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Now Showing (Again): Bush Does Propaganda

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It's as predictable as Debbie Does Dallas. Many of us were squawking about it during the lead-up to the war in Iraq. Remember that? It's called 2002. In fact, we saw the White House propaganda paint on the wall within hours of the 9/11 attacks. I wrote numerous op-eds about propaganda and war for Common Dreams Web site that led to a book, Information War: American Propaganda, Free Speech & Opinion Control since 9/11. My first book, Propaganda, Inc., took the lid off the U.S. Government efforts to market America to the world -- not for war -- but for commercial appeal.

This is why I'm having a hard time with the so-called "bombshell" (poor choice of words) revelations by turncoat Scott McClellan. He left the White House in 2006 and in 2008 re-emerges as a hero to some for reinforcing what so many of us were saying when it wasn't politically expedient, just truthful. Here's a guy who had the option as White House press secretary to either resign in protest or raise objections to the "political propaganda campaign" surrounding the selling of the war in Iraq. He chose neither path.

McClellan stayed at the White House as long as it served his interests. If he had cared about the public interest or the public need to know about such manipulation in marketing war then he should have spoken up when it had a personal cost. That is courage. We're lacking a lot of it these days. Instead we have a person like McClellan who takes a stand after most everyone else in the room has already stood, shouted, and exited stage left.

"I believed the president when he talked about the grave and gathering danger from Iraq," McClellan said on NBC's Today show, to explain why he didn't question when it might have mattered. McClellan was deputy press secretary as the winds of war were blowing. He said nothing because it wouldn't have been profitable for him then.

Outside his home yesterday McClellan looked downright gleeful at the buzz surrounding his book.

This is a guy whose personal charisma as press secretary made Ari Fleischer seem like George Clooney meets I, Robot.

We all know there were plenty of others who had a heart about Bush's unnecessary war when McClellan was still the Tin Man.

I'll never forget the December 2002 C-SPAN live showing of several women shouting down propaganda czar Charlotte Beers. They unfurled a banner that read: "You're selling war and we're not buying." Beers was speaking at the National Press Club about the State Department ad campaign "Shared Values," designed to convince that America had the best intentions, especially toward our Muslim and Arab sisters and brothers. Beers later resigned and Shared Values was pulled from distribution before that other production known as the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Been there, done that. Just where have you been, Mr. Press Secretary, in the last six years?! A personal conscience may have been picked up from the Lost and Found but it's all too late for me.

Imagine if McClellan had left the White House before Bush's reelection. He could have gone on a national speaking tour to detail what he now illustrates in his book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, particularly in the chapter "Selling War." It might have actually shaken things up. Now we're just picking up the pieces of a war that long ago sold us down a river swollen with bodies and debris.

I'm already seeing the film version of the book and imagining the high-paid speaking engagements Scott McClellan is lining up. The PR man talks about the PR of war. His publisher PublicAffairs must be just thrilled at the eyebrow raising response to his revelations. Ka-ching. A publishing industry that caters to political profiteers like McClellan ignores the real story when it can still make a difference.

Bottom line, it wasn't sexy or profitable in 2002 to be against the war in Iraq. That's why so many of us had no other outlet than independent presses like Seven Stories to point out the obvious spin machine in Washington. I can't say whether my books made any difference to the political discussion. I'm not a celebrity or a former White House press secretary, but my conscience is still weighted by the reality of lives lost in vain. For that I'm not going to welcome Scott McClellan into my tree house of skeptics. And I hope that anyone reading this will think twice about personally enriching McClellan and his publisher by buying this too late to tell-all book. Go to the library, if you must, but recognize the public relations profit behind the government propaganda narrative.