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[casi] The Best War Money Can Buy: John Rendon and Iraq

The Rendon Group (TRG) is an American public relations firm with connections at
the highest levels within the U.S. intelligence community and the Democratic
Party.  Over the past decade, it's received more than $100 million in U.S.
government funds, both to provoke instability within Iraq and to prepare the
American public for war.

Of special note:
> In 1991-1992, TRG vigorously "spun" news to downplay humanitarian concerns
over sanctions.
> TRG was influential in the formation of the Iraq National Congress.
> TRG most recently surfaced as a key player in the "Office of Strategic
Influence", the Pentagon's planned (dis-)information initialtive following 9/11.

The history of TRG and Iraq reads like the children's rhyme where an old woman
swallows a fly (and next swallows a fly-eating-spider, bird, cat etc.).

Beginning with the Gulf War ...
(1) The demonization of Saddam Hussein by TRG and others was so successful, that
post-war diplomatic progress became politically impossible.
(2) Therefore, containing Iraq through sanctions became the most politically
expedient solution, and here TRG led the initiative to forestall any question of
humanitarian impact.
(3) Through TRG's efforts, Iraqi opposition coalesced around the Iraqi National
Congress (... though the INC had no credibility within Iraq.  The INC is the
first proxy army in history that requires a proxy army.)
(4) Today TRG retains close ties with the INC and has strong ties with Pentagon
conservatives per the 'War on Terror'.  Thus, TRG becomes a driver behind the
frequent Iraq scare stories that have nudged the American public toward war
(anthrax/Prague/al-Qaida in Kurdistan/defector al-Haderi).
(5) And now America verges on war without pretext, with no credible post-war
plan (save an occupying army), with no discussion of sanctions impact on Iraq's
society, and with little thought to regional stability and global economics.

The children's rhyme ends: "There was an old woman Who swallowed a fly. Perhaps
she’ll die."

Following are The Rendon Group's highlights:

John Rendon is CEO of TRG.  He was formerly Executive Director and National
Political Director for the Democratic Party of the United States, Director of
Scheduling for President Jimmy Carter, and Analyst for American Political System
for BBC World TV.

>> 1991-1996:
TRG was "paid close to a hundred million dollars by the C.I.A." for press issues
related to the Iraqi opposition, according to an INC official quoted by Seymour
Hersh in The New Yorker (Issue of 2002-03-11,

Rendon's own records show he spent $23M during the first post-war year alone,
according to ABC News (quoted in TNR

A source of journalist Jeff Stein (familiar to many as Khidir Hamza's co-author)
calls it 'a $150 million rip-off'."

>> 1998 Onward:
Congress authorizes expenditure of $97-million under the terms of the Iraq
Liberation Act (though much of the money remains unspent amid questions of INC
accounting practices).

>> Post 9/11/2002:
Citing two Pentagon sources, Franklin Foer in the right-wing New Republic says,
"The Rendon Group has billed the government at least $7.5 million for its
post-9/11 services."

Regarding the "Office of Strategic Influence", although it's now disavowed note
that TRG's contract with the Pentagon remains in place

>> Most relevant to CASI, TRG worked to downplay press reports of the
humanitarian effects of sanctions following the Gulf War.  According to
journalists Andrew Cockburn & Patrick Cockburn ("Out of the Ashes",
HarperCollins, 1999):

"Sanctions were at the center of U.S. policy as it had evolved in the first few
months after the war. It was, therefore, imperative to maintain international
support for what casual readers of the Harvard team's findings and other reports
might conclude was an indefensibly cruel policy. That was where the CIA
operation, as deployed through Rendon's public relations exercise in Europe and
elsewhere, came in useful. 'Every two months or so there would be a report about
starving Iraqi babies,' explains one veteran of Rendon's propaganda campaign.
'We'd be on hand to counter that. The photo exhibition of atrocities and the
video that we had went around two dozen countries. It was all part of a
concerted campaign to maintain pressure for sanctions'" (p 56)

"Unbeknownst to most of those involved in the INC (apart from Chalabi) the
organization's funding came from the CIA. Much of the money--over $23 million in
the first year alone--was invested in an anti-Saddam propaganda campaign
directed at audiences both inside and outside Iraq and partly designed to
deflect international concern over the suffering caused by sanctions. This
campaign was subcontracted to John Rendon, a Washington PR specialist with
excellent agency connections" (p 165)

>> For other annecdotes, review the sources below.  Of note: Flags waved by
Kuwaiti citizens at the end of the Gulf War to welcome American troops were made
available by TRG.  And - thinking it would play well in Iraq - TRG once scripted
a pirate radio program so anti-Semitic, that TRG was upbraded by the Mossad.

At the time of the Kosovo campaign, TRG claimed it had worked in 79 countries.
TRG worked for the Royal Family of Kuwait during the Gulf war and after, and the
governments of Indonesia, Panama, and and Uzbekistan.

TRG's web site ( has gone dark.  As of this writing, The Rendon
Group's servers are no longer exposed on the Internet.  The O'Dwyer Report -- a
PR industry newsletter -- notes the old site "had a wealth of info about
clients, case studies, speeches and bios about key execs. [This information is
now gone]  Its revamped site focuses on its Boston video production arm ..."

A TRG spokesperson quoted by O'Dwyer claims the site was taken offline for a
graphical re-design.


Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

See ...
"Out of the Ashes"
Andrew and Patrick Cockburn
HarperCollins, 1999
(Various clips and links)
Flacks Americana
by Franklin Foer
When Things Turn Weird, The Weird Turn Pro
Propaganda, The Pentagon And The Rendon Group
by Jeff Stein
The objective is clear—topple Saddam. But how?
Issue of 2002-03-11
February 19, 2002
Pentagon Readies Efforts to Sway Sentiment Abroad
The Pentagon's Information Warrior: Rendon to the Rescue
by Laura Miller and Sheldon Rampton
March 6, 2002
May 8, 2002
He Has Saddam in His Sights
The Bush agenda is nothing less than the re-assertion of American power in the
world, and Iraq is the next target
By Evan Thomas
NEWSWEEK March 4, 2002 issue
Should we go to war against Saddam?
Peter Beaumont, Kamal Ahmed and Edward Helmore in New York
Sunday March 17, 2002
The Observer

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