly in line with the State Department’s propaganda “themes” that it would put smiles on the faces of William Casey and Walter Raymond if they were around today to see how seamlessly the “perception management” now works. There’s no need any more to send out “public diplomacy” teams to bully editors and news executives. Everyone is already onboard.

Murdoch’s media empire is bigger than ever, but his neocon messaging barely stands out as distinctive, given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of The Washington Post, The New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet. For instance, the demonizing of Russian President Putin is now so total that no honest person could look at those articles and see anything approaching objective or evenhanded journalism. Yet, no one loses a job over this lack of professionalism.

The Reagan administration’s dreams of harnessing private foundations and non-governmental organizations have also come true. The Orwellian circle has been completed with many American “anti-war” groups advocating for “humanitarian” wars in Syria and other countries targeted by U.S. propaganda. [See’s “Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars.”]

Much as Reagan’s “public diplomacy” apparatus once sent around “defectors” to lambaste Nicaragua’s Sandinistas by citing hyped-up human rights violations now the work is done by NGOs with barely perceptible threads back to the U.S. government. Just as Freedom House had “credibility” in the 1980s because of its earlier reputation as a human rights group, now other groups carrying the “human rights” tag, such as Human Rights Watch, are in the forefront of urging U.S. military interventions based on murky or propagandistic claims. [See’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]

At this advanced stage of America’s quiet surrender to “perception management,” it is even hard to envision how one could retrace the many steps that would lead back to the concept of a democratic Republic based on an informed electorate. Many on the American Right remain entranced by the old propaganda theme about the “liberal media” and still embrace Reagan as their beloved icon. Meanwhile, many liberals can’t break away from their own wistful trust in The New York Times and their empty hope that the media really is “liberal.”

To confront the hard truth is not easy. Indeed, in this case, it can cause despair because there are so few voices to trust and they are easily drowned out by floods of disinformation that can come from any angle right, left or center. Yet, for the American democratic Republic to reset its goal toward an informed electorate, there is no option other than to build institutions that are determinedly committed to the truth.

The late investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. He founded Consortium News in 1995.

Support CN’s  
Winter Fund Drive!

Donate securely by credit card or check by clicking the red button:

35 comments for “The Victory of ‘Perception Management’

  1. Thom Painless the Dentist
    February 5, 2023 at 11:29

    Not only are they ‘overbilling’, but our lovely Congress of millionaires always ADDS to the Pentagon requests by $Billions and $Billions. This money is of course then recycled into ‘campaign donations’.

  2. Thom Painless the Dentist
    February 5, 2023 at 11:27

    Perception Management:

    The American people and Joe Biden support Freedom and Democracy, while also fully supporting the un-elected President of Peru who is using troops and police to beat and kill pro-democracy demonstrators who are supporting the President that they elected to office.

    George Orwell had the term for it … Doublethink.
    Except, in modern America, one needs the capacity for at least Quadruplethink in order to keep up with the rising tide of BS.

    Elites always hate democracy. Because, if there were truly a democracy on this earth, there would be no elites. That’s the whole idea of democracy. So, elites like police and prisons and spies and military, all because they can use these tools to crush those evil notions of democracy.

    From their point of view, its merely self-defense. For the rest of us, when we support the police, prisons et al, its called “The Stockholm Syndrome”

  3. February 5, 2023 at 08:31

    Robert Parry’s work will stand the test of time, he was always spot on, long before others even noticed anything amiss. Thanks for posting this Joe.

  4. kiers
    February 4, 2023 at 22:11

    The Pentagon has been overbilling congress for years. Routinely. There is no accounting for where the excess money resides. As such, the Pentagon is THE BIGGEST endowment / hidden savings pool in the country. It dwarfs Harvard, dwarfs Calpers, dwarfs anything in the plebian pedestrian sunlit world. It’s in the trillions. hxxps://

    This endowment resides off the books with wall street. It colors the financial climate, it shows up in companies with a military connection having unquestionably high stock values that never correct to normal. The vigorish from this money is a privilege taken home by wall street, the Pentagon elite, think tanks, hollywood even. It colors life and culture in Murica on daily basis.

  5. CaseyG
    February 4, 2023 at 20:54

    sigh—–news, views , with spies and lies. Oh what a sad nation when lying to the people becomes so important.
    It’s like that ancient poem:

    “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

    Oh America, I can’t see through all of your spider webs and darkened corners, and I often can’t believe you about anything.

  6. LeoSun
    February 4, 2023 at 16:30

    Basically, “THE BEST!!! ‘Perception Management’ is all about “the situation” that’s been going on for f/ever, “matching the means to ends.” THERE can be NO illusions as to the degree of lying, provocation and control the Biden “PATRIOT ACT” Harris Duo & their Board of Executioners, as all those POTUS’ & Boards before ‘em, prepared to carry out “whatever it takes,” in pursuit of their geostrategic aims aka their war on terra.

    Their Numero Uno, task, CONTROL OVER COMMUNICATIONS aka The Narrative, back then, “Kick the Vietnam Syndrome; AND, Get the American people on board “the More wars NOT peace train.” The strain of war propaganda. It’s CONTROLLED American “MADness” (Mutually Agreed Destruction)!

    “IF, an empty train in a railroad station calls you to its destination. Can you choose another track?” (Questions for the Angels, Paul Simon)

    Best practice, heed Caitlin Johnstone’s advice, “You’ve got a brain between your ears and an entire internet of information at your fingertips.” Caitlin Johnstone: “Unprovoked!” January 8, 2023 hxxps://

    “It’s not okay to be a grown adult and still say the invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked. You’ve got a brain between your ears and an entire internet of information at your fingertips.”

    For example, search, “ROBERT PARRY FRONTLINE.” The findings are f/awhmazing!!! Like a transcript, video is “golden.” IMO, CN’s ‘Perception Management’ unearthed by Robert Parry, in living color, “Live, from Harvard,” links attached. Imo, a cherish forever ‘play lists’ play list. In joy!

    In 2015, The Nieman Foundation @ Harvard honored w/great reverence, Robert Parry, the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalism Recipient!!! Captured, forever, ROBERT “BOB” PARRY’s speech & presence, hxxps://

    I. F. Stone’s Numero Uno, “Maintain independence at all costs.” Robert Parry, R.I.P., gone way, way, way too soon, “Lived It!!!” Leaving no stone unturned, unpacked the foibles & fkups of the muckity-mucks’ mind-control project over US, “We, the People.” THEY LIVE! Robert Parry speaks extensively about “dealing w/few people you can trust.” Concluding, “A body of men & women holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

    Followed by a Q & A, hxxps://

    “The BEST talk, I’ve ever attended, in my life!” (A spot flip’n on attendee w/a question).

    W/o a doubt, Robert Parry, in life & his legacy, Consortium News, rocks Thomas Paine, “Independence is my happiness, the world is my country and my religion is to do good.” R.I.P., Robert “Bob” Parry. TY, CN, et al., “KEEP IT LIT!”

  7. Realist
    February 4, 2023 at 16:13

    Scientists and engineers were not the only “talents” that Washington avidly recruited from the Nazis after WWII. Sometimes I think that Goebbels is secretly still alive and functioning out of the White House basement. Moreover, that basement must have a direct underground link to Pandemonium itself without even the encumbrance of fire doors.

    Clearly, the Dems absorbed every lesson in manipulating the clueless American public taught by the Reagan-Bush reign of terror and then doubled down on them all as soon as Clinton came to power, while he personally treated Bushdaddy like the father he never had. Serbs were as expendable in needless wars in Bosnia and Kosovo to Slick Willie as Iraqis or Central Americans were to his GOP predecessors and like Ukrainians are presently to Lord Biden–or whomever it is that pushes his buttons and attempts to mouth some effective words. Millions of these hapless foreigners have been used for no more than props to enhance the political aims and successes of the current politicians in power. Study the realities a bit closer, my fellow Americans. If these fiends are on the side of the angels, it is the fallen angels, not whom you think.

  8. MI6
    February 4, 2023 at 07:52

    If you’re into espionage try an unusually thrilling autobiography entitled Beyond Enkription (misspelt on purpose) by Bill Fairclough (ex MI6 agent codename JJ). He was one of Colonel Alan Pemberton’s People in MI6. It’s a must read for espionage cognoscenti. The fact based narrative is set in 1974 about a British accountant working in London, Nassau and Port au Prince who unwittingly works for MI6 and later is hired by the CIA.

    It’s a compelling read but whatever you do, don’t just surf through the prologue as I did. Also, if like me you could only just stomach the film Jaws don’t be put off by the passing savagery of the first chapter. I finished this huge book in two sittings and a week or so later read it again.

    To get the most out of it try researching the real events behind it on the web and in particular look at the brief News Article dated 31 October 2022 about Pemberton’s People in TheBurlingtonFiles website. There is a lot out there once you start digging but as a minimum include a half hour read of one of the author’s bios which don’t include spoilers. You’ll soon feel like you know his family. After my first reading I did even more research and kept on unravelling increasingly enthralling material that drove me to reread the book. My second reading was richly rewarded and just as captivating as my first.

    If you like raw or noir espionage thrillers, you’ll love it. Len Deighton and Mick Herron could be forgiven for thinking they co-wrote it. Atmospherically it’s reminiscent of Ted Lewis’ Get Carter of Michael Caine fame. If anyone ever makes a film based on Beyond Enkription they’ll only have themselves to blame if it doesn’t go down in history as a classic espionage thriller.

    Whether you’re a le Carré connoisseur, a Deighton disciple, a Fleming fanatic, a Herron hireling or a Macintyre marauder, odds on once you are immersed in it you’ll read this titanic production twice. Before reading Beyond Enkription, do read about Pemberton’s People in an article dated 31 October 2022 on The Burlington Files website. For more detailed reviews visit the Reviews page on TheBurlingtonFiles website or see other independent reviews on your local Amazon website and check out Bill Fairclough’s background on the web.

  9. onwards
    February 3, 2023 at 22:03

    An epic Robert Parry piece. Operation Mockingbird has to be reversed. We can see the absurd Ukraine war propaganda with two opposing sides stacked to the hilt with nuclear weapons, to satisfy a few privately wealthy people and groups to make more money and foster some pathological egos.
    Psychologist Alice Millar wrote her analysis of the obsessed WW2 Nazis; there is always clusters of thoughts, obsessions, hates, addictions of power and wealth unexamined by the world players: These personal projections are continually gathered and acted out on a national level. Alice Millar advocated govt programs providing information to populations about different child rearing practices and their out comes.
    Such solutions can seem trite but the important and vital causes always seem so. Millar was Polish and I am sure she knew of the Polish (truism) ‘that a stranger spending the afternoon at a person’s home, is going to know more about that person than they will ever know about themselves in a lifetime. Maybe things have changed to a degree but not much, going by the dangerous lies of reporting of the UKR war.

    • michael888
      February 4, 2023 at 09:44

      Domestic Propaganda has become much worse since the “modernization” (abolition) of the Smith Mundt anti-domestic propaganda Act. Cosponsored by Mac Thornberry, Adam Smith and Dana Rohrabacher, the new and improved law made domestic propaganda LEGAL, putting mainstream media control under the State Department (read CIA), and essentially turning MSM into State Media, as with most totalitarian states (signed into law by Obama on January 2, 2013 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.)
      What William “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false” Casey did (and many others) was illegal, probably even with the federally funded cut-outs like NED). Today domestic propaganda is legal and thus unconstrained.

  10. robert e williamson jr
    February 3, 2023 at 19:02

    Great info alright. On page 193 of Mr. Parry’s writings American Dispatches the section CIA’s Perception Management Dec 9, 1996.

    If anyone has read it, they should little doubt that Hillary had plenty of help from intelligence types introducing and launching her accusations of Russian interference in in the 2016 election. It seems some here have lost sight of the fact that Hillary . . .


    . . . involved herself early on in the Ukraine narrative !

    This is important because intelligence involvement in presidential elections should be a very big NO NO NO,.

    The much deeper message Mr. Parry sends with his writings in the book American Dispatches is that this type of interference had already happened in 1980. Illegal as it was the efforts to canonize Ron Reagan and GHE Bush before their deaths met with success.

    Both of these men should be buried under Fort Leavenworth Penitentiary!

    Whether the Hilary accusations of Russian interference in 2016 were help directly from the official intelligence community or others who had retired, SEE Clint Watts former FBI who were tasked by others unknown at this point in time makes little or no difference. These Acts are in no way in the best interests of this country. SEE the war in Ukraine.

    Thanks CN

    • Kiers
      February 4, 2023 at 22:16

      heck, the DNC can’t even commit to running its primary elections without shenanigans and DCCC money corruption. At least the Gop MANAGED to get a non-interference commitment from their speaker (the Speaker is the party chief, where all the party money spend is adjudicated). Biden dint even WIN his primary 2019, they stopped it and cut side deals with all the front runners to step down and anoint Joe Brandon. What’ s the point of the whole show? The CIA is just another layer of non democracy. The DNC itself is corrupt. (I’m a DNC voter btw; this is not a GOP endorsement).

  11. CW
    February 3, 2023 at 18:37

    Thanks to CN for reposting Robert Parry’s important story, and for Wednesday’s podcast. As a footnote to the creation of perception management I want to bring attention to the The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act, signed by President Obama (who admittedly admired Reagan) as part of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Here’s an article published at the time. The TL:DR is it stripped away the regulation making it illegal for the government to disseminate propaganda aimed at the US audience. So, the spin and lies we are fed–perfectly legal.


  12. Lois Gagnon
    February 3, 2023 at 14:03

    Thanks Joe for republishing this incredibly important article. I believe Robert Parry to be one of the most important journalists in US history. And sadly, most people are not familiar with his work. The collapse of the establishment press has led to the collapse of any semblance of democracy. You can’t have a free society without a free press. Thank you for keeping this jewel called Consortium News flourishing. It is a light in the darkness.

  13. SH
    February 3, 2023 at 13:50

    Since the CPI, Committee on Public Information – almost 100 years ago – the pattern hasn’t changed, only the names of the agencies and the technologies used –

    Once we understand that “All Governments Lie”, then our job, as citizens, is to pay attention, question everything, and require answers – if those answers are not forthcoming from the Gov’t or our media sources on whatever venue – treat them all with skepticism and refuse to jump on board until they are answered to our satisfaction or simply accept being “marginalized” by friend and foe alike …

    “Though Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had long been signaling a readiness to withdraw and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had negotiated a withdrawal arrangement that even had the blessings of top U.S. commanders in the field President Bush insisted on pressing ahead with the ground attack.”
    “But Bush was fixated on a ground war. Though secret from the American people at that time, Bush had long determined that a peaceful Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait would not be allowed. Indeed, Bush was privately fearful that the Iraqis might capitulate before the United States could attack.”

    Does all this sound familiar?
    In WWII Truman had “insisted on pressing ahead” even though Japan was quite willing to surrender – with a – nuclear attack
    In Ukraine, tentative agreements, starting with Minsk, were being negotiated, but Biden, had “long determined” that such agreements “would not be allowed” because he was “privately fearful” that Ukraine might “capitulate” before the US could arm it to the teeth, fill its head with delusions of grandeur and use it as a proxy war against Russia

    In other words – in the words of our fearless leader, “nothing will fundamentally change”, because nothing has nor will – until we fundamentally change our choice of leaders to those who will use “propaganda” – i.e. tools of persuasion, toward peace …

  14. IJ Scambling
    February 3, 2023 at 12:27

    It is difficult to imagine dreamers of the late 18th century imagining a new democratic system with a constitution while at the same time pondering the need for “perception management.” Tom probably would not say to John, Well, you know, there could come a time for globalism to suit our industrial needs (let alone our personal bank accounts), thus wars of aggression, with innocent lives lost, including our own troops, but well worth it, don’t you think? And John responding: Yes, perception management is inevitable.

    Why is it difficult to imagine this? Because we assume these individuals and some of their successors in the centuries following were sane, honorable, decent. Decency was at the core of the idealism.

    What this tells me is that our geniuses today cannot afford to stop with perception management. They must keep moving on toward decency management also, because whether pathetically dumbed down and apolitical as the American Public is at this time, the value of decency is still very much alive and governing ordinary human relations. To be otherwise–sneaking, dishonest, lying, bullying, duplicitous, thieving, murdering–does not work well in trying to build civil relations in a society, and there are actually enforcement programs to try to limit these activities among humans.

    The same qualities in politicians are more acceptable apparently, and journalists pursuing exposure of them have become the few amongst, more generally, media stenographers and attention-seekers. But the public–mostly grounded in decency versus criminal behavior–does at some point catch up, as was lamented over the Vietnam War described by Robert Parry above, as with over the phony WMD issue in 2003, as with Russia-gate, as it will, with skepticism growing, over Ukraine, and as shown by a poll last October that public trust in MSM has sunk and is continuing to sink:


    The set of psychopaths described by Parry have a place historically over the centuries as the worst of the worst, in company with Nero, Richard III, Hitler and such types. Decent historians such as Parry and the group of stalwarts on yesterday’s CN forum are the exception, and they will prevail. The Public is already arousing and awakening, while hysteria grows among the criminal manipulators.

  15. firstpersoninfinite
    February 3, 2023 at 12:25

    Robert Parry was the real deal. He would be proud that his work is being carried forward in the same spirit with which he fought for standards of truth that need not be doubted as truth. What I find haunting now is that newspaper after newspaper carried editorials in 1984 discussing Orwell’s novel of the same title. They all agreed that while Orwell’s dystopia was something to fear, there was no chance of it happening here. There were too many controls in place for us to ever face such totalitarian propaganda. Little did I know that the architects were laying the cornerstones for it even as I read their disavowals of its reality.

  16. Jeff Harrison
    February 3, 2023 at 12:04

    1. The world lost a great man when Robert Parry died.
    2. Somebody added ’em all up and concluded that the US had perpetrated 81 overt or covert election interferences around the world and 64 overt or covert regime change operations around the world.
    3. Ever since the 2016 election fiasco, I’ve been saying that the chickens have come home to roost. It is intuitively obvious to the most causal observer that what we were doing and honing to perfection in those aforementioned interferences had been brought home to the US.
    4. Patrick Lawrence on his website, The Scrum, has published a couple of chapters from Aaron Good’s book American Exception: Empire and the Deep State. I bought the book and all I can say is Holy Shit.

  17. February 3, 2023 at 12:03

    Add to the creation of a domestic propaganda program the elimination of the draft, both being Reagan accomplishments, and you have the perfect recipe for a complacent America that enables the neocons to conduct their forever war.

    Feed them bullshit and don’t force them to participate.

  18. Aub
    February 3, 2023 at 11:40

    Raymond was also connected to organized crime as outlined in Whitney Webb’s marvelous two volumes on America and Epstein and Black mail.

    Schultz worked for Bechtel, was on their board. This is why controversy surfaced between Casey and the Hardy Boys (Shackley connected) and Bush and Reagan.

    “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”

    — William Casey, CIA director, February 1981

    It is still working and has since Walter Lippmann and Bernays

    • BP
      February 4, 2023 at 07:40

      “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”

      — William Casey, CIA director, February 1981

      ???? Can you document that he or anyone else of power and authority actually said that? That’s been true now for years.

        February 4, 2023 at 18:14

        It comes from direct eyewitness testimony of Barbara Honegger, an aide to Reagan, who was present at a White House meeting in 1981 at which Casey said that.


  19. D.H. Fabian
    February 3, 2023 at 10:49

    Outstanding background information. Like many people, I think, I learned to filter out routine propaganda about Russia and Chinas years ago. What launched Russiagate (in the public view) was when, in early 2017, Democrats tried to overturn the 2016 election by claiming “Russian election interference.” I later read some interesting tidbits concerning the Clintons’ conflicts with Russia over their (the Clintons) personal business interests in Ukraine. I often wondered if there was some connection between this and the creation of Russiagate.

  20. mgr
    February 3, 2023 at 08:05

    Chilling and enraging. This report by the late Robert Parry details the underlying perception management infrastructure, and the reason there is no actual democracy in America today. It’s deliberate.

    I imagine that even adding in the ongoing Ukraine psych-ops, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Not to mention business using the same devices for their own manipulative purposes. No wonder Americans never have a clear thought on anything. They never even get the opportunity. Or, as Will Rogers summed it up, “The problem ain’t what people know. It’s what people know that ain’t so that’s the problem.” Especially when they are being continually fed “US government inspected: what ain’t so.”

    • D.H. Fabian
      February 3, 2023 at 10:52

      J. Edgar Hoover would have thrived in today’s political environment.

    • Theresa Barzee
      February 3, 2023 at 11:48

      Stunning and imperative work, Joe Lauria and team. To show this parallel history in comparison to the familiar personal one(s) we can recall ourselves about where we where, what we thought, against what we did not know, serves us-all! As the history that was not disclosed, “we”certainly haven’t been able to learn from these lessons. Trajectory not (yet) interrupted. Coverage of this type can only counter that evil. Gratitude! (I am waiting for the books to arrive that allow me to read of Robert Parry’s pieces then…) Peace. -T.

    • Aub
      February 3, 2023 at 15:42

      Walter Lippmann, the author of Public Opinion back in the 1920’shad much to say about perception management.

      “Manufacturing consent” is part of a quote of his:

      “That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough. . . . as a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner.

      A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power. . . . Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables.

      It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart.

      Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify. It has been demonstrated that we cannot rely upon intuition, conscience, or the accidents of casual opinion if we are to deal with the world beyond our reach.”

      ? Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion

      Lippmann also argued that the:

      “Chief Factors Limiting Access to Facts:

      1)Artificial censorship

      2)Limitations of social contact

      3)Comparatively meager time in a day for paying attention to public affairs.

      4)Distortion arising because events have to be compressed into very short messages

      5)Difficulty of making a small vocabulary express a complicated world

      6)Fear of facing those facts which would seem to threaten the established routine of men’s lives”

      ? Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion

      In his book, The Phantom Public he wrote:

      “These various remedies, eugenic, educational, ethical, populist and socialist, all assume that either the voters are inherently competent to direct the course of affairs or that they are making progress towards such an ideal. I think [democracy] is a false ideal.”

      ? Walter Lippmann, The Phantom Public

      The elitism of the public policy chattering class is evident in their writings.

      Lippmann was such a figure.

      He wanted a society ruled by Philosopher Kings, as did Plato.

      And the neo-cons embrace this notion of a Platonic panopticon and Nocturnal Councils that manage society for as Lippmann stated:

      “But what is propaganda, if not the effort to alter the picture to which men respond, to substitute one social pattern for another?”

      ? Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion

      • SH
        February 4, 2023 at 09:13

        I think this is precisely the time, perhaps more than ever, to rely on “intuition” and “conscience”

      • February 4, 2023 at 11:21

        Plato was correct about philosopher kings: one of the few was Marus Aurelius.
        A philosopher searches for truth and publicly expresses hiser perception of truth so that heshe might either correct the public discourse, conversation, be corrected by the public.
        Hiring men and women simply because they have a type of photographic memory and can easily learn a lot of information quickly, does not insure that such people will be moral or deeply concerned with “a perfect world, with “humanity”, etc. Proof of that has already been discussed in terms of the revolving door between business and government.

    • mgr
      February 4, 2023 at 06:29

      Thank you everyone for the spot on comments.

  21. James White
    February 3, 2023 at 07:22

    The measure of success of Psychological Operations, which are now being conducted in the U.S. and Europe is whether upwards of 50% of voters can be convinced to believe a lie. Recent polls show that slight more than half of the U.S. people now believe that Ukraine is winning the war against Russia. 2/3 of the U.S. wants to continue to send arms and cash to Ukraine. This while over 50% believe the demonstrable lie that Ukraine is winning. How much support would there be for continuing the war if something close to 100% of the people knew the truth? The simple fact is that Ukraine has already lost more than half of its’ armed forces over the past year. It will likely take less than another year for Russia to consume the other half. Sanctions have failed to destroy Russia’s economy but has dealt a major blow to the economies of Europe and the U.S. The Rand Corporation has floated the first admission that the war has already been a failure. The Pentagon’s Gen. Mark Milley had previously admitted that there was likely no prospect of Ukraine’s stated objective of driving all Russians from the Donbas region and all of Ukraine territory. CN’s excellent podcast with reporters who describe how the CIA conducts Psy-Ops on U.S. citizens as well as the rest of the world should be watched by everyone. As of now, there is no one who can oppose this unholy alliance of the CIA and big media. The fact that over 50% of Americans have been brainwashed to believe an obvious lie shows that the CIA can control the minds of enough people to achieve whatever objective it wants. The minds of the people of our Republic are now effectively held captive by an unelected cabal. This cannot stand.

    • mary-lou
      February 3, 2023 at 13:14

      great comment. not saying it’s easily achieved, but transparency is a powerful tool.

      • James White
        February 4, 2023 at 02:02

        Thank You mary-lou and Aub for your comments.
        When this war started, I was haunted by my memories of WW1 history that I have read. All of the same maze of alliances, with tensions between the great powers like massive opposing tectonic plates. As in 1914, all it took was a spark in a ‘local’ conflict, to quickly spread to engulf all of the nations of Europe. Then, as now the passion for war was exhuberant. It was not until a generation of young men returned home without limbs, blinded by poison gas or having lost their minds to ‘shell shock’ did the wives and mothers realize their folly. That is, if they returned at all. How could all of that horror ever be forgotten? The insanity was all repeated again only a brief 20 years later. The lack of education in the U.S. is well-documented. But I would have expected Europeans to have studied at least some history and thus have been better informed. If the polls are to be believed, half of Germans now want to stage Operation Barbarossa part II. Certainly, that too could well be another Psychological Operation. For Berliners who need any reminder, under the shadow of the Brandenburg gate, the prime symbol of German Imperial power, and still standing rest a pair of Russian T-34 tanks. Herr Doctor Goebbels would have been astonished at the power and influence of today’s potent and pervasive war propaganda. All of those brave, dead young men and women have left us with an unholy CIA/Media alliance that is arguably more evil than the Third Reich they sacrificed their lives to displace from power and world domination. CIA is unquestionably more influential and powerful. As it follows that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

        • Valerie
          February 4, 2023 at 08:23

          I briefly looked at the Rand paper:

          (“Avoiding a Long War” – “U.S. Policy and the Trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict”)

          It’s a long read; 32 pages. And of course subject to speculation, because it’s anyone’s guess really, how it will end. But some interesting points on interpreting “government speak”.

          As you say, the CIA/MSM can control the minds of enough people for their objectives, but they cannot control the Russian objectives.

          I’m continually amazed at how seemingly intelligent, educated people are susceptible to all kinds of propaganda and “perception management” on a daily basis.

    • Aub
      February 3, 2023 at 16:04

      Take a look at Walter Lippman’s commentary on the ‘pubic’.

      In this Youtube one can see how WWI was sold to the US people as Ukraine is being sold now.

      Lippmann hated democracy.

      As do all elites.


Comments are closed.