“From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August,” Andrew Card, White House Chief of Staff for President George Bush, said in 2002 about the meticulously planned strategy to sell the Iraq War to a skeptical public and Congress.
Flash forward eleven years and here we are in September, waiting to hear how another president will sell us another war. This time, President Obama has Syria in the crosshairs.
Obama must be reading the Iraq War propaganda playbook, since he’s using tactics honed by the George W. Bush Administration.
First, demonize the enemy. Harry Reid compared Bashar al-Assad to Hitler. So has John Kerry. (I guess Kerry no longer considers Assad a “dear friend.”)
Second, assert with full confidence of evil doing—this case, gassing his own people—without much evidence. Evidence doesn’t matter so much as perceptions.
Third, political allies must get in line. Nancy Pelosi, who led Democratic opposition to Bush’s Iraq War resolution, is now dutifully calling and sending daily letters to members of her caucus, touting the need for a strike in Syria.
Fourth, get the message out. A war-weary nation (ours) is skeptical of getting involved with another conflict in the Middle East. So Obama is doing a full court press to get those missiles flying. He’s addressing the nation tonight, after sitting for interviews with the big media companies last night.
His surrogates are out spreading the message from the United Nations to the Sunday morning talk show circuit.
And he’s working with former campaign staffers to get his message across. Many of these people are public relations experts. Obama has called on Anita Dunn, former White House communications director, who is currently doing PR for the Keystone pipeline. He’s also involved Stephanie Cutter, former deputy campaign manager for Obama’s 2012 campaign, and the new host of Crossfire on CNN. Cutter is perfectly poised to sell the message while working at a news organization.
“Polls show a majority against war, but the media projects this as mostly a PR challenge for the President to overcome,” says John Stauber, author, with Sheldon Rampton, of “Weapons of Mass Deception: the Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq.”
“The major media ignore or marginalize serious critics of the war, and behave like cheerleaders for war and advisers to the Administration,” Stauber continues. “High- ranking ex-military officers now in the business of promoting war appear as expert analysts in the media. We saw all this is selling the war on Iraq, and it's all become parts of a recipe, like out of a cookbook: How to Prepare and Execute an Offensive Attack.”
Step five: strike.
If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "Syria’s First Lady Rocking Fall Fashions While Damascus Burns."
Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter