Military Explains News Propaganda in Iraq

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
By LOLITA C. BALDOR - Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - (AP) Military officials for the first time Friday
detailed and broadly defended a Pentagon program that pays to plant stories
in the Iraqi media, an effort the top U.S. military commander said was part
of an effort to "get the truth out" there.
But facing critics in the United States _ including lawmakers from
both parties _ the military raised the possibility for the first time of
making changes in the program.
"If any part of our process does not have our full confidence, we
will examine that activity and take appropriate action," said Lt. Col. Barry
Johnson, a military spokesman in Iraq. "If any contractor is failing to
perform as we have intended, we will take appropriate action."
Johnson did not specify what changes, if any, might be considered.
The remarks came after days of reports and criticism that the
military was covertly planting in the Iraqi media stories that, while
factual, gave a slanted, positive view of conditions in Iraq.
U.S. military officials in Iraq said articles had been offered and
published in Iraqi newspapers "as a function of buying advertising and
opinion/editorial space, as is customary in Iraq."
Coalition forces compiled the material, and the Washington-based
Lincoln Group was authorized to pay Iraqi papers to run the articles, which
were supposed to be identified in that way, said Sen. John Warner, R-Va.,
chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Warner, who went to the Pentagon Friday for an explanation, said the
program was carefully monitored by military leaders and was reviewed by
attorneys to ensure it complied with the law.
Warner said if true, the practice of paying someone to plant
favorable stories without disclosing it would be wrong _ and he was
confident the military leaders would agree.
"They do not support any practices which is not in keeping with the
long-standing traditions of our journalistic profession in this country,"
Warner said. "I'm sure, while it wasn't addressed specifically, they would
strongly object to any practices that were inconsistent, particularly
involving payoffs."
But Warner and military leaders, including Gen. Peter Pace, chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also offered a stern defense of the program.
"Things like this happen. It's a war," Warner said. "The
disinformation that's going on in that country is really affecting the
effectiveness of what we're achieving, and we have no recourse but to try
and do some rebuttal information."
Pace told The Associated Press: "We want to get the facts out. We
want to get the truth out."
In Baghdad, Johnson, the military spokesman, said third parties such
as the Lincoln Group were used to market the stories to reduce the risk of
retaliation against the publishers.
He also sounded a theme that has become central to the military's
defense of the program: a need to counter lies put out by the enemy in Iraq.

"The information battlespace in Iraq is contested at all times and
is filled with misinformation and propaganda by an enemy intent on
discrediting the Iraqi government and the coalition, and who are taking
every opportunity to instill fear and intimidate the Iraqi people," he said.

The stories in Iraqi newspapers often praise the efforts of U.S. and
Iraqi troops, denounce terrorism and promote the country's reconstruction
efforts, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The Times said
documents it obtained showed that the Baghdad-based newspaper Al Mutamar was
paid about $50 to run one of the stories, which had the headline "Iraqis
Insist on Living Despite Terrorism" on Aug. 6.
Lincoln Group spokeswoman Laurie Adler issued a statement Friday
saying that the company has worked with the Iraqi media to "promote truthful
"We counter the lies, intimidation, and pure evil of terror with
factual stories that highlight the heroism and sacrifice of the Iraqi people
and their struggle for freedom and security," she said.
A Pentagon spokesman said Friday it was not clear whether the
program violated the law or Pentagon policy.
"You can do something perfectly legal, but that is inconsistent with
the policy or procedures of the department. Just because it's legal doesn't
mean it's the right thing to do," said spokesman Bryan Whitman.
The Lincoln Group has at least two contracts with the military to
provide media and public relations services. One contract, for $6 million,
was for public relations and advertising work in Iraq.
The other Lincoln contract, which is with the Special Operations
Command, is worth up to $100 million over five years for media operations
with video, print and Web-based products. That contract is not related to
the dispute over propaganda and was not for services in Iraq, according to
command spokesman Ken McGraw.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., asked the Defense Department's
Inspector General to launch an investigation into the matter.
"These reports raise serious questions about whether the Department
of Defense engaged in covert activity by concealing the role of the
government," Kennedy said in a letter Friday to Acting Inspector General
Thomas F. Gimble. "This perception is reinforced by suggestions that there
are classified aspects to this activity."