Friday, December 02, 2005

The example of Iraq

Good Morning America!

Well just when you thought it was safe to trust the media! A December joke, huh? Anyway, the example is the issue of media manipulation in Iraq by the US military.

The Center for American Progress reported it, because it's really in a second phase. Previously, the Office of Strategic Influence of the Pentagon, was involved in these activities, the Pentagon pulled what happens in the corporate world to duck responsibility: they "closed" the doors and reopened under another name. Now it's called the Information Operation Task Force. And it's down a couple levels deeper in Pentagon; well, let's say quagmire.

These revelations were printed in the December 1 issue of the New York Times, and in whole it looks like the military is advertising and authoring propaganda that are being diseminated on Iraqi media without acknowledgement of their source. Here's the simple version: the military writes a positive spin article or ad. They give it to the Lincoln Group. Lincoln has certain "journalists" on retainer, meaning far more money than they would make from an Iraqi media source. Those journalists then reprint those articles, in many places verbatim, in the Iraqi media. No accrediting to the original source of the info, no fact check, nothing.

The ironic aspect of this story is that according to the
The "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" released yesterday by President Bush included among its eight "strategic pillars" the importance of promoting "the vitality of a free press" by "working to promote civic understanding and enable Iraq’s public and private media institutions to flower." To further this goal, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development today "pay contractors millions of dollars to help train journalists and promote a professional and independent Iraqi media." Many of these programs specifically instruct foreign journalists "not to accept payments from interested parties to write articles and not to print government propaganda disguised as news." In other words, the administration's propaganda program not only works against U.S. efforts to help bolster democratic reform and develop Iraqi civil society, but counteracts programs on which millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent", according to the Center article.

The military has gotten into the PR business. Last year, according to the Center article, Rumsfeld's office issued a private memo detailing how a Pentagon-sponsored group of Iraqis would be touring the country with presentations "designed to be uplifting accounts with good news messages;" the memo recommended that that U.S. officials "seek local news coverage, noting that 'these events and presentations are positive public relations opportunities.'"

And the Group involved? That would be the Lincoln Group. They used to be called Iraqex. Ah, you noticed. Another name change. Well, the Lincoln Group, which does sound more American and patriotic, earlier this year negotiated a $100 million dollar PR deal to cover the war in Iraq.
I'm not certain who the experienced PR people are, but the names that emerge are Brian Swift, an Illinois Bush/Cheney campaign worker, and Johnathan Blessing, who worked for the Illinois GOP. The Chicago Tribune looked into the Lincoln claims of "more experience in Iraq than anyone" and found those two gentlemen. Neither had been there before. And according to the Lincoln Group web site, a FOX contribtor by the name of Bill Cowan is an advisor, and Christian Bailey is the longtime senior executive, a top operative in conservative circles for years. The last link is an intersting one. It reveals some of the efforts the right goes through to cover their tracks. What emerges is a small group of individuals, usually founding members or executives of small firms with conservative agendas, who create a new group of mutual back scratchers, and the administrations penchant for cronyism.

More shocking to me is the attitude about this kind of activity. According to Steven Spruiell of National Review, "We need more operations like this in Iraq, and more respect for their classified nature," arguing that the misleading planted stories "wouldn't undercut the trust of the Iraqi people if papers like the LA Times weren't blowing their cover." So, what you are saying Steve is, it's okay to secretly lie, and cover it up. How does this pass muster in the eyes of Americans?

A key element of the Bill of Rights is a free press. Not only is that jeopardized in America, but we are seeing efforts to undermine that in the so-called march of freedom. According to President Bush, " Advancing the ideal of democracy and self-government is a mission that created our nation...." This twist is almost unbelievable. We invaded a country to advance the ideal of democracy, questionable in it's own right. The Pilgrims did not. They left England with no army, no weapons to speak of. The left England to be able to freely worship, and to live under what could be more accurately described as a theocracy, not democracy. Democracy in America evolved as the country grew. So did the need for a free press, where one could get information about policies and activities of those who are supposed to be representatives of those who elect them. And if the ability to tell the truth is in danger, than our very foundation is crumbling. It is the job then of every American to speak up. To demand of their press journalistic standards. To demand of their government ethical behavior in keeping with the principles of the Constitution they swear to uphold.

If our house turns into a house of cards, we have only ourselves to blame.


Blogger Bruce Larson*Moore said...

Trust not one who can not trust you.

There will never be trust given from those forced to pay tax's and who live under the threat of being jailed for their moral beliefs.

This house of cards, will fall, unless it is rebuilt on a solid foundation of free*choice, as was it's original stated intention.


6/12/05 11:20  

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