There have been predictable howls of outrage at the beheading of 40-year old journalist James Foley in Syria in retaliation for US air support to those fighting ISIS in Iraq. It is of course right to be angry about such a barbaric and inhuman murder. However there would be even more outrage if the real story behind it were widely known.
Foley was no ordinary hack. He was once embedded with the US Army in Afghanistan, ostensibly paid to provide reports. CNN’s reports of his murder signally overlooked his tour of duty there. Knowing how CNN manufactures the stories which suit it through selective use of facts and factoids, this in itself raises suspicion about what Foley was really doing in Syria and whether he was working as a freelance journalist or on “special assignment” when he initially went missing two years ago.
Foley grew up in New Hampshire and was originally a teacher, at one point teaching prison inmates in Arizona, before attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. After graduation, his first assignment was with the U.S. Army’s 173rd Brigade and 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan. Foley was covering the Syrian civil war for GlobalPost and Agence France-Presse (AFP) when he was allegedly pulled from the car he was traveling in and abducted at gunpoint.
Several years ago U.S. officials in Afghanistan acknowledged in the US Military’s “Stars and Stripes” newspaper that any reporter seeking to embed with U.S. forces, as Foley did, is subject to a full background check by The Rendon Group. This organisation gained notoriety in the run-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq for its work in helping to create the Iraqi National Congress and topple the Saddam regime. The Iraqi National Congress, reportedly funded by the CIA, furnished much of the false information about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction which was used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion.
Before going to Afghanistan Foley must have been screened by The Rendon Group to determine whether his past coverage had portrayed the U.S. military or foreign policy in a sufficiently positive light. As Foley had not long graduated after his mid-life career change it is unclear whether he had written enough articles to provide a basis for making such a judgment. Therefore it is very likely that he actually volunteered to do intelligence work, without realising the consequences.
Rendon unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s
The Rendon Group is proud of its ability to sell a war. The claims about Iraq’s supposed nuclear and biological weapons programme and links to terrorist groups were untrue, we now know, and such a professional media organisation, contracted to The Pentagon, must have known this at the time. But it was there when the Government of Kuwait and the CIA needed to get its message across.
The Group presents itself as purely a communications body. Its website says, “For nearly three decades, The Rendon Group has been providing innovative global strategic communications solutions from our headquarters in Washington, DC. TRG utilizes state-of-the-art technology as well as traditional public relations tools, assisting leading commercial, government and military organizations.”
But it has always gone beyond that limited remit. John Rendon, its owner, gives us an insight into its greater plans for the region in his Twitter feed. For instance, “There are signs of a potential breakthrough between Turkey & the PKK (#Kurds) in the aftermath of Erdogan’s presidential victory” and “In a message to the West (Europe), Turkey sees no impediments to trade with Russia.”
It is now known that the training, arming and insertion of ISIS was the sort of CIA special operation the Rendon Group has always provided PR support for. William Engdahl, an award-winning geopolitical analyst and strategic risk consultant, has described how the appearance of ISIS in Iraq stinks of a CIA/NATO ‘dirty war’ op.
It is not coincidental that the ISIS military success in the key Iraqi oil centre, Mosul, came at a time when political winds in Turkey are not blowing in the favour of the United States. Well-informed Iraqi journalists say that ISIS overran Mosul with barely a shot being fired. According to one report, residents of Tikrit have reported that “soldiers were handing over their weapons and uniforms peacefully to militants who ordinarily would have been expected to kill government soldiers on the spot.”
The US Embassy was involved in the smuggling Umar al Shishani, the red-headed ISIS commander, from the Pankisi Gorge region of Georgia to Turkey and then Syria. Various former US ambassadors to Georgia, especially John Bass, John Tefft and Richard Miles, have been involved in getting the region to where it is now by ensuring that the US and CIA trained all the “freedom fighters” and terrorists running rampant there through aid programmes implemented in Georgia.
So the US has manufactured a war which needs the oxygen of ongoing publicity to continue being supported. ISIS is doing its best to provide that publicity on its own, but so many indiscriminate killings have jaded the public. If people feel there is nothing that can be done to help the victims of ISIS they will not support a continuing war. A nice beheading of an innocent journalist focuses attention very conveniently however, though it is doubtful that being murdered to order was part of any contract Foley signed with the US military.
Out of the manual
The Rendon Group has worked closely with a British partner, Hill and Knowlton. This company was responsible for the 1990 Kuwaiti incubator media scam, which claimed that Kuwaiti babies were being removed from incubators by Iraqi forces. This was another totally fabricated news story which was used to get Congressional approval for the 1991 Gulf War. The Group seems to be following the same manual in Iraq, but unfortunately its activities are not limited to fabricating words on paper.
James Bamford of Rolling Stone has reminded his readers of the terrible story of Private Jessica Lynch. “It shocked the United States: she walked into an ambush and fought like a lioness. There was even a movie made about the incident.” But he also reminds us that this was another Rendon Group story. Lynch herself has spent the years since her release from captivity telling the much more banal truth of what happened to her and slamming her use in a fabricated story as a propaganda symbol.
It is conceivable that the US military did not know that she was walking into an ambush but it probably should have. She was not slapped by an Iraqi colonel in the hospital, as the source of that story claimed, nor was his wife working at the hospital as he also alleged. She was not raped, as reported, and nor did she have gunshot or stab wounds, as reported: her injuries derived from a car accident. Nevertheless she became a cause celebre, without her consent then or now, on the basis of these factoids.
The difference is that Lynch has survived and is telling the world how she was used. Foley has not been given this opportunity. Maybe he knew too much already, maybe he was trying to actually become a journalist instead of primarily an intelligence operative. But now we will never know.
Jessica Lynch’s father has said that the Army recruiter he encountered did not lie to the kids. One wonders what Foley was told when he was recruited, and whether he ever understood what his real mission would end up being.
Extreme but true
So have the US military, the CIA and The Rendon Group deliberately sent one of their own to be murdered to sell a war? Until they can answer the questions the mainstream media won’t ask this will remain a possible explanation.
What sort of screening was done on Foley and how was it determined that his previous articles were acceptable? If The Rendon Group, with a track record of manufacturing fake stories to serve propaganda purposes, did this screening what were they really looking for? Was Foley doing nothing but report news stories which suited the purposes of the US, which would not have let him embed with the forces otherwise, or was he also doing other work which suited US purposes, whatever that may have been?
The murder has had the desired effect. “The entire world is appalled” by ISIS’s slaughter of American journalist James Foley, a visibly angry President Obama said during a press conference at Marttha’s Vineyard. “No just God would stand for what they did yesterday or every single day. People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future’s won by those who build and not destroy. The world is shaped by people like Jim Foley.”
Foley is not the only beheading victim. At this moment ISIS is beheading Christians in the territories it occupies. The same President Obama has been urged to rescue these Christians or provide them with shelter at the very least. He has done neither so far. Apparently these Christians, people driven from their homes and persecuted for their faith rather than people who volunteered for intelligence work, are not shaping the world when they have more reason to be.
Nor was Foley beheaded by any random jihadist group. Apparently these were British people who had gone overseas to fight the infidel. The UK police have long sought to combat the radicalisation of young Moslems and asked community organisations top help them put concrete measures in place to prevent this happening. Yet the difference in funding available for this activity, as opposed to that spent bringing radical preachers into the UK and removing genuine Moslem ones, has stopped these activities in their tracks.
In the final analysis the brutal murder of James Foley gives the US what it needs most, a rallying point to reassert the use of US forces in the region, especially Northern Iraq. The deaths of ordinary civilians at the hands of this US-inserted group have failed to do this. A number of questions need to be asked about this atrocity. However this whole sickening charade, and who has played which part in it, answers the question we all ask daily: “what is wrong with the world today?”
Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.