By Bill Berkowitz
1020/07 "ich" -- -- Global
Research -- -- After successfully
holding the line on Congressional support for the surge in Iraq,
wealthy Bush backers are turning their attention and money to
drumming up support for military action against Iran
If the U.S. undertakes military action against Iran, you can
credit such longtime neoconservatives as Norman Podhoretz,
William Kristol, Michael Ledeen and the swarm of ideologues
buzzing about Washington's right wing think tanks. You can also
credit Pastor John Hagee and his Christians United for Israel, a
Christian Zionist outfit with unbending support for Israel. And
credit also the billionaire and multimillionaire founders of
Freedom's Watch for helping smooth the way.
Later this month, Freedom's Watch will sponsor a forum of some
20 experts on "radical Islam" that, according to a front page
story in the New York Times, "is expected to make the case that
Iran poses a direct threat to the security of the United
The forum is being "organized with the American Enterprise
Institute, a Washington, DC-based neoconservative think tank,
and it is 'private,'" John Stauber the Executive Director of the
Center for Media and Democracy, told Media Transparency. "The
fact that Freedom's Watch has been discussing it with the New
York Times appears to be a great teaser to keep the press
interested in who will be there, what will be discussed, etc."
"This in itself is a public relations ploy; they don't need to
announce a private forum, they can hold one any time they want,"
Stauber pointed out. "But they want to keep the organization in
the media spotlight and look significant and important from a
The idea for Freedom's Watch (FW) first surfaced in March of
this year at the winter meeting of the Republican Jewish
Coalition (RJC) in Manalapan, Florida, where Vice President Dick
Cheney accused House Democrats of not supporting the troops in
Iraq. The RJC, which is credited with shepherding then-Texas
Governor George W. Bush on his first tour of Israel in November
1998, is a big-money pro-Israel lobby group that networks
Jewish-American neoconservatives, Christian Right leaders and
conservatives in Israel.
The Freedom's Watch "inner circle of strategists and donors are
close to Vice President Dick Cheney or held high posts at the
White House," the Associated Press's Jim Kuhnhenn pointed out in
According to its website, Freedom's Watch is a 501 (c) (4)
nonprofit corporation; it can lobby on issues but cannot
expressly advocate for specific candidates. It is "dedicated to
fighting to protect the ideals and issues that keep America
strong and prosperous." It is "rallying together" to: "Bring the
focus back to the real threats to our nation"; "Fight back
against the policies that are corrupting America's ability to
protect our citizens, our economy, and our way of life"; and
"Reprioritize our legislative agenda to protect America's core
"Ideologically, we are inspired by much of Ronald Reagan's
thinking -- peace through strength, protect and defend America,
and prosperity through free enterprise," Freedom's Watch's
co-founder and spokesperson Ari Fleischer, the former White
House press secretary to President George W. Bush from 2001 to
2003, has stated.
Big-time movers and shakers
Among the group's founders and major donors are Sheldon Adelson,
the chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands
Corporation, who ranks sixth on the Forbes magazine list of the
world's billionaires; Mel Sembler, the controversial Florida
multi-millionaire, who is a former U.S. Ambassador to Italy and
Australia and is a member of board of directors of the
neoconservative American Enterprise Institute and is also
serving on the national finance committee of GOP presidential
contender Mitt Romney; Matt Brooks, executive director of the
Republican Jewish Coalition; and Anthony Gioia, a longtime
Republican Party donor who served as U.S. Ambassador to Malta
until 2004 and is former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani's
Western New York State Finance Chair.
Also in the mix are Kevin Moley, who served as the U.S.
Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Other
International Organizations in Geneva from September 2001 to
April 2006; Howard Leach, a big-time GOP donor who served as
Ambassador to France until 2005; Dr. John Templeton, Jr., the
son of mutual-funds pioneer Sir John Templeton and chairman and
president of the John Templeton Foundation who is serving as
chairman on Romney's National Faith And Values Steering
Committee; Edward Snider, chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, the
huge Philadelphia sports and entertainment firm; Gary Erlbaum,
Vice Chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
and Chairman of the Federation's Israel Emergency Campaign and
the Executive Vice President of the Jewish Publishing Group
which publishes the Jewish Exponent and Inside magazine; and
Richard Fox, chairman of the Jewish Policy Center and
Pennsylvania State Chairman of the Reagan/Bush campaign in 1980.
Writing in the October 8, 2007 issue of the American
Conservative, Philip Weiss reported that a story titled
"Pro-Surge Group Is Almost All Jewish," from the Jewish
Telegraphic Agency, a wire service for Jewish news, noted that
four out of five members of Freedom's Watch board are Jewish,
and half of its donors are Jewish. According to Weiss, "The JTA
quoted one of its directors, Matthew Brooks, saying this was
strictly a 'coincidence.'"
When Brooks was asked by Weiss "whether Freedom's Watch was
devoted to Israel's security," Brooks replied: "That is
absolutely not true. This is a broad-based organization. For
anyone to draw any conclusion that we are focused on Jewish
issues is an incorrect assumption and false in reality ... We
are vehemently and strongly focused on making the case for the
war on terror as being in America's interest. Israel's interest
is totally irrelevant."
Supporting the surge
Freedom's Watch made its first public splash just prior to the
appearance of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker
before Congress, testifying about the situation in Iraq. In
late-August, FW launched a $15 million radio and television
advertising campaign aimed at maintaining Congressional support
for President Bush's surge and the occupation of Iraq.
The heart-wrenching ads featured a wounded Iraq veteran pleading
with Congress and the American people not to "surrender" in
Iraq. A still photograph of the second hijacked plane heading
for the World Trade Center on 9/11 is shown while Sergeant
Kriesel says, "They attacked us, and they will again. They won't
stop in Iraq."
Freedom's Watch's pro-surge ads "are the handiwork" of Jamestown
Associates, whose client list also includes the Republican
Jewish Coalition and Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Israel's
Likud Party," David McKee reported in late September in Las
Vegas CityLife. Jamestown Associates website describes the
company as a "full-service Republican political and public
affairs consulting firm" with offices in Washington, D.C.,
Princeton, N.J., Baton Rouge, La., and Dallas, Texas."
Freedom's Watch intends to raise $200 million by November 2008,
one anonymous benefactor told the New York Times.
While supporting the surge in Iraq was its first public
campaign, Freedom's Watch has another target in mind: Iran.
In late September, the group ran a newspaper advertisement
calling Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "a terrorist."
"If Hitler's warnings were heeded when he wrote 'Mein Kampf,' he
could have been stopped," Bradley Blakeman, the president of
Freedom's Watch and a former assistant to President George W.
Bush, told the New York Times. "Ahmadinejad is giving all the
same kind of warning signs to us, and the region -- he wants the
destruction of the United States and the destruction of Israel."
Blakeman is apparently giving "the same kind of warning signs"
to the American people that a well-financed media campaign
advocating military action against Iran is on Freedom's Watch's
Look for another series of slick advertisements: Perhaps footage
of Hitler's storm-troopers overrunning Poland juxtaposed against
shots of Iran's Revolutionary Guard goose-stepping down a Tehran
street. Perhaps a few mushroom clouds while Ahmadinejad's
wrong-headed remarks roll across the screen. Not emotional
enough? Pictures of wounded U. S. soldiers in Iraq in a split
screen with caches of weapons stamped "Made in Iran."
Since most people in the U.S. now believe that it was wrong for
Bush to invade Iraq and that the original mistake has been
compounded by the administration's mistakes and miscalculations
and its refusal to set a timetable for withdrawing from that
country, is it possible that Freedom's Watch's money-men can
convince the public that a military strike against Iran is the
right thing to do?
Although Freedom's Watch "declined to identify the experts"
appearing at its late-October forum on Iran, "several were
invited from the American Enterprise Institute," the New York
Times reported. "Some institute scholars have advocated a more
confrontational policy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear
weapons, including keeping military action as an option."
"They may keep the meeting closed or possibly open it up," John
Stauber noted. "If they do keep it closed, you can be sure that
participants will be talking with the press. This is an
effective PR ploy to get their message out through reporters."
"If you look at how Iraq was sold to the American public, a
number of pro-war groups and committees of the same ilk and
backing had meetings at the White House, embarked on policy
discussion tours around the country with media, and appeared as
experts on news shows," Stauber pointed out.
"It should be remembered that Freedom's Watch is run by a White
House PR flack [Ari Fleischer] who was key to selling that last
war. It is the same script, same images, same messages, and same
players. And it is likely to provoke the same response from the
© Copyright Bill Berkowitz,
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