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$547 Million Can't Paper Over Failure of Afghanistan War

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Pentagon PR Spending Video

The Pentagon's public relations machine is working overtime these days trying to sell a theme of "progress" in Afghanistan to push back against calls to end the war. The message machine behind this push is gargantuan, costing $547 million and employing more than 27,000 people. But, as our latest Rethink Afghanistan video shows, all that wasted P.R. money can't paper over the fact that the Afghanistan War isn't making us safer, and it's not worth the cost.

So far, we've seen General David Petraeus give headline interviews on NBC, CBS, BBC, FOX News and schedule an upcoming headline interview on ABC. He's given interviews to the New York Times and the Washington Post. He's kicked the Pentagon's P.R. apparatus, especially that of the U.S. 3rd Army and its paid contractors, into gear, churning out articles to push his narrative of "progress."

An investigation last year by the AP uncovered the staggering reach of the Pentagon's P.R. apparatus:

This year, the Pentagon will employ 27,000 people just for recruitment, advertising and public relations -- almost as many as the total 30,000-person work force in the State Department... [T]he Pentagon's rapidly expanding media empire... is now bigger in size, money and power than many media companies.

$547 million goes into public affairs, which reaches American audiences. And about $489 million more goes into what is known as psychological operations, which targets foreign audiences.

It should surprise no one that General David Petraeus is working the levers of this message machine as hard as he can. After all, in the counterinsurgency (COIN) manual he co-authored, it clearly states: "Information operations (IO) must be aggressively employed to... [o]btain local, regional, and international support for COIN operations." (p. 152)

The manual urges commanders to personally engage the media to convey their messaging (p. 163), and discusses the importance of information operations to "reinforce the will of the U.S. public." (p. 164)

All of this is Pentagon bureaucracy-speak, of course, for using taxpayer dollars to fight a propaganda battle at home against war opponents (or, in this case, some 60 percent of the American people) to prevent them from effectively pressuring their elected officials to end this misbegotten war.

But no matter how much the Pentagon spins their message into the mainstream U.S. media, the facts on the ground show that the insurgency continues to spread, that violence is increasing, that U.S. troop deaths are increasing, and that the U.S. lacks one of counterinsurgency's own premises for success: a legitimate host nation government.

You, American Citizen, are now the target, the "human terrain," in a taxpayer-funded campaign to sell a failing war strategy. The Pentagon knows what you think. They don't like it. So they're just going to try to pummel you with spin until you roll over and let them continue their ugly, futile waste of lives and resources.

At Brave New Foundation, we're working to get the word out through Rethink Afghanistan about what's really going on in Afghanistan, but we need your help. Please join the tens of thousands of others getting together to fight back against the spin. You can connect with the movement in several ways: