Thursday, December 01, 2005

Iraqi Press Paid To Publish US Propaganda

Previously, the Bush administration has distributed video and news stories in the US that have run without identification of their source.  Furthermore, journalists have been paid to promote Bush policies.  The GAO deemed these practices to be covert propaganda.

Now it has been disclosed that the US military has been paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American servicepeople.,0,5645587.story?coll=ny-top-headlines

WASHINGTON -- As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The intent is to have the stories perceived as unbiased while actually only presenting some of the relevant facts. (principles of good journalism be damned.)

Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.  Though the articles are basically factual, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles, with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism," since the effort began this year.

So how exactly does this dovetail with the democratic government that the US is supposedly facilitating?  Wouldn't a free press play a critical role?  Well, maybe not.

One of the military officials said that, as part of a psychological operations campaign that has intensified over the last year, the task force also had purchased an Iraqi newspaper and taken control of a radio station, and was using them to channel pro-American messages to the Iraqi public. Neither is identified as a military mouthpiece.

Perhaps they can get Fox to help with management. </snark> And if this is illegal, some basis for justifying it is always available.

U.S. law forbids the military from carrying out psychological operations or planting propaganda through American media outlets. Yet several officials said that given the globalization of media driven by the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, the Pentagon's efforts were carried out with the knowledge that coverage in the foreign press inevitably "bleeds" into the Western media and influences coverage in U.S. news outlets.

Huh?  So planted stories from abroad will get into western media and then influence western readers too.  A bonus in that US media will subsequently cover the stories and thereby circumvent the relevant law.

Several outside companies have been paid for services related to carrying out these "strategic communications".  One of these is the Lincoln Group (formerly "Iraqex").  Lincoln Group, in addition to its contract to do work in Iraq, has been given another major agreement.

Besides its contract with the military in Iraq, Lincoln Group this year won a major contract with U.S. Special Operations Command, based in Tampa, to develop a strategic communications campaign in concert with special operations troops stationed around the globe.  The contract is worth up to $100 million over five years, although U.S. military officials said they doubted the Pentagon would

spend the full amount of the contract.

Who knew that biased news stories could be worth so much?

And here's a nice comforting statement from the Lincoln Group site:

Across a wide variety of issues, from governance to economic development, our professionals work every day of the year in some of the most inhospitable environments in order to get your message communicated effectively.

But the money quote here is by Abdul Zahra Zaki of the newspaper Al Mada.

Zaki said that if his cash-strapped paper had known that these stories were from the U.S. government, he would have "charged much, much more" to publish them.

Well spoken, no?


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