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Part Four ............
The military build-up in the Persian Gulf began by flying and shipping hundreds of thousands of US troops, armaments and supplies to staging areas in Saudi Arabia, yet another nation with no tolerance for a free press, democratic rights and most western customs. In a secret strategy memo, the Pentagon outlined a tightly-woven plan to constrain and control journalists. A massive babysitting operation would ensure that no truly independent or uncensored reporting reached back to the US public. "News media representatives will be escorted at all times," the memo stated. "Repeat, at all times."87
Deputy Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Pete Williams served as the Pentagon's top flack for the Gulf War. Using the perennial PR strategy of "good cop/bad cop," the government of Saudi Arabia played the "heavy," denying visas and access to the US press, while Williams, the reporters' friend, appeared to intercede repeatedly on their behalf. This strategy kept news organizations competing with each other for favors from Williams, and kept them from questioning the fundamental fact that journalistic independence was impossible under military escort and censorship.
The overwhelming technological superiority of US forces won a decisive victory in the brief and brutal war known as Desert Storm. Afterwards, some in the media quietly admitted that they'd been manipulated to produce sanitized coverage which almost entirely ignored the war's human cost - today estimated at over 100,000 civilian deaths. The American public's single most lasting memory of the war will probably be the ridiculously successful video stunts supplied by the Pentagon showing robot "smart bombs" striking only their intended military targets, without much "collateral" (civilian) damage.
"Although influential media such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal kept promoting the illusion of the 'clean war,' a different picture began to emerge after the US stopped carpet-bombing Iraq," note Lee and Solomon. "The pattern underscored what Napoleon meant when he said that it wasn't necessary to completely suppress the news; it was sufficient to delay the news until it no longer mattered."88