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November 30, 2005 8:14 AM   Subscribe

U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press --As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories ... 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 ... Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. ... The Lincoln Group is involved, and the military's "Information Operations Task Force". Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday cited the proliferation of news organizations in Iraq as one of the country's great successes since the ouster of President Saddam Hussein.
posted by amberglow (46 comments total)

 
Of course Rumsfeld would count that as a success. We're 'exporting American democracy.' That's the democracy where, you know, you just feel like you have a say.
posted by lumpenprole at 8:20 AM on November 30, 2005


America died with JFK.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:35 AM on November 30, 2005


America died with JFK.

Ah, yes, Kennedy. Now there was a man who knew illegal covert military strategies.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:37 AM on November 30, 2005


Hearts and minds people, hearts and minds!
posted by nofundy at 8:46 AM on November 30, 2005


(Not that I'm a total JFK fan, but I do remember him complaining about being pressured to assasinate Castro.)

So...we have an occupying Army planting propaganda! Whoulda thunk it!?
posted by kozad at 8:46 AM on November 30, 2005


I have to admit, I had just assumed this was being done. It wouldn't quite be an illegal occupation without covert propaganda, would it?
posted by NinjaPirate at 8:46 AM on November 30, 2005


Wow. This is just like in the movies!
posted by VulcanMike at 8:49 AM on November 30, 2005


the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories ...

This is my surprised face.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:54 AM on November 30, 2005


Newsfilter.

Do we really have to repost everything from Rawstory, DailyKos, et al.?
posted by jsavimbi at 8:54 AM on November 30, 2005


Yes, we do.
posted by matty at 9:07 AM on November 30, 2005


Couldn't they just threaten to bomb them? I mean that's what we do to Arab media who don't print what we like, right? /sarcasm
posted by gubo at 9:08 AM on November 30, 2005


Jsavimbi,
Would you rather have Hitchens and Sullivan and Drudge? :-)

Your frames of reference often disclose your personal bias (your political slip is showing) and that leads me to think perhaps you wouldn't complain so loudly were this bit of news weren't inherently bad for the Bushies.
As a matter of fact, your posting history confirms that.
If you're a Defender Of All Things Dubya, fine, just don't pretend we can't see the man behind the curtain.

Then again, maybe you're just being the devil's advocate (but he already has a Mefi account.)
posted by nofundy at 9:09 AM on November 30, 2005


Would you rather have Hitchens and Sullivan and Drudge? :-)

The Genocidal Imagination of Christopher Hitchens
(via Lenin's Tomb)
posted by matteo at 9:11 AM on November 30, 2005


:-)
posted by matteo at 9:11 AM on November 30, 2005


Do we really have to repost everything from Rawstory, DailyKos, et al.?

Well jsavimbi, in 20 years, when it seems so obvious to historians how this administration ran this war on lies and bullshit at the same time that there was an explosion of citizen journalism, digital archaeologists will scroll through terabytes of idiotic recapitulations of GOP talking points shaking their heads, and only occasionally come across a post that pointed toward what was actually going on.

Personally, I'd rather have MeFi seem prescient and smart when that happens, rather than credulous and sleepy.
posted by digaman at 9:13 AM on November 30, 2005


What's interesting about this too, is that i'm sure these fake stories will be picked up by war supporters here and disseminated--as proof of progress there, and as proof of our "liberal anti-war media"--accomplishing two aims in one.
posted by amberglow at 9:14 AM on November 30, 2005


excerpt

"The Karbala Intelligencer
November 29th 2005

American Friend Forces Throw Surprise Party in Local Neighborhood

by Masoud "Steve" Al Bouhani

Today, around 10am, American Fun Troopers gathered spontaneously in a local northeast market to show the love and great admiration they have for the Iraqi people. They handed out gifts in the form of small metal pellets to several residents. Some lucky residents, who were whisked away on wondrous private limousines, were treated to special "secret" spa treatments... Read More inside!"
posted by tkchrist at 9:23 AM on November 30, 2005


Indeed, amberglow.

And meanwhile, you have Rumsfeld making statements like this in a press conference the other day, which manage to deny widely reported facts, contradict themselves, and imply that "well-timed" reports of Iraqi sectarian violence are planted in the American press by either the insurgency or Democrats, all in just a few sentences:


Your questions, please.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Charlie?

Q Mr. Secretary, are you concerned over -- and in fact, is the United States looking into growing reports of uniformed death squads in Iraq perhaps assassinating and torturing hundreds of Sunnis? And if that's true, what would that say about stability in Iraq?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm not going to comment on hypothetical questions. I've not seen reports that hundreds are being killed by roving death squads at all.
We know for a fact that it's a violent country. We know for a fact that there have been various militias. We know that there have been some militias that have been Iran-oriented. We also know there's been some militias in the north that have been very helpful. The Peshmerga have been very constructive in what they've done.
But I'm not going to get into speculation like that.

Q But, sir, that's not a hypothetical, I don't believe. The Sunnis themselves are charging that hundreds have been assassinated, people shot in the head, found in alleys.

SEC. RUMSFELD: What you're talking about are unverified -- to my knowledge, at least -- unverified comments. I just don't have any data from the field that I could comment on in a specific way.
Do you, General?

GEN. PACE: No, I do not, sir, although I do know that the Iraqi government has said that they were going to investigate those kinds of allegations.

SEC. RUMSFELD: And they should. That's a good thing. Look, it's a sovereign country. The Iraqi government exists. There's also a political campaign taking place, and we ought to be aware of that, that there are going to be a lot of charges and countercharges and allegations, and they may very well be timed -- as they are in every country in the world that has a free political system -- they may be timed in a way to seek advantage. We also will find that, in some cases, that there will be investigations, and that they will prove to have been valid. I just don't know. I can only talk about what I know. That's life.

posted by digaman at 9:24 AM on November 30, 2005


yup--and that's the press conf mentioned by editor and publisher: The country is -- has a free media, and they can -- it's a relief valve. They could have hundred-plus papers. There's 72 radio stations. There's 44 television stations. And they're debating things and talking and arguing and discussing.
posted by amberglow at 9:28 AM on November 30, 2005


They really do have a democracy now, huh?
posted by zekinskia at 9:31 AM on November 30, 2005


Maybe we should start bombing Iraqi newspapers for publishing propaganda that presents a one-sided view of the war.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:55 AM on November 30, 2005


let us declare victory,and stop this crazy thing
posted by hortense at 9:59 AM on November 30, 2005


Like this?
posted by prostyle at 10:17 AM on November 30, 2005


let us declare victory,and stop this crazy thing

we all remember how well it went last time they tried that
posted by matteo at 10:39 AM on November 30, 2005


Digiman says: "And meanwhile, you have Rumsfeld making statements like this in a press conference the other day, which manage to deny widely reported facts, contradict themselves, and imply that "well-timed" reports of Iraqi sectarian violence are planted in the American press by either the insurgency or Democrats, all in just a few sentences."

I read the excerpt and see nothing of the sort. Just because the Sunnis claim it is so doesn't make it so. Just because some journalists make statements in their questions doesn't make it so.

If you read it with a more open mind, you would understand that Rummy only said he has no information confirming hundreds of deaths at the hands of roving death squads. There are many deaths, but many might be the result of Sunnis or insurgents striving to scare off voters. Some might be Shia relataliations. Some might be the result of gang violence. Some , etc.

But you already knew that I suppose, but just decided to conveniently ignore it?
posted by Capt. Bligh at 11:09 AM on November 30, 2005


Rumsfeld's press conference also has some interesting discussion of the use of the term "insurgents." He's "little reluctant to [call them insurgents] for some reason," maybe because "they don't have broad support in that country," and suggests "enemies of the government" or "enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government" as alternatives.

If you accept the legitimacy of the Iraqi government, I think "insurgents" is the correct term (their popularity doesn't matter). If you don't, "resistance" is more accurate.

Since the January 2005 elections were imposed by an illegal invader and were probably rigged, I don't consider the Iraqi government to be legitimate.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:28 AM on November 30, 2005


As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories

Seems to me that this is exactly what should be happening. How stupid would the military have to be to ignore one of the best ways of informing/brainwashing the public?

A complete non-issue, IMO.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:44 AM on November 30, 2005


Bligh, being a journalist myself, I know how hard it is to dig up the truth, and how important it is to do it -- particularly in the face of a massive disinformation campaign by this administration on such an important matter as launching a war.

I know that the modus operandi of this administration -- and Rumsfeld in particular -- is to denigrate the press, and write it off as a bunch of amateurs taking potshots for partisan purposes. That tactic has served the administration very well in the right-wing blogosphere, at the same time that Bush & Co. have conducted a herculean effort to restrict journalistic access, make certain records go away, and cloud the air with grotesque bullshit like the Swift Boat campaign against Kerry, or Scott McClellan's disgusting attack on John Murtha, comparing him to Michael Moore.

But this approach only works in the short term, because, just like insisting that "the jury on climate change is still out" while denigrating scientists and cutting research programs, the evidence tends to pile up around one's lying mouth. As a journalist, I've spoken to a number of senior Army officers who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom who are frankly surprised that Rumsfeld still has a job. Don't expect me to climb on the bandwagon of trashing the experts as partisan stooges, when the track record of this administration is a disaster.
posted by digaman at 12:20 PM on November 30, 2005


Seems to me that this is exactly what should be happening. How stupid would the military have to be to ignore one of the best ways of informing/brainwashing the public?

A complete non-issue, IMO.


Sure, of course the Soviets should plant information in the (as they call it so proudly) "free press" in a nation they invaded and are now occupying against international law. We expect that from such an evil empire. And they are to be soundly condemned and mocked from all corners, as is necessary in these cases. Damned Soviets, who do they think they're kidding?

Whoops, it's 2005, not 1985...
posted by nevercalm at 12:59 PM on November 30, 2005


I assumed this was going on as a matter of course. Propaganda is very dangerous. Like tracers, it points both ways.
What more greatly concerns me is the attack on reality. We saw a bit of this under Clinton. (Definition of ‘is’, etc). It paralyzes the will because you think “this can’t be right” and you have this constant state of “emergancy” going on with craziness like the police checking IDs in Miami as an expression of this “emergancy” state. Meanwhile things become more and more dissembled with the result that people are easier to control.

I agree with Capt. Bligh that Rummy merely said that he had no information on the issue - but while I disagree with the details of what Digiman said, I agree with the sentiment. There was nothing useful in what Rumsfeld said.
Indeed there was nothing to be gleaned from him that connects to an overall strategy or philosophy or even continuity of objective that could be used as a gauge for what is occuring or what we are hearing is occuring.
I am not saying the administration and by extension the buying of news propaganda (which is to me acceptable under certain specific and limited conditions) is using shadow to cloak it’s motives. I’m saying the shadows are the motives.
Daniel Kuehl, is right. The way it’s being done is not effective. Worthwhile propaganda is a rarified thing. You’re not telling the whole truth so you had better damn well believe in the objective.

That this propaganda is so facile, so without context or objective, only serves the hypothisis that there is not greater motive than simple subjugation by obviating any context for reality.
Just the same two-steps we’ve been getting. Deny, attack the messanger, qualify, recontextualize, move it aside and refuse to admit knowlege. Gannon could indeed be the poster boy for this. By Gannon saying “I’m a whore. The difference unlike other reporters I admit it” he completely denies the possibility of reality outside spin.

(I have no plans to harm the bastard. I would actively avoid him if I ever heard he was going to appear somewhere, because if ever I got close to him I’d break his neck without even thinking about it. Just on GP. As a threat to humanity. Like a cobra and a mongoose.)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:13 PM on November 30, 2005


/Typed a bit too fast there sorry for the errors.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:19 PM on November 30, 2005


Smedleyman, you're comfortable with the notion that the Secretary of Defense doesn't have the same level of access to information about the situation on the ground that The International Herald Tribune has, about such an important dynamic in the insurgency? I'm certainly not, and think it much more likely that Rumsfeld's dismissive answer was an outright lie.
posted by digaman at 2:07 PM on November 30, 2005






And the Lincoln Group subcontracts all this propaganda out to Charles Black, the GOP uber-operative. Who would have thought it? Got to give the devil credit, this man-with-no-conscience sure knows how to spin the lies.
posted by nofundy at 8:41 AM on December 1, 2005


“...think it much more likely that Rumsfeld's dismissive answer was an outright lie.” - posted by digaman

You mean lying about not knowing anything about it? I’d agree to that. The point I tried to make (apparently poorly) is that an unanswer is worse than a distortion.

“Sir is it true the earth is round?”
“I'm not going to comment on hypothetical questions.”

Same deal.

The question itself can be percieved as an attack on the position of the administration.

Rummy could have taken a position - for example - “there are media reports of death squads and they’re being looked into by the provisional Iraqi government. Stability in the region is increasing as the government organizes, but obviously there will be abberations, as this time of chaos...etc.”
Media reports aren’t field reports. They aren’t substantial facts and to acknowlege them allows for the possibility of other perspectives or knowlege.

It’s irrelevent whether the attacks actually occured or not. Irrelevent because what is being offered here is not a lie or an expression of ignorance or even an evasion. It is a pure statement of who the arbiter of reality is. By definition such statements are, well, undefined, in content.
Deny the fact but affirm the position.
e.g. We don’t know of this specific instance, but this kind of thing, we’re against...etc.
Same spin on torture. ‘We don’t torture, but we do waterboard, place people in ‘stress positions’ etc. etc.
e.g. I don’t post on Metafilter, but I do comment on ideas offered and present interesting links...etc.

Pretty easy.

I’m not saying that relying only on internal reports is a bad thing. That discarding non-first hand observer accounts from your own people and counting all media as potentially biased regarding strategic decision making is not good policy. It might well be what he is doing here. But he and the administration certainly isn’t doing that overall (demonstrably).
And it’s possible to rationalize using only internal reports into myopia anyway. It’s dangerous policy to only have one source of feedback (which is why I like it here).

digaman, you and Capt. Bligh are asserting the comments are either correct or not. Rummy is lying or he isn’t, the journalists claims are correct or not.

I’m saying the question is: who’s side are journalists are on? How can there be ‘free’ news organizations unless they show the position of the adminstration?
Not literally. I’m not posing that that is the actual question. Rather as a metastatement, that this is the issue at hand.

So Rumsfeld actively denies the reality of the issue as opposed to addressing any questions attached to the issue. It’s not as simple as he’s lying or he isn’t or he honestly doesn’t have the information or he doesn’t.
He is actively not allowing the issue to register as fact; only as a polarized concept in a subjectivly dictated reality. An invalid reality because it is not aligned with the “facts” of the administration.

Again - he’s not cloaking his motives. The cloak is the motive.

If you allow yourself the luxury of attacking the cloak as if there was some subtance beneath it, you’re going to drive yourself nuts with “one shocking thing after another.” If you see it as a set peice, you get the idea and you can form a method of attack.

I am comfortable with Rummy saying what he said because I understand it is simply an extension of the larger notion that only the administration “knows” what is going on. Journalists don’t “know” what’s happening because they are biased and trying to put forward an agenda (or at best don’t have the perspective).
I’m arguing: he’s not merely lying. It’s not as simple as him dodging the question or lying. He’s doublethinking.
You gotta bellyfeel doublethink or you’re not going to get it.

There’s a great peice where Rummy is presented with a quote he said about something he said regarding the Iraq war (my mind is not working right now, I truly wish I could summon this memory), during a t.v. interview and he says something like “uh huh, uh huh...well, we didn’t know then that...”
It was something directly in opposition to his current position and he simply discarded it and kept asserting the reality he wanted.
*slams head into desk*
Can’t think of it, sorry.
But if I did boy! Wow, would my point be totally proved! Man, that’d be cool!

Anyway, not so much the access to information, or the dismissive lie - but those as part of the agenda itself. The formation of a kind of suspension of disbelief in that it’s all about the war over how the info is contextualized and who is “right” and “wrong”, not the info itself.

If that makes sense. My head is in my ass today.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:03 PM on December 1, 2005




Maureen Dowd today: ... You have to admire Scott McClellan, the president's spokesman. He kept a straight face when he called the U.S. "a leader when it comes to promoting and advocating a free and independent media around the world." He added, "We've made our views very clear when it comes to freedom of the press."

Exceedingly clear. The Bushies don't believe in it. They disdain the whole democratic system of checks and balances. ...

posted by amberglow at 8:31 AM on December 3, 2005


...
yes i believe that if this administration has $100 million to spend on propaganda overseas, that it has a few million to spend corralling willing and loyal bloggers here in america.


the only question is, when will we find out who those bloggers on the take are, and what will happen to their reputations once they're outted. ...

posted by amberglow at 10:15 PM on December 3, 2005


and from Govexec.com: What's Lincoln Group?
posted by amberglow at 11:21 PM on December 3, 2005


Joe Conason, NY Observer: Don’t Like the News?
Then Buy Your Own!

posted by amberglow at 9:40 PM on December 7, 2005


a big NYTimes story on it all: Military's Information War Is Vast and Often Secretive
posted by amberglow at 6:27 PM on December 10, 2005


and now we learn the Pentagon lied to Congress about it: (LA TIMES) U.S. military officials in Iraq were fully aware that a Pentagon contractor regularly paid Iraqi newspapers to publish positive stories about the war, and made it clear that none of the stories should be traced to the United States, according to several current and former employees of Lincoln Group, the Washington-based contractor.

In contrast to assertions by military officials in Baghdad and Washington, interviews and Lincoln Group documents show that the information campaign waged over the last year was designed to cloak any connection to the U.S. military. ...

posted by amberglow at 11:57 PM on December 17, 2005


Well of course it was. Sheezus. Who's the asshole who let that one leak? It sure as hell isn't going to help the soldiers, is it?
posted by five fresh fish at 1:19 AM on December 18, 2005


WaPo, 12/23---Young Firm Finds a Bonanza in Middle East--...Lincoln has had 20 contracts with the military, a company spokesman said. Some in the global communications business question the newcomer's success. One official said his firm was aware of only two such contracts being awarded competitively.
...
It has 200 more workers in the Middle East, more than half of them in Iraq, the company said. All of Lincoln's contracts are for work overseas, officials said, and it is expanding to other countries in the region, including Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The company would not disclose the names of commercial clients or its annual revenue.
The Los Angeles Times reported last month that Lincoln employees had helped translate stories written by the U.S. military and then secretly paid Iraqi papers to have them published. That led John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to express concern because "our credibility abroad is very important."
...
Lincoln officials, in recent interviews, defended their role, saying the practice of paying to have stories published is common in many Middle Eastern countries and was needed to counter false stories that insurgents have intimidated some Iraqi papers into publishing.
"We have had new commercial and government clients approach us since this story broke, which only validates the need for more of this work," Bailey said.
...

posted by amberglow at 6:24 AM on December 27, 2005


...The transformation of the geeky but ambitious Christian Jozefowicz, who just a few years ago was growing up in a modest terraced house in Godalming, Surrey, to the charming, baby-faced multimillionaire Christian Bailey now rubbing shoulders with some of the most powerful figures in Washington — and who next year will probably face questions on Capitol Hill about his company — is one of the more extraordinary stories to have emerged from the Iraq war. ...
posted by amberglow at 3:11 PM on December 28, 2005


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