The Pentagon recently concluded
Lincoln Group, an American public relations firm, did not violate military policy by paying Iraqi news outlets to print positive articles.
The probe was ordered by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander in Iraq, after it was disclosed in November that the military had used the Lincoln Group to plant articles written by American troops in Iraqi newspapers while hiding the source of the articles.
As the liberal writer Molly Ivins wrote
last week: "(T)he Pentagon investigated its own habit of paying people to make up lies about how well the war in Iraq is going, and then paying other people to put those lies in the Iraqi media, thus fooling the Iraqis into thinking everything in their country is ticketyboo."
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the Pentagon found nothing wrong. It has changed its story several times.
As JABBS wrote
in December, U.S. military officials in Iraq were fully aware that Lincoln Group 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 documents obtained
by the Los Angeles Times
When the propaganda effort was first revealed, the Pentagon distanced itself from Lincoln Group, suggesting the company violated its contract by masking the origin of stories placed in the Iraqi press
. But by Dec. 2, Pentagon officials told Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-VA) that all of the published materials were supposed to be identified as originating with the U.S. military but that identification was occasionally omitted by accident
. By mid-December, Casey said a preliminary assessment found that the Army was "operating within our authorities and the appropriate legal procedures."In other words, the Pentagon investigation had to conclude Lincoln Group did nothing wrong, because if it had found wrongdoing, it would then have to determine who at the Pentagon was at fault.
Sadly, for Americans to find out what Lincoln Group produced, they have to turn to a British newspaper, The Independent
. It published
several examples of Lincoln Group's "happy news." Other than a few blogs
, the story hasn't made any significant headway in the U.S. print media.
You can come up with theories about this. The New York Times broke
the story about the results of the Pentagon investigation, and that story got lots of play nationwide. Maybe printing examples of Lincoln Group's work was deemed unnecessary.
But we just saw how quickly things can change when Americans have a voice. The White House last month was fully behind the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to Dubai Ports World. President Bush threatened
his debut veto in order to support the takeover of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports.
But the Republican-controlled Congress -- hearing loudly from constituents angered at the idea of a questionable ally in the war on terror having access to U.S. ports -- said no. And very quickly, plans were changed, and the proposed transfer of ports never happened.
So, yes, the Pentagon said all is well with Iraqi propaganda. But what if Americans saw examples of Lincoln Group's propaganda, and reacted with a protest as loud as when it came out against the ports transfer? Would the Pentagon listen? Would the Bush Administration, fully aware of the tough fight its party faces this November, change U.S. policy?
I'd love to see this scenario play out to see what would happen.
And before you ask, "How does Iraqi propaganda affect me?" consider that propaganda experts believe
that in the age of the Internet and satellite news channels
, propaganda aimed at Iraqis can easily wind up on U.S. television screens -- and then receive a warm welcome from the "conservative media," which is unabashedly pro-Bush Administration and pro-happy news about the war.
"In this age of the Internet and instant access, it's of great concern," Nancy Snow, a propaganda expert at California State University-Fullerton, told Media General News Service for a June 10 story. "If you plant false stories, how can you control where that story goes? You can't."
What did Lincoln Group write? The Independent
offered several examples, some with quotes attributed to anonymous Iraqis -- quotes which some allege were fabricated. The U.S. military, you may remember, was caught
last year similarly manufacturing quotes and attributing them to anonymous Iraqis.
You decide. Is Lincoln Group writing "happy news," or just trying to fool Iraqis? Here are two examples of Lincoln Group's "news."IRAQI ARMY DEFEATS TERRORISM
(Oct. 26, 2005)Lincoln Group story:
Three al-Qa'ida mercenaries in Baqubah were planning to conduct a suicide vest attack. Officers of the Iraqi Police Service (IPS) spotted them as they drove towards their target. But then something happened. The would-be murderer lost his faith and leapt from the moving vehicle. One of the other suicide bombers panicked and detonated his vest while still inside the car, instantly killing himself and another accomplice."The real story:
At least five Iraqis killed by suicide bomber on bus in Baqubah, north-east of Baghdad. Bodies of nine Iraqi border guards, who were shot dead, found previous day. Joint US-Iraqi convoy targeted by car bomb in al-Ma'mun area of Baghdad.QUICK REACTION CAPTURES BOMBER
(Nov. 12, 2005)Lincoln Group story:
In Baghdad, a quick response to a terror attack led to the arrest of the culprit. On 10 November, terrorists detonated a car bomb in eastern Baghdad wounding three Iraqi women. Immediately the ISF responded, securing the area and treating and evacuating the injured. The soldiers quickly examined the site of the bombing, discovering evidence that led them to the arrest of the suspected bomber. Because of their quick reaction, there was no loss of innocent life and another terrorist is in prison and awaiting his trial.
The ISF has quickly developed into a viable fighting force capable of defending the people of Iraq against the cowards who launch their attacks on innocent people.The real story:
Ten people were killed when a car bomb exploded at a market in Baghdad.