Opinion by guest blogger, Ernest A. Canning
Keith Olbermann was astonished (full video below):
The Fox "News" interview was vintage Cheney. He referred to torture as “a robust interrogation program on detainees” that was vital “to the very existence of the nation.”
You have to see a Cheney performance in order to appreciate the effectiveness of Cheney propaganda. Unlike George W. Bush, who was inclined to trip over his own tongue, Cheney has perfected the quiet lie. His words may be false but he delivers them as facts so uncontroversial you’d think he was a local network anchor reporting on traffic conditions...
Cheney disarms the opposition by forcing them into the difficult task of disproving a negative. In the face of mounting evidence that, as a tool for gathering intelligence, torture is worthless, Cheney says it worked; that the proof is to be found in the memos that Obama failed to release*.
The strategy matches the brilliance of the WMD canard, which sent UN inspectors scurrying about the Iraqi countryside trying to find weapons that did not exist. Here, Cheney uses his obligation not to disclose classified memos as the reason why he cannot prove torture was effective. Even if Obama were to emulate the Caine Mutiny’s Captain Queeg and order a search for these missing strawberries (memos), Cheney could come back and say, “you didn’t look hard enough” when the current administration reports that none could be found.
Like the WMD canard, the missing memo claim was placed within the so-called "war on terror" frame. The difference in effectiveness flows from Cheney's loss of ability to practice information dominance across the entire span of the corporate-owned media.
In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, three lies --- WMD, Saddam’s alleged links to al Qaeda and to 9/11 --- were all part of a master narrative. Against a reality of a near helpless Iraq, crippled by thirteen years of U.N. sanctions and an ongoing aerial assault by American and British forces in the "no-fly" zones, the Bush/Cheney cabal raised the specter of nuclear bombs being passed off to al Qaeda, of the risk that the "smoking gun" could come as "a mushroom cloud." It didn't matter that the U.S. spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined or that it possessed the most powerful array of weaponry and delivery systems ever assembled. 9/11, Cheney contended then and continues to claim now, proved we're vulnerable. The only solution was for the gloves to come off, to couple a "robust interrogation" program against al Qaeda with a preemptive strike against Iraq.
The propaganda was exceedingly effective. A study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland cited by Danny Schechter in When News Lies: Media Complicty & the Iraq War (2006) revealed not only that 80% of Fox "News" viewers held at least one of these misperceptions but that viewers of other major networks were not far behind --- the number was 71% at CBS, 61% at ABC, 55% each at CNN and NBC as compared to only 23% at PBS. A Feb. 28, 2006 Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll underscores the effectiveness of propaganda, especially for those who do not have access to a counter-narrative. While much has been made of the poll’s revelation of the number 72, representing the percentage of troops serving in Iraq who felt the U.S. should withdraw within a year, the telling statistic is the number 85—the percentage of troops serving in Iraq who, at that late date, still believed the U.S. mission was intended “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks”
Steve Tatham, who had headed the British Royal Navy’s Media Operation in Iraq from November 2002 to April 2003, revealed that “the only TV station that was broadcasting continuously into military accommodations, the eating areas, the living spaces, even on the ships, was Fox News.”
While the corporate-media remains all-too dependent upon "official source" journalism, outside the faux news at Fox and right-wing talk radio, Cheney propaganda is offset not only by the growing influence of alternative media but by the fact that the former Vice President is no longer the official source.*
* Cheney is either a new convert to the value of the Freedom of Information Act or he is operating under the delusion that he's still in charge. The former VP told Fox News [Emphasis added] "I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos..." In addition to the broad declassification request, the former VP, who had infamously paid CIA analysts personal visits as he fixed the intelligence to fit the Iraq invasion policy, asked that two "top secret" CIA memos that had been kept inside his office, in a file marked "detainees," now be declassified.
While I personally think there are way too many government secrets, I'd swallow anything Cheney wanted released with a very large grain of salt. Both he and the CIA have mastered the deceptive art of plausible deniability.
Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California State Bar since 1977 and has practiced in the fields of civil litigation and workers' compensation at both the trial and appellate levels. He graduated cum laude from Southwestern University School of Law where he served as a student director of the clinical studies department and authored the Law Review Article, Executive Privilege: Myths & Realities. He received an MA in political science at Cal State University Northridge and a BA in political science from UCLA. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).