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Military Mobilizes for Media War Against American Opinion on Iraq

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Message Ron Fullwood
Paid Propaganda: Changing American Opinion on Iraq by Changing the Subject

"Propaganda is that branch of the art of lying which consists in nearly deceiving your friends without quite deceiving your enemies." -Cornford

As the Bush administration and the Pentagon work to manipulate the news out of Iraq to their favor, more and more Americans appear to be tuning them out. There is a deep weariness of Bush's continuing occupation brought on by the continuing lies which he used to lead America to Iraq and, now, to hold our soldiers there indefinitely.

Bush began his propaganda campaign to continue his occupation in the year leading up to the 2004 election. He complained then that, "images of violence from Iraq on the television screens" were influencing Americans away from support of his bloody occupation. He insisted that there was "good news" out of Iraq which wasn't reaching the American public.

In October 2006, Dorrance Smith, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, was revealed in an internal memo obtained by the AP to be in pursuit for her boss Rumsfeld of a department which would "counter unfavorable media accounts about the war in Iraq."

from the AP:

Smith's memo says the new operation would have several departments. They include one to provide quick responses to independent news accounts, another one to enlist influential politicians and interest groups to speak to the media on the Pentagon's behalf, and still another to post the military's version of news on the Internet.

Smith's boss at the time, Defense Chief Donald Rumsfeld, had given a speech earlier in 2006 where he described the Pentagon effort to influence the media as a "war" where he said, "Most critical battles may not be fought in the mountains of Afghanistan or the streets of Iraq, but in the newsrooms in places like New York and London and Cairo and elsewhere."

"Today we're engaged in the first war in history," Rumsfeld said before the Council on Foreign Relations, "unconventional and irregular as it may be-in an era of e-mails, blogs, cell phones-(laughter)-Blackberrys, Instant Messaging, digital cameras, a global Internet with no inhibitions, cell phones, hand-held videocameras, talk radio, 24-hour news broadcasts, satellite television. There's never been a war fought in this environment before," he said.

As reported by the WaPost in April 2006 Rumsfeld's (and the White House's) ambition to control the media reports about the Iraq occupation was revealed in action as the administration and the U.S. military were found to be conducting a "propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq by magnifying Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's role beyond any reality."

The Post reported that the two-year effort "raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that, "the U.S. campaign aimed to turn Iraqis against al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners."

The documents uncovered "explicitly list the "U.S. Home Audience" as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign," the Post report said, including internet postings.

It was in December 2005 that the stories surfaced of Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations firm, which was being paid over $100 million by the Pentagon to plant administration propaganda in the Iraqi news media; and also of an effort to pay Iraqi journalists to write favorable stories about the occupation.

In fact, the NYT pointed out that the Government Accountability Office had found that year that, despite the legality in America of spreading propaganda outside of the U.S. "the Bush administration had violated the law by producing pseudo news reports that were later used on American television stations with no indication that they had been prepared by the government."

Rumsfeld addressed criticism of the Iraq propaganda program, in his speech, as having a "chilling effect" on the Pentagon departments which work to get their opinion into the public debate.

"In Iraq, for example, Rumsfeld said, "the U.S. military command, working closely with the Iraqi government and the U.S. embassy, has sought nontraditional means to provide accurate information to the Iraqi people in the face of aggressive campaign of disinformation. Yet this has been portrayed as inappropriate; for example, the allegations of someone in the military hiring a contractor, and the contractor allegedly paying someone to print a story-a true story-but paying to print a story. For example, the resulting explosion of critical press stories then causes everything, all activity, all initiative, to stop, just frozen. Even worse, it leads to a chilling effect for those who are asked to serve in the military public affairs field."

The "chilling effect" that Rumsfeld attributes to scrutiny of his unlawful attempts to manipulate the media coming from Iraq, is in fact, exactly what the administration wants to see overtake any independent reporting from the occupation zone as they dangerously characterize everything coming from government and military officials as "truth," and cast the rest of the journalism and analysis unconnected to their administration as some dangerous distortion directed by their "enemies."

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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price
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