2005 November 30 Wednesday
US Military Pays Iraqi Newspapers To Run Stories

The US military plants stories in the Iraqi press.

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.

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.

On the one hand the obvious argument is that all is fair in love and war. On the other hand the United States isn't exactly setting a good example about press freedom.

Not content to simply write stories for publications owned by others, the US military is investing in the growing Iraqi media market.

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.

Ahmad Chalabi's newspaper ran the stories as real news articles while other newspapers labelled the stories as advertisements or as sponsored stories. What do the Iraqi people think of such stories? Also, what's the quality of the stories?

The company doing much of this work is known as The Lincoln Group and was formerly known as Iraqex. Curiously, a site called Source Watch has an article about the Lincoln Group that puts their address on K Street in Washington DC which is the famous area for DC lobbyists.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 November 30 10:31 PM  Mideast Iraq


Comments
Silchiuk said at December 1, 2005 4:40 AM:

This is being same as US newspaper publicshing DNC talking points as news. Very old newspaper tradition being followed. It is being bias all around and here too.

Richard said at December 1, 2005 4:57 AM:

Ah yes. First the nation of the First Amendment closes an Iraqi paper that dispeases and now we plant stories.

When I started in accounting an older guy in the firm used to say "we don't make the news, we just report it" (I think he got that from Jean Shepard). The new motto should be "We don't report the news, we make it (up if necessary)."

Ivan Kirigin said at December 1, 2005 6:22 AM:

Journalism is never unbiased. That is the first lesson. You should already know the L.A. Times views.

The only question left is who is the editor.

That is why raw first-person authored accounts are probably the best news you can find.

Chuck Simmins said at December 1, 2005 6:57 AM:

If you toss away the myth that news and reporting is some sacred, undefilable calling, this story becomes a non-starter. When I look at the front page of my local paper, most of the stories were not written by their employees. Newspapers use stories from AP or Reuters all the time. Providing content to newspapers is a well-established business. This link, part of a frame in the original site, demonstrates another method, the press release. I can assure you, from all the research I have done for both the Americans Aiding Americans project and the Stingy List project, that newspapers print press releases verbatim all the time. Guess what? Some of those press releases are written for companies that pay the newspapers large sums of money. Far larger sums than seem to be involved in the Baghdad story.

silchiuk said at December 1, 2005 11:19 AM:

Journalists are being whores all around. This is not being news to intelligents person. Why this is making a story?

These are being people investing in defeat here. They be doing everything to be making US losing in Iraq. Why they being afraid of democracy in middle east?

daveg said at December 1, 2005 11:22 AM:


All they needed to do was credit the source of the story and disclose if they were paid to run it. If they did that the activity would have been fine. They chose not to so the activity amounts to propaganda.

Cutler said at December 1, 2005 12:27 PM:

"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.

Substitute "well" for "poorly" and you've basically got the LA Times most of the time. The problem here is that the military defended itself. You can argue this may be an unwise policy on tactical grounds, due to the fact that Arabs are naturally suspicious of us, but morally there is nothing to self-flagellate for.

Propaganda is neither necessarily condemnable nor false. These were probably among the most factual stories these people have gotten out of their press for decades.

For some perspective, look at how we funnelled money to Italian democrats after World War II, which helped turn the tide in a country with the largest Communist Party in Western Europe. We clearly did not do something so extreme here, but even most people would still consider that historical example a good call.

crush41 said at December 1, 2005 3:23 PM:

"They chose not to so the activity amounts to propaganda."

It's long overdue! How do you wage a war without portraying the enemy as vicious devils and the home team as magnanimous paladins? Hitler certainly knew that, and he took a military that could not have even held the Sudetenland if challenged in 1938 and yet scared the British and the French into letting him have it:

"But it was not until the War that it became evident what immense results could be obtained by a correct application of propaganda. Here again, unfortunately, all our studying had to be done on the enemy side, for the activity on our side was modest, to say the least. The total miscarriage of the German 'enlightenment ' service stared every soldier in the face... For what we failed to do, the enemy did, with amazing skill and really brilliant calculation."

We've seen infinity billion pictures of Abu Ghraib, but how many people in the US have watched Nick Berg lose his head? That the Bush administration did not order this be done early on is yet another reason why they deserve a vote of no confidence. No Iraq would have been optimal, but full-scale war going in would have been better than waging a half-hearted 'conflict'.

daveg said at December 1, 2005 6:13 PM:

Crush41, please don't make the saddam-hitler comparision. It insults my intellegence, as make you look bad as well.

I don't think this is the worst act in the world, but it does not help with american credibility.

Man, you kool-aid drinkers are starting to come unhinged.

silchiuk said at December 2, 2005 4:17 AM:

cursh41 is being right that propaganda just one other means of warfare. Too many peeple being invested in defeating free Iraqi people, drinking defeatist coolaid. These people wanting defeat of democracy Iraq for coolaid reasons of own self. Not good.

Cutler said at December 2, 2005 9:02 AM:

I don't know, it seems to me the "kool aid" drinkers might be those who want to pretend it isn't standard wartime behavior that's occurred for thousands of years. If you can point me to a single war in which propaganda was not used [factual in this case, even], perhaps I'll reconsider the thought that your "kool-aid" is Bush Derangement Syndrome, and that in this case the military just became collateral damage.

What I think is that you should sit back, not worry your pretty little morally superior head, and let the grownups handle the real world for a few years. In a few decades we'll let you turn the entire effort into a exhibition on American torture and propaganda, just let the adults attempt to win the war first. This assumes, of course, you would really want that...unfortunately not always a safe assumption nowadays.

The truth is that we would not need to place factual stories in the Iraqi press if they didn't suffer so severely from the same conspiracy-black helicopter psychosis that afflicts most of the Arab world. This is the place that was buzzing about x-ray GI sun-shades, after all.

FriendlyFire said at December 3, 2005 4:37 PM:

"just let the adults attempt to win the war first."

I'll refrain form rebuking with a sarcastic remark.

----

But by now you should be able to see that the overley optimistic propagander by the Bush administration is having the opposite effect on the American public ? Even a child can see the danger of they type of media manipulation on the scale and breath which was carried out. Where an administration is blind to contructive critism and instead choose willfully to see any differeing views as unpatriotic and defeatest.

Progander and media manipulation is an art. The Bush administration had handled it in such an awe inspisirng way for the led up to Iraq, Yet has failed to grapes the consqeunces for doing so.
Theres nothing like placing the blame for real or percieved failures on the media and continue not to address the real causes.


Randall Parker said at December 3, 2005 5:20 PM:

Cutler,

The adults? Who would you be referring to? George W. Bush is an intellectually lazy frat boy who couldn't be bothered to learn enough about the Middle East to realize what a mess he was getting us in in advance.

Bush screwed up massively. His decision to invade Iraq was not "adult". He thought he could quickly win an easy war and thereby boost his popularity. Bush massively miscalculated. His complaints about his critics are those of a petulant child.

People who believe the rosy happy talk about the war are the ones who are ignorant. Panglossian rah rah talk is not adult like either.

American interests would be better served by withdrawal. But withdrawal would be an admission of error and as we all know by now Bush never admits mistakes. It is adult to never admit mistakes?

Stephen said at December 3, 2005 8:27 PM:

Withdrawal has the following risks:

1(a) Iraq becomes a failed state as the militia turn on each other; and/or

1(b) Iraq will go fundamentalist (not because it necessarily wants to, but because the fundy militia are the only ones that are capable of sufficient organisation);

2 Osama (remember him? he's the guy that killed 3000 people in NY and who George isn't trying his hardest to catch) will move his head office from an unfashionable cave in Afghanistan/Pakistan to a refurbished office block in the Baghdad CBD;

3 Finally having real resources, Osama will turn his attention to overthrowing the Saudi royals living down the road;

4 Inside 10yrs we'll see the oil producing countries of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi in the hands of anti-western (in particular, anti-US) fundamentalists.

Then things get interesting...


Of course, staying in Iraq has exactly the same risks, except that:

1 the fundi's divide their time between fighting the occupying powers and each other;

2 there are more dead US soldiers;

3 the US army doesn't get the time it needs to re-equip before its tasked with taking over the middle east oil fields.

crush41 said at December 4, 2005 7:00 PM:

daveg,

I didn't compare Saddam to Hitler. Not sure about the Kool-aid comment either. What are you talking about? It seems to me that if we're there we might as well be trying to pull all the strings to alleviate some of the negative feelings towards US troops. Obviously Al Jazeera isn't going to give us a fair shake.


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