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White House Iraq Group

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

The White House Iraq Group (aka, White House Information Group or WHIG) was the marketing arm of the White House whose purpose was to sell the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the public.

A new White House "WHIG" was exposed September 9, 2007, by the New York Times's Frank Rich,[1] who wrote "the spirit of WHIG lives", "a 24/7 Pentagon information 'war room' conceived in the last throes of the Rumsfeld regime and run by a former ABC News producer."

"Instead of being bombarded with dire cherry-picked intelligence about W.M.D., this time we're being serenaded with feel-good cherry-picked statistics offering hope. Once again the fix is in. Mr. Bush's pretense that he has been waiting for the Petraeus-Crocker report before setting his policy is as bogus as his U.N. charade before the war. And once again a narrowly Democratic Senate lacks the votes to stop him," Rich wrote.[1]


WHIG 2007: Iraq Communications Desk

WHIG 2003

Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus, in the August 10, 2003 Washington Post, seem to have broken the story of the White House Iraq Group, with credit to Josh Marshall for keeping the story alive:

The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago, including the introduction of the term "mushroom cloud" into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to "educate the public" about the threat from Saddam Hussein, as a participant put it.
Systematic coordination began in August 2002, when Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card, Jr. formed the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, to set strategy for each stage of the confrontation with Baghdad. A senior official who participated in its work called it "an internal working group, like many formed for priority issues, to make sure each part of the White House was fulfilling its responsibilities."

"In September 2002, the White House was beginning a major press offensive designed to prove that Iraq had a robust nuclear weapons program. That campaign was meant to culminate in the president's Oct. 7 speech in Cincinnati." [1]

Although similar in name and function, this group is not related to the #1967 White House Information Group.

2003 WHIG members

"Escalation of Rhetoric"

Soon after WHIG was formed, the Bush Administration's claims about the danger Iraq posed escalated significantly:

  • July 23, 2002: The Downing Street Memo was written, in which British intelligence said "C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD."
  • August 2002: White House Iraq Group formed.
  • September 6, 2002: In an interview with the New York Times, Andrew Card did not mention the WHIG specifically but hinted at its mission. Card said "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." On September 17, 2002, Matt Miller stated on NPR that the above quote from Andrew Card was in response to the question: "... why the administration waited until after Labor Day to try to sell the American people on military action against Iraq."
  • September 7-8, 2002: Bush and nearly all his top advisers blanketed the airways, talking about the dangers posed by Iraq:
    • On NBC's "Meet the Press," Vice President Dick Cheney accused Saddam of moving aggressively to develop nuclear weapons over the past 14 months to add to his stockpile of chemical and biological arms.
    • On CNN, Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that "there will always be some uncertainty" in determining how close Iraq may be to obtaining a nuclear weapon but said, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
    • On CBS, Bush said U.N. weapons inspectors, before they were denied access to Iraq in 1998, concluded that Saddam was "six months away from developing a weapon." He also cited satellite photos released by a U.N. agency Friday that show unexplained construction at Iraq sites that weapons inspectors once visited to search for evidence Saddam was trying to develop nuclear arms. "I don't know what more evidence we need," Bush said.
  • September 7, 2002: Judith Miller of The New York Times reports Bush administration officials said "In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium."
  • October 14, 2002: Bush says of Saddam "This is a man that we know has had connections with al Qaeda. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al Qaeda as a forward army."
  • January 21, 2003: Bush says of Saddam "He has weapons of mass destruction -- the world's deadliest weapons -- which pose a direct threat to the United States, our citizens and our friends and allies."
  • February 5, 2003: Colin Powell addresses the United Nations, asserting that there was "no doubt in my mind" that Saddam was working to obtain key components to produce nuclear weapons.

Response to yellowcake forgery issue

In response to the Yellowcake forgery issue, the White House Iraq Group devised this strategy to combat critics:

"There is a strategy now, devised by White House communications director Dan Bartlett, Mary Matalin, a former aide to Vice President Cheney, and former Bush aide Karen Hughes. Both advise the White House as a consultants to the Republican National Committee.

The plan: Release all relevant information. Try to shift attention back to Bush's leadership in the war on terrorism. Diminish the significance of that single piece of iffy intelligence by making the case that Saddam was a threat for many other reasons. Put Republican lawmakers and other Bush allies on TV to defend him.

Most important: Question the motives of Democrats who supported the war but now are criticizing the president."

Call for investigation, 2005

On October 20, 2005, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced a formal Resolution of Inquiry to demand the White House turn over all white papers, minutes, notes, emails or other communications kept by the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), stating that "This group, comprised of the President and Vice President's top aides, was critical in selling the Administration's case for war. We now know that the Administration hyped intelligence and misled the American public and Congress in their effort to 'sell' the war. After over 1,900 American troops have been killed in Iraq, it is long past time for this Congress to ask serious questions about WHIG and its role in the lead up to the war."

Publications

1967 White House Information Group

In 1967, the Johnson Administration created the White House Information Group to raise support for and "cultivate favorable news coverage of" the Vietnam War.

Resources

Also see

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Frank Rich, "As the Iraqis Stand Down, We’ll Stand Up," New York Times (truthout), September 9, 2007.

External links

Profiles

Timelines

1999

2002

2003

2004

2005

2007

Wikipedia also has an article on White House Iraq Group. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.