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November 18, 2005

Things Are Even More Horrifying Than You Imagined

James Bamford, author of Body of Secrets and Pretext for War has written an outstanding article for Rolling Stone about the Rendon Group.

Who is the Rendon Group? Well, you've probably only heard of them if you're a genuine weirdo, because they try to keep a low profile. That's because they're probably the world's greatest propaganda artists. While ostensibly "private," they make tens of millions of dollars on U.S. government contracts to sell wars:

One of the most powerful people in Washington, [John] Rendon is a leader in the strategic field known as "perception management," manipulating information -- and, by extension, the news media -- to achieve the desired result. His firm, the Rendon Group, has made millions off government contracts since 1991, when it was hired by the CIA to help "create the conditions for the removal of Hussein from power." Working under this extraordinary transfer of secret authority, Rendon assembled a group of anti-Saddam militants, personally gave them their name -- the Iraqi National Congress -- and served as their media guru and "senior adviser" as they set out to engineer an uprising against Saddam. It was as if President John F. Kennedy had outsourced the Bay of Pigs operation to the advertising and public-relations firm of J. Walter Thompson...

Rendon is a battle-tested veteran who has been secretly involved in nearly every American shooting conflict in the past two decades. In the first interview he has granted in decades, Rendon offered a peek through the keyhole of this seldom-seen world of corporate spooks -- a rarefied but growing profession. Over a dinner of lamb chops and a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape at a private Washington club, Rendon was guarded about the details of his clandestine work -- but he boasted openly of the sweep and importance of his firm's efforts as a for-profit spy. "We've worked in ninety-one countries," he said. "Going all the way back to Panama, we've been involved in every war, with the exception of Somalia."


Posted at November 18, 2005 01:05 AM | TrackBack

Just when I'm feeling smug and content, incapable of being stunned by the venal vulgarities the spirit is heir to, unassailable in stoic ennui, superior in my learned state of cynicism, knowing it all ...

Posted by: cavjam at November 18, 2005 02:47 AM

Why would this person give an interview? Doesn't he have better ways to shape the news?

Posted by: Noumenon at November 18, 2005 05:14 AM

Also, is Rolling Stone going back to its roots, or is this only an aberration?

Posted by: saurabh at November 18, 2005 05:16 AM

Noumenon, hubris seems a likely possibility. If you were an evil arch-villain, wouldn't you want to give grandiose speeches revealing the intricacies of your genius?

Posted by: saurabh at November 18, 2005 05:25 AM


Oh, there's much more secret rotteness than this.


The amazing thing about human beings is they usually cannot help themselves. As a species we seem genetically hardwired to bloviate. At least Rendon has had enough personal dignity not to start a blargh.

Really, there's almost no one who won't talk -- up to and including incriminating themselves in enormous crimes -- if some enterprising reporter is willing to lend a friendly ear.

And this is the specially designed chainsaw we used... and here's how we figured out how to get the bloodstains out...


That's just what I was wondering myself. First they hire Taibbi, now this.

I remember in the early eighties when I read Firestarter by Stephen King. At the end the little firestarting girl wants to go to the press and BLOW THE LID OFF EVERYTHING. But she rightfully doesn't trust the corporate media. So the book ends with her walking into Rolling Stone.

I didn't understood it at first, because by that time Rolling Stone was only about chronicling Mick Jagger's large intestine. But then I found out about these "roots" of which you speak.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at November 18, 2005 06:10 AM

That bloviating impulse actually exists and you occasionally find American officials confessing to war crimes without realizing it.
I can think of four examples off the top but don't have links. Westmoreland in A Bright Shining Lie (don't have the page number handy) telling Neil Sheehan that the bombardment of Vietnamese villages deprives the enemy of the support of the population. Madelaine Albright forgetting momentarily that "IT'S ALL SADDAM'S FAULT" and casually admitting that she thinks the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children is an acceptable price to pay to contain Saddam. Pentagon officials confessing to Barton Gellman that they deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure in the Gulf War to cause civilian suffering afterwards, in hopes of toppling Saddam.
And more Pentagon officials telling the NYT last fall that the bombing of Fallujah before the final assault might produce civilian deaths, but there was a bright side to this, because their suffering might make the citizens of Fallujah turn against the insurgents. None of the people above seemed to understand what they were saying.

But I've also found that you can cite these examples to people and if they want to deny the clear implication of what is said, they'll go right ahead and do it. With conviction too.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 18, 2005 07:33 AM

Apparently some of the weirdos who know about this guy work at Comedy Central, as my recollection is that the Rendon Group was mentioned on the Colbert Report last night. That was the first that I had ever heard of them.

A sentence that felt strange as I wrote it...

Posted by: Aaron at November 18, 2005 08:16 AM

I knew who they were and when Saddam's statue got pulled down outside the Palestine hotel, the first thing that popped in my head was the magical appearance of all those Kuwaiti flag wavers.

If you've ever seen Control Room, the Arab world may not have heard the name "Rendon Group" before but they knew exactly what they were watching.

Posted by: Ed Marsall at November 18, 2005 10:19 AM

when in need of a polished turd, turn to an advertising agency.

i wonder how much they are raking off of this government's incompetence and its asssociated need for gigantic spin.

Posted by: almostinfamous at November 18, 2005 10:38 AM

santo chit! he sounds like a ragged pair of claws, scuttling, ever scuttling -

Posted by: Jesus B. Ochoa at November 18, 2005 02:05 PM

He sounds faintly wistful that he missed Soamalia.

Posted by: clete at November 18, 2005 03:16 PM

By which I mean "Somalia." Damn these clumsy sausage fingers!

Posted by: clete at November 18, 2005 03:17 PM

badly researched article, i expected beter from Bramford. The next step will be to tie aliens to the war run-up. I woudl like to believe some of the things he writes but really this is just one step above conspiracy....

Posted by: jimmyZ at November 22, 2005 03:17 PM