Freedom's Watch

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Freedom's Watch is a new pressure group comprising former Bush administration officials with a pro-Israel agenda[1][2] masquerading as a grassroots movement (i.e. astroturf). Formed in August 2007,[3] it began a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign on 22 August 2007 "to urge members of Congress who may be wavering in their support for the war in Iraq not to 'cut and run'."[4]

Principals

According to the Washington Post the lineup that constitutes Freedom's Watch's members and donors shows a strong Bush administration pedigree.:[5].

The Jewish Telegraph Agency reports that '[f]our of five members of the board of a campaign promoting President Bush's policies in the Iraq war are Republican Jews.'[6]

The Israel Connection

Philip Weiss writes:

A large number of Freedom's Watch's staff or backers have stated that Israel's security is central to their view of the Iraq war...Most of the leaders of this group live and breathe Israel, but this overarching concern is nowhere to be found in their calls on Americans to sacrifice more blood and treasure in Iraq. When they talk about threats to the region, they are talking about Israel's security. And the press lets them get away with this subterfuge, with the exception of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The Washington Post, for instance, was happy to suggest that the organization is a "White House front," but said nothing about the Jewish character of the board, or those Jews' view of Israel. Politico was also silent on the issue. In a second piece, the Washington Post reported that one board member leads neocon cipher Scooter Libby's defense committee. [7]

Pro-War Ad Campaign

Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary to President George W. Bush, the group's spokesman and a founding board member[8], said that Freedom's Watch is "rolling out television, radio and Internet advertisements in more than 20 states and 60 Congressional districts", spending "$15 million on the effort [to] encourage voters to put pressure on their representatives for continued support of the war."[4][9]

Using a propaganda tactic similar to that currently being employed by the pro-war in Iraq Republican front group Vets for Freedom, Freedom's Watch uses ads featuring Iraq war veterans and parents veterans who lost family members in the war" to urge both Republican and Democratic members of Congress "who have supported the war not to switch their vote" by stressing that "the war in Iraq can be won and Congress must not surrender.[4]

The campaign is times to coincide with the debate expected to take place around the progress report by Gen. David Petraeus, due September 15," Allen wrote.

The opening ad produced by Jamestown Associates, a self-described "full-service Republican political and public affairs consulting firm"[10] with offices in Washington, D.C., Princeton, N.J., Baton Rouge, La., and Dallas, Texas,[11] "shows a military veteran saying:<ref" missing ref name="MAllen" </ref>

Congress was right to vote to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. I re-enlisted after Sept. 11 because I don’t want my sons to see what I saw. I want them to be free and safe. I know what I lost. I also know that if we pull out now everything I’ve given and the sacrifices will mean nothing. They attacked us and they will again.[12] They won’t stop in Iraq. We are winning on the ground and making real progress. It’s no time to quit. It’s no time for politics.

"The ad's message 'It's no time to quit; It's no time for politics' is especially ironic since this video campaign was produced and funded by Republican operatives and targeted on the districts of wavering and vulnerable Republican legislators, with the clear purpose of putting political pressure on them to continue backing the President's war," PAF wrote 24 August 2007, at the Premature Anti-Fascists Blogspot.[13]

"Like any effective propaganda, the ads employ a mind-bending combination of emotional manipulation, fear-mongering, and comical breaches of logic," Matt Snyders commented 24 August 2007, in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., City Pages.[14]

"Today, right smack in the middle of the Channel 5 mid-day news," one blogger commented 24 August 2007,[15] Freedom's Watch "put a little old lady on my television telling me 'We've already had one 9/11, we don't need another one...' I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Using the memory of 9/11 to try and get us to line up and support the regime... how much more tasteless can we get? Maybe show me the scene of people jumping from the upper floors of the WTC towers with the voice over 'They're coming ... they hate you... they can't wait to watch you die...' Or, a picture of Carl Rove and Dick Cheney standing over a small child in a protective pose, but a little George W. Bush climbing up the sheets and yelling into the sleeping child's ear "WAKE UP... AL QUAEDA IS COMING... AL QUAEDA IS COMING!!!'"

Additionally, the Freedom's Watch "campaign clearly suggests that if the US loses in Iraq, it will be because anti-war forces, lefties, Democrats and other weak and disloyal elements sold out American troops and betrayed their sacrifices. This is the core story-line of the classic fascist propaganda weapon, the 'stab-in-the-back' myth,"[16] PAF wrote.[13][17]

MSNBC, CNBC "Refuse to Run Pro-War Ads"

"Freedom's Watch has placed its ads on Fox and CNN, but CNBC and MSNBC have refused to run the ads," John Hinderaker reported August 28, 2007, at the right-wing Power Line Blog. "Ari Fleischer wrote this morning on behalf of Freedom's Watch to let us know that CNBC and MSNBC have stubbornly refused to air the pro-war ads, even though they have run issue ads on other controversial topics," Hinderaker wrote.[18]

Bradley A. Blakeman, Freedom's Watch President and CEO, "has written to CNBC and MSNBC to protest their decision," Hinderaker wrote. A copy of Blakeman's letter is available on Power Line's weblog.[19]

Demonization of the electorate

"This is Cheney / Bush, playing hardball against its own party," Jemand von Niemand wrote at TPM Cafe.[20]

Appearing 24 August 2007, on PBS's The News Hour,[21] Bradley A. Blakeman, "the public face of 'Freedom’s Watch', referred to antiwar critics (in particular, MoveOn.org) as 'the enemy' to TNH's Judy Woodruff: 'Well, Judy, the enemy, our opposition, has told you that there's going to be an Iraqi summer… There hasn't been the opposition they threatened.'

"That campaign will, as Cheney / Bush have done so many times before, treat the American People as if they were stupid – as irritants. Americans are fit only to act with loyalty to the Leader – otherwise, they're traitors, and spokespersons for the antiwar sentiment in America will be marginalized by the smiling snark of commentators like Bill Kristol, and otherwise ignored by the corporate media. It's the same strategy as selling the invasion of Iraq in 2003," von Niemand wrote.[22]

Freedom's Watch and Move America Forward

"I've been working with a broad array of pro-troop advocates to help make such efforts as the 'Freedom's Watch' ad buy a reality. As the chairman of Move America Forward, the nation's largest pro-troop organization, I've been honored to work (conspire, if you are a anti-war liberal reading this column) with a coalition of pro-troop and veterans organizations that believe in peace through strength, and who also support victory[23] for our troops," Melanie Morgan wrote 24 August 2007, in WorldNetDaily.[24]

"During our planning meetings of this (cabal of supporters of this supposed illegal war based on lies), I've been impressed by the determination of the pro-troop movement to not cede any battlefield in the war for hearts and minds.

"For too long we were unhappily silent while the likes of MoveOn.org, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq and CodePink were grabbing media headlines for their antics," Morgan wrote.[24]

"Pssst. You are now officially a member of the Insider War Room," Morgan wrote.[24]

Freedom's Watch and Center for Vigilant Freedom

The Gateway Pundit reported on 22 August 2007, that "Pro-US Freedom's Watch", with help from The Center for Vigilant Freedom, "released several videos to support the troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan."[25]

"Freedom's Watch (freedomswatch.org) produced and paid for the ads independently. Vigilant Freedom just helped with distribution with some blog contacts," Kyle of CVF informs.[25]

On July 24, 2007, D.K. Shideler[26] of CVF wrote that the organization is "supporting efforts by Move America Forward, Vets for Freedom, Gathering of Eagles and others ... to support US troops and promote the success of the surge strategy in preparation for Gen. Petraeus’ testimony" September 15, 2007. CVF is "establishing a list of bloggers at the state level who are interested in recieving email updates on major events happening in their area as part of the campaign."[27]

Freedom's Watch and Vets for Freedom

"For the past few months, Vets for Freedom has been on the front lines of the Iraq war debate in America, with only a few allies. But this morning, in a very real sense, the cavalry appeared on the horizon in the form of a new organization called Freedom's Watch," Pete Hegseth, VFF's executive director, wrote 22 August 2007.[28]

On 22 August 2007, Hegseth disseminated Freedom's Watch video ads embedded in viral emails. On 23 August 2007, Spree (Susan Duclos) at Maggie's Notebook Blog,[29] and, on 24 August 2007, SWAC Girl both posted[30] four Freedom's Watch ads which had been emailed to them by Hegseth.

At A Soldier's Perspective Blog, on 22 August 2007, the initial ad released was mistakenly identified as a "New Vets for Freedom Ad".[31]

John Werntz, in an 22 August 2007, posting at Old War Dogs Blog, commented: "If Pete Hegseth links up to Freedoms Watch, that's good enough for me."[32]

Ad buys

Freedom's Watch's first ad buy of "at least $5.8 in the next four weeks ... which is already public information, shows that Freedom's Watch is targeting 37 Republicans with a direct message - stand with Bush’s failed Iraq war strategy," Tom Matzzie, Washington Director, MoveOn.org Political Action / Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, posted 22 August 2007, at AMERICAblog.[33][34]

The following, Matzzie wrote, are included in the first ad buy, which will cost "at least $5,855,960 over the next four weeks (from 8/22/07 to 9/23/07)":[33]

Criticism

Freedom's Watch's advertising campaign emphasizes the sacrifice of U.S. troops and their families, and falsely implies a link between the September 11, 2001 attacks and the Iraq war.[35]

"In a disgusting display of mendacity not seen since the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, a pro-war advertising campaign spearheaded by former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer is buying $15 million worth of 30-second television spots that repeat the lies linking 9/11 to Iraq – and explicitly threatening another terrorist attack in the US if we 'surrender.' It's the first storm in a season of fear," Justin Raimondo commented at Antiwar.com.[36]

"This strategy is nearly identical to the one that the swift boat group implemented in 2004 against John Kerry. Get experienced DC-based political operatives, and parade soldiers in front of the camera to tout whatever message across. It's quite effective, in that it will probably cause at least a few Republicans to buckle," The Blue State Blog commented 22 August 2007.[37]

"And because soldiers are the ones saying it, the lines that these PR people are feeding them can go farther than the most right-wing lawmakers. They tell us that we will get hit again if we pull out. Kind of like what Cheney said in 2004 about what would happen if Kerry got elected", Blue State said:[37]

"'If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again -- that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,' Cheney said."

"Since the start of the war, there have been a few truly ridiculous right-wing ads. Before the 2006 midterms, the RNC paid quite a bit of money to air what was, for all intents and purposes, an al Qaeda recruitment video.[38] Around the same time, the Progress for America propaganda organization ran the now-infamous 'They Want to Kill Us' ad.[39]

"But Freedom’s Watch's ads are equally nauseating, if not more so. There are four different ads, each more offensive than the last. In one, a veteran who lost a leg is shown arguing that we have to stay in Iraq because 'they attacked us.' In the next, a mother of a fallen soldier (who apparently doesn't mind being exploited by the right-wing smear machine) argues that we’ll invite another 9/11 unless we stay in the middle of Iraq’s civil war," Steve Benen wrote in The Carpetbagger Report.[40]

On 22 August 2007, MoveOn.org's Director, Tom Matzzie, wrote an open letter to Ari Fleischer which was posted at AMERICAblog:[33]

"Thank you. The news today about a $15 million TV ad campaign targeting Republicans in the name of a group called 'Freedom Watch' is probably the best thing we could want right now. It is a gift.
"The revival of your role as salesman-in-chief for the White House’s failed war policy is also welcome. We were looking for a way to connect this mysterious 'Freedom Watch' outfit to the White House Iraq PR machine. And then it turned out that you made our job very simple—you are in charge. This is the 'White House Ad campaign.' ...
"Every extra minute of TV time talking about Iraq is another drip, drip, drip of bad news for politicians who won’t break with Bush. So, thanks."

Matzzie "predicts these ads and their images of widows and wounded veterans will backfire because they are 'reminding the public of the cost of the war in Iraq' and not the justification for the military presence. ... 'That's bad news for Republicans who are still sticking with Bush on the war,' Matzzie said."[41]

"In sum: The neo-conservatives took a wealth of public approval and drove it off a cliff. With plummeting approval ratings for the president, the war, and the GOP in general, the right wing is seeking to jettison its more squeamish (translation: sensible) members and trim the party down to a sleek, diabolical death machine that may be monstrously unpopular, but is once again ideologically focused. Perhaps the only respectable thing about the last eight years of Republican Party politics is that they are no longer solely interested in maintaining power: they are now trying to crucify their own in an attempt to stay consistent to the same ill-conceived ideas they started with," Tim at The Vulgar Trade Blogspot wrote.[42]

"The White House running an ad campaign is a sign of desperation, and Ari Fleischer's emergence is so ironic since he's the guy that pitched the lies that got us into the war in the first place," Matzzie said.[43]

"So the liars[44] who lied us into war,[45] who fabricated 'evidence' of Iraq's 'weapons of mass destruction,' aren't to blame – oh no, of course not! It's those of us who oppose this monstrous and mistaken invasion who are to be targeted as advocating 'surrender' in a conflict that cannot be won without murdering half the population of Iraq and enslaving the other half. Because we allowed the Scooter Libbys and the Ari Fleischers to lure us into a quagmire,[46] we must remain submerged there forever – or the loss of this soldier's leg was all for naught.

"What kind of morality is it that lets the perpetrator of a fraud off scott-free while blaming the victim who has been defrauded? It's called neocon morality[47] – where the neocons are always in the clear, and the rest of us are dunned to pay the price of their immeasurable hubris," Raimondo wrote.[36]

"The 'Freedom's Watch' ad campaign is going to boomerang, and badly, hitting the War Party in the face with a loud wallop – and a richly deserved one," Raimondo asserted.[36] "You'll note that this propaganda campaign is being launched as we approach the sixth anniversary of that signal event, and we can expect the atmosphere of impending doom to thicken considerably as the day approaches. These ads are part of it, as is the crazed rhetoric coming from the administration, including the President's evocation[48] of the 'stabbed-in-the-back" thesis as applied to the Vietnam war.[49]

"The American people are not going to be won over by a cabal of money-laden ideologues who use the suffering of others to promote and ensure yet more suffering," Raimondo said.

Call-in campaign

All the Freedom's Watch-sponsored ads "encourage viewers to 'Call your Congressman and Senator' and provide a phone number: 1-877-222-8001.

"Only that number? It ain't Congress",[50] which, by the way, is (202) 224-3121 for the U.S. Senate, and (202) 225-3121 for the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Go on, call it," blogger and radio host Taylor Marsh wrote 22 August 2007. Then, "once you get through something amazing happens. The operator asks you a question. Yes, you're expected to take part in a survey before she puts you through to Congress. But there's a catch. The question asked goes something like this: Do you believe the Iraq war is important to the war on terror? They may have changed the question by now, because we're on to them, but that's what I was asked. If you say no, the operator immediately thanks you but doesn't connect you to Congress. Instead, she asks if you have anything else to say and then basically gets rid of you. They're only allowing people who agree with them through."[51]

"I called," chrisj at The Daily Kos wrote, "and the person who answered asked me immediately if I thought that the Iraq war was preventing attacks in America. When I answered 'no' she referred me to their website at www.freedomswatch.org and then hung up on me."[52]

See the Americans United for Change YouTube video of a call to Freedom's Watch.[53]

Organization

"Freedom's Watch has a few full-time employees and is hiring more, and plans to open an office in the Chinatown area of Washington at Labor Day [2007]."[8]

Funding

"The group is organized under section 501(c)4 of the tax code,[54] meaning that it can lobby on issues but cannot expressly advocate for specific candidates. A 501(c)(4) organization based in Washington D.C. On 22 August 2007 it announced a $15 million advertising and grass-roots campaign in 20 US states to maintain Republican support for President Bush's policies.

"Freedom's Watch was organized as a nonprofit organization under IRS rules and is not required to identify its donors or the amounts they give. The group named some of its financial backers but Blakeman said others wished to remain out of the public eye," Jim Kuhnhenn wrote for the Associated Press.[55]

According to Mike Allen, writing 22 August 2007, in The Politico, Freedom's Watch "donors" are:[8]

It should be noted that in November 2005 it was reported that Sembler and Leach both donated to the legal defense fund of I. Lewis Scooter Libby, the now-convicted former Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.[56] Sembler is now Chairman of the Libby Legal Defense Trust.[43] Fleischer testified as a prosecution witness in Libby's trial.

Domain name

The Freedom's Watch website is hosted on a dedicated server[57] and its internet provider is Democracy Data & Communications, LLC of Alexandria, Virginia,[58] which is also known to be in the astroturfing business.[59] The domain name was registered on June 15.

Contact information

Contact: Jerry Mullins (Weber Merritt LLC)
URL: www.freedomswatch.org
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/Freedomswatch

References

  1. Philip Weiss, New Pro-Iraq-War Organization Hides Its Pro-Israel Agenda, MondoWeiss, 23 August 2007
  2. Philip Weiss, Only the Jewish Press Calls a Spade a Spade: New Pro-Iraq-War Group Is a Jewish Group, MondoWeiss, 27 August 2007
  3. Steve Henn, "Bush backers begin surge of their own," Marketplace/PublicRadio.org, 22 August 2007.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Group to Urge War Support," New York Times, 22 August 2007.
  5. "Left, Right Proxies Push on Iraq.", Washington Post, 22 August 2007
  6. Pro-'surge' group is almost all Jewish, Jewish Telegraph Agency, 24 August 2007
  7. Philip Weiss, Only the Jewish Press Calls a Spade a Spade: New Pro-Iraq-War Group Is a Jewish Group, MondoWeiss, 27 August 2007
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named MAllen
  9. Freedom's Watch has posted videos of the ads on YouTube. See User:Freedomswatch, YouTube.
  10. Company, Jamestown Associates, accessed 23 August 2007.
  11. Contact, Jamestown Associates, accessed 23 August 2007.
  12. The ads erroneously link the war in Iraq with the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, despite any reliable evidence that Iraq played any role whatsoever.
  13. 13.0 13.1 PAF, "Freedom's Watch," Premature Anti-Fascists Blogspot, 24 August 2007.
  14. Matt Snyders, "Stuck between Iraq and a smug face," The Blotter Blog/City Pages (Minn.), 24 August 2007.
  15. Random Jeff, "Freedom's Watch ... Fear Based Bitchy Advertising," That Guy From That Place/Vox.com, 24 August 2007.
  16. Bob Burnett, "Bush's Iraqi endgame. The United States president's unbending approach to Iraq is rooted in advice from Vietnam-era confidantes who worked for Richard Nixon," openDemocracy, July 17, 2007.
  17. John Turner, "Hearts, Minds and Money," Parkdale Pictures Blogspot, 24 August 2007. Includes YouTube video of media coverage.
  18. John Hinderaker, "MSNBC, CNBC Refuse to Run Pro-War Ads," Power Line Blog, August 28, 2007.
  19. Error in orginal...
  20. Jemand von Niemand, "The September Surge Against America?" TPM Cafe, 25 August 2007. NB: the author is very likely a pen name because Niemand = "nobody".
  21. See Gillecriosd's comments at "The Destruction of Public Television," Blue Egg Commentaries Blogspot, 25 August 2007.
  22. von Niemand, ibid.
  23. Note that what "victory" would be is undefined.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Melanie Morgan, "Finally! Combating the anti-victory crowd," WorldNetDaily, 24 August 2007; cross-posted at Gathering of Eagles.
  25. 25.0 25.1 "Pro-US Freedom's Watch Releases Video to Support Troops," Gateway Pundit Blog, 22 August 2007.
  26. D.K. Shideler, DK Republic Blog, San Diego, Calif.
  27. D.K. Shideler, "Help Wanted:State Bloggers for Pro-Surge Push," The 910 Group Blog, July 24, 2007.
  28. Pete Hegseth, "Powerful New Pro-Mission Ads," Vets for Freedom (Free Republic), 22 August 2007.
  29. "Freedom Watch videos," Maggie's Notebook Blog, 23 August 2007.
  30. "From FreedomsWatch.org: Pro-mission ads," SWAC Girl, 24 August 2007.
  31. "New Vets For Freedom Ad," A Soldier's Perspective Blog, 22 August 2007.
  32. Bill Faith, "Politics and National Defense Roundup," Old War Dogs Blog, 22 August 2007.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Tom Matzzie, "An open thank you letter to Ari Fleischer," AMERICAblog, 22 August 2007.
  34. News Release: "WH Front Group Led by Former Bush Flack Swift Boats Vulnerable Republicans With Attack Ads in Effort to Bully Them into Supporting Failed Bush Strategy in Iraq," Americans United for Change (USA TODAY), 22 August 2007.
  35. http://infowars.net/articles/august2007/230807ads.htm
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 Justin Raimondo, "Home Front 'Surge'. War Party's ad campaign will boomerang," Antiwar.com, 24 August 2007.
  37. 37.0 37.1 "(Video) Washington insider group uses soldiers to promote war," The Blue State Blog, 22 August 2007.
  38. Steve Benen, "Who’s airing an enemy propaganda film — CNN or the RNC?" The Carpetbagger Report, October 24, 2006.
  39. "PFA War on Terror ad," YouTube, September 7, 2006.
  40. Steve Benen, "Freedom's Watch," The Carpetbagger Report, 22 August 2007.
  41. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Selling_the_war
  42. Tim, "Hello, Bullet. I'd like to introduce you to foot," The Vulgar Trade Blogspot, 22 August 2007.
  43. 43.0 43.1 Sridhar Pappu, "White House Vet Ari Fleischer, Back to Fight for The Surge in Iraq," Washington Post, 24 August 2007.
  44. Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest, "The Lie Factory," MotherJones, January/February 2004 (issue).
  45. Justin Raimondo, "WHO LIED US INTO WAR? Let's find out," Antiwar.com, July 28, 2003.
  46. Dick Cheney: "Cheney '94: Invading Baghdad Would Create Quagmire C-SPAN," YouTube, posted August 10, 2007.
  47. Justin Raimondo, "Nihilism and Neoconservatism. Brothers under the skin," Antiwar.com, June 20, 2007.
  48. Jim Hoagland, "Bush's Vietnam Blunder," Washington Post, 24 August 2007.
  49. Justin Raimondo, "The Thirty Years War. Vietnam – we're still fighting over it," Antiwar.com, April 29, 2005.
  50. Kagro X, "Call Congress, but only if you agree with us," The Daily Kos, 22 August 2007.
  51. Taylor Marsh, "Classic Bush - Classic Rove," TaylorMarsh.com, 22 August 2007.
  52. chrisj, "1-877-222-8001 "Freedom's Watch" -- Call to Action," The Daily Kos, 22 August 2007.
  53. "You call this 'freedom'?" posted by UncommonSense Blog, 24 August 2007.
  54. Bill Adair, "Groups hide behind tax code," St. Petersburg Times, 11 December 2006: "The federal tax code has a separate category for social welfare organizations that have more freedom to lobby. Such groups are known as C4s, for the section of the tax code under which they operate. ... C4s do not pay income tax and do not have to disclose their donors, but the donors are not allowed to take a tax deduction."
  55. Jim Kuhnhenn, "Republicans Launch Iraq Ads," Associated Press (TIME Magazine), 22 August 2007.
  56. Libby's Money Men (and Woman), SourceWatch article.
  57. lookup freedomswatch.org, robtex.com, accessed 24 August 2007. Shows IP server network, domains sharing mailservers and domains sharing nameservers.
  58. WHOIS record for IP 64.191.221.13 accessed 23 August 2007.
  59. "In the astroturfing business," SourceWatch article on DDC.

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