Bell Pottinger’s work in Iraq was a huge media operation which cost over a hundred million dollars a year on average. A document unearthed by the Bureau shows the company was employing almost 300 British and Iraqi staff at one point.
The London-based PR agency was brought into Iraq soon after the U.S. invasion. In March 2004 it was tasked by the country’s temporary administration with the “promotion of democratic elections”—a “high-profile activity” which it trumpeted in its annual report.
He would be flying out on Monday, Wells was told. It was Friday afternoon. He asked where he would be going and got a surprising answer: Baghdad.
“So I literally had 48 hours to gather everything I needed to live in a desert,” Wells said.
Days later, Wells’s plane executed a corkscrew landing to avoid insurgent fire at Baghdad airport. He assumed he would be taken to somewhere in the Green Zone, from which coalition officials were administering Iraq. Instead he found himself in Camp Victory, a military base.
It turned out that the British PR firm which had hired him was working at the heart of a U.S. military intelligence operation.
A tide of violence was engulfing the Iraqi capital as Wells began his contract. The same month he arrived there were five suicide bomb attacks in the city, including one a suicide car bomb attack near Camp Victory which killed 14 people and wounded six others.
Describing his first impressions, Wells said he was struck by a…