Today being Christmas Day, I think we should all come clean and dedicate ourselves to truth. When all is said and done (and pretty soon it may be), there is probably no person in the world as tortured over the truth these days as U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Some two weeks ago Mr. Rumsfeld, speaking at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, claimed, “We’ve arrived at a strange time in this country, where the worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press.” He went on to say, about allegations that his government was paying journalists to plant positive articles in the press, “We don’t know what the facts are yet [about this].”

Now, the Washington-based Lincoln Group announced on June 11, 2005, the awarding to them of a $100-million contract by the U.S. Special Operations Command. The Lincoln Group describes itself as “a strategic communications & public relations firm providing insight & influence in challenging & hostile environments.” Their avowed aim is to “counter the lies, intimidation and pure evil of terror with factual stories.”

Said James A. Treadwell of the Special Operations Command, in defense of this type of award, “If you want to influence someone, you have to touch their emotions.”

Well, I must admit to being highly stirred by Mr. Rumsfeld’s burning desire to know facts, the Lincoln Group’s staunch commitment to them — and Mr. Treadwell’s ardent wish to touch people’s emotions. It all reminds me, in a nutshell, of LBJ’s eloquent philosophical saw about people: “If you got ’em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

Overwhelming motto

I am stirred by one other thing, too. That is the possibility, as a journalist, of getting in on these huge sums of money that are apparently being offered to us for writing the truth. The Bush administration has repeatedly announced that it considers the information war as important as the military war. It was this that gave me the idea, and I immediately contacted the little-known U.S. Grant Group for Truth in News, located in Cheney Gap, Montana. I had found them on the Internet, and was totally overwhelmed by their motto: “There are no such things as facts; there are only things which appear to be facts and things that don’t.”

“Truer words were never spoken . . . or written,” I said to the head of the USGGTN, retired air force general and ex-Halliburton executive Gill Moroney, who I was lucky to reach on the phone.

“How much do you want?” asked Moroney, bluntly.

Me: “You guys don’t beat around the bush, do you?”

Moroney: “What do you write about?”

Me:”Oh, Japan, mostly.”

Moroney: “Not interested.”

Me: “Wait, don’t hang up! Gen. Moroney? Gen. Moroney?”

Moroney: “Yeah, I’m still here.”

Me: “Uh, well, I got an idea. You see, the Bush administration says that the information war is as important as the, I mean, other war, and, it’s my idea that America could get out of this whole thing, declare victory and still be respected around the world to boot.”

Moroney: (suddenly the ex-general’s voice became highly excited) “That would be worth millions, my friend.”

Me: “Yeah, that’s why I’m calling. You see, President Bush could use his State of the Union address coming up to declare that, in fact, the information war is not only more important than the actual war on the ground, it’s the whole kit and caboodle. You know, what we say about it is it.”

Moroney: “Wait, I don’t get it.”

Me: “It’s simple. The U.S. is spending well over a billion dollars a week in Iraq.”

Moroney: “Yes, but most of that comes home, to Texas and other red states.”

Strategic-type things

Me: “Well now, with my idea, all of it would come home. The president just tells everyone that the information war is everything, and uses that billion-odd outlay every week to pay journalists to write good things, I mean, factual-type things — that America won the war, that there is democracy in Iraq, that most people in the Middle East secretly admire Martha Stewart, you know, really important, strategic-type things. All the soldiers could be home in a jiffy, and the president wouldn’t have to ignore casualties anymore. Republican candidates in the 2006 congressional elections would be a shoo-in. Victory could be declared once and for all and you wouldn’t be able to find an article or editorial that said different. If it looks like a fact and quacks like a fact, it is a fact. See what I mean?”

Moroney: “Do you really think you could pull this off?”

Me: “Well, I’ve done some calculations. I’ve noticed that you are offering Grant grants of $100 million to anyone who can come up with an effective exit strategy. My exit strategy is to simply leave, then barrage the media with positive stories, you know, the kind that Donald Rumsfeld wants to see more of. With my plan, he won’t only see more of them: that’s all he’ll see. President Bush could go back to reading a newspaper like he once did when he was in junior high school, and we journalists could pay off our mortgages and bar bills.”

(At that point Gen. Moroney said something that shocked me to the core.)

Moroney: “While we’ve been talking, I’ve been reading some of your articles on the Net. They are not very positive about the facts as we see them. If this is some sort of joke, we don’t find it funny. But I’ll contact the government and we’ll give consideration to your rendition.”

With that, Gen. Moroney hung up. I held the receiver against my ear; and though there was a dead silence coming from it, his words, coming all the way to Tokyo from Cheney Gap, Montana, resounded loudly in my head.

What did he mean by “your rendition?” I like living in Tokyo and want to stay here, even if it means keeping the truth to myself.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.