Buchanan: "Our guys" in Iraq "have got every right to have good news ... even if it's got to be planted or bought"
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On the December 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC political analyst and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan argued in favor of "deception, misinformation, disinformation, deceit, [and] propaganda" in times of war, during a discussion about a November 30 New York Times report that the Pentagon has been paying Iraqi newspapers to run its own positive stories about the war and paying Iraqi journalists to write similar reports.
In a lengthy debate with Hardball host Matthews and MSNBC political analyst Ron Reagan, Buchanan said that "the Pentagon and our guys over there have got every right to have good news put into the media and get to the people of Iraq, even if it's got to be planted or bought."
When Matthews asked Buchanan if he minds being deceived, Buchanan replied, "During wartime, no ... I mean, there's things you have to do in wartime, we may not like it, but they're necessary in the long run."
Buchanan also rejected the notion that, in order to establish a working press in Iraq, the United States should "tie our hands and say, look, we want objective journalists who run by the Columbia School of Journalism standards and it's wrong simply to buy a couple of Baghdad journalists and say put this in your paper so we can get it out? "
From the December 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Is this a tempest in a teapot, or is this bad news for us in the PR war over there? The battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqis?
BUCHANAN: Well, what hurts in the PR war is that it was exposed. The battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis is part of this war. And the Pentagon and our guys over there have got every right to have good news put into the media and get to the people of Iraq, even if it's got to be planted or bought. I mean, the idea that somehow Marines out there fighting, giving their lives are now guilty of seducing the Baghdad press corps --
MATTHEWS: No, they're not accused of being guilty; they're being accused of being to do it as a part of their duty.
BUCHANAN: There's nothing -- they ought to do it.
BUCHANAN: Ron, the blowup of this thing is the problem. By way of deception, thou shalt make war [reportedly the motto of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad]. For heaven sakes, you don't think [Gen. Dwight D.] Eisenhower was putting out phony stories to British journalists about [Gen. George] Patton coming for the Pas-de-Calais [instead of Normandy during World War II]? I mean, deception, misinformation, disinformation, deceit, propaganda -- these are all instruments of war. We sent out guys over there to fight and die, and you're telling me we can't put out stories that put a good light on what's being done there to try to bring the Iraqi people toward us? The crime here, Chris, if there is one, is the exposure of this thing and the damage done.
MATTHEWS: You mean it should have been kept secret.
BUCHANAN: If you had done that in World War II and exposed all the guys on our payroll --
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you this. These stories -- as you know, in newspapers today and blogging and everything, we know that anything that appears in print gets online. What happens in that starts coming back to the United States and we start believing it? Then we're being propagandized, we're propagandizing ourselves, aren't we? Is that OK?
BUCHANAN: Chris, I mean, there's worse things that happened than us being propagandized. We're at war.
MATTHEWS: I'm not saying it's the end of the world. I'm saying, is it the right thing to be doing?
BUCHANAN: It is. It's the necessary to do to try to win the hearts and minds. Everything you can. The problem here is it was exposed.
REAGAN: It is a foolish thing to do and don't -- I wouldn't be surprised if we find out that the Iraqi people are way ahead of us on this story. I wouldn't be surprised if we found out that most Iraqi people assumed that a lot of what's showing up in their papers, these good-news stories, are being ginned up by the Americans, and they're not buying them to begin with.
BUCHANAN: Ron, let me ask you something. If we can't put $10 million on the table and buy Aljazeera to give us good press, would you not do it today, if you were in this war?
REAGAN: No, I wouldn't.
BUCHANAN: You wouldn't do it?
REAGAN: No. We're supposed to be fighting for truth and liberty and freedom and justice. We're spending money over there in Iraq to train journalists to have an actual free press, and with the other hand we're undermining that very effort. This is a foolish thing to be doing.
BUCHANAN: Look -- you don't think we need a propaganda campaign to get out our message as best we can in a region of the world where we're hated, and what people believe and understand and come to know will decide whether we win or lose this war? We're to tie our hands and say, look, we want objective journalists who run by the Columbia School of Journalism standards, and it's wrong simply to buy a couple of Baghdad journalists and say, "Put this in your paper so we can get it out"?
REAGAN: If there's so much good news coming out of Iraq, why do we have to pay the Iraqi journalists to report it? They should be doing that on their own --
BUCHANAN: Because a lot of military say the American journalists are not reporting the good news. Our own people report that. Our troops over there are making these statements. For heaven sakes, we are -- maybe we shouldn't have gone to war, but if you go to war, you back up your troops with everything you can, and that includes propaganda.
MATTHEWS: You don't buy this whole notion of creating democracies, do you, Pat?
BUCHANAN: Listen, if you're going to put --
MATTHEWS: It's not like you don't like this little fly in the ointment. You don't like the notion.
BUCHANAN: Look, I think the United States in World War II probably bought an awful lot of newsmen. The end of it was democracy in Germany and Japan, but during wartime, you tie your hands?
BUCHANAN: Look, I assume that many of these reports told the truth about what's going on, that we are making progress. But during the Cold War, I am sure the Central Intelligence Agency, just like the Soviet Union, was over there in Europe and giving money to journalists when they had the confrontations in the late '40s over whether the communists were going to take power. And elections are ours where we were supporting parties, we were doing our level best. All of the tools of democracy to try to save democracy. It is not illegitimate. Chris, we are in a real world.
MATTHEWS: Do you mind being deceived?
BUCHANAN: Look, during wartime --
MATTHEWS: Do you mind being deceived?
BUCHANAN: During wartime, no. If the president of the United States in wartime says -- why do we military censorship? To save lives, Chris. I mean, there's things you have to do in wartime, we may not like it, but they're necessary in the long run.
BUCHANAN: Who's responsible for safeguarding the ethics of Baghdad journalists, for heaven sakes?
REAGAN: What do you know about Baghdad journalists? You just said that these people are risking their lives.
BUCHANAN: If a guy will buy a story for $200, give it to him, for heaven sakes.