New details are now emerging about the true scope of America’s war in Iraq, as a top UK PR firm received over half a billion dollars from the Pentagon to do a top secret propaganda program in the country.
A former employee revealed that Bell Pottinger produced short TV segments in the style of Arabic news networks as well as fake insurgent videos used to track the people who watched them.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the agency’s staff worked alongside high-ranking US military officers in Baghdad. Their base of operations was Camp Victory headquarters, outside the green zone of US-occupied Iraq.
Bell Pottinger’s former chairman, Lord Tim Bell, confirmed to the Sunday Times that his firm did work for the Pentagon. Among those they were tasked to do were “covert” military operations “covered by various secrecy agreements.”
Pentagon Hired PR Firm Behind Margaret Thatcher
Bell, one of the men behind the steely image of the UK’s “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher was also credited with helping the Conservative party win three elections. According to him, Pottinger reported to the Department of Defense, the CIA and the National Security Council on its work in Iraq.
Martin Wells, a video editor working for Bell Pottinger, revealed that the firm’s work in Iraq was divided into three types namely:
- White Ops – these were materials that were attributed to their respective producers. This was the firm’s official job description when they were contracted by the DoD.
- Gray Ops – these were materials that were unattributed. This work involved creating material that painted Al Qaeda in a bad light and creating news times made to look like they were made by Arabic TV networks.
- Black Ops – this was the covert work given to Bell Pottinger and involved creating fake insurgent videos. These videos were then left in known terrorist cells after a raid to be discovered by potential insurgents. These CD’s were embedded with a special code where the IP addresses where it was played.
According to Wells, the data went to him, a senior member of the Bell Pottinger management team, and one of the US military commanders. He explained the intelligence value of these data to the military.
“If one is looked at in the middle of Baghdad…you know there’s a hit there,” Wells said. “If one, 48 hours or a week later shows up in another part of the world, then that’s the more interesting one, and that’s what they’re looking for more, because that gives you a trail.”
President Approved Covert PR Operations In Iraq
The firm’s output was signed-off by then General David Petraeus the commander of the coalition forces in Iraq. Some of their outputs were also signed-off by the White House under President Bush.
Though the Pentagon did confirm Pottinger worked for them during the Iraq War, they did so as a contractor in Iraq under the Information Operations Task Force. They also insisted that all material put out by IOTF was “truthful.”
The firm’s operations in behalf of the US government ended after its withdrawal in Iraq. After changing ownership in 2012, the firm’s current structure no longer has ties to its operations in the Middle East. The people who did work during the invasion denied having any involvement with its operations in Iraq.
The War in Iraq has been considered one of the greatest blunders in US foreign policy since the nation’s conception. The resulting power vacuum resulted in the destabilization of the Middle East and fostered the creation of terrorist organizations such as ISIS.
The war is also a hot button issue for both presidential candidates, as they both deny ever supporting the invasion of Iraq. The results invasion, which took the lives of thousands of Americans, is also consideration for their respective foreign policies should they win the presidency.
What are your thoughts about the Department of Defense covert PR operations in Iraq? Let us know in the comments below.