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The Next Best Thing to Winning the Lottery...

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Message Jayne Stahl
The next best thing to winning the lottery is being employed by the Lincoln Group, the public relations group in Washington, D.C . which is set to receive yet another two year $20 million contract from the Pentagon to "put together a unit of 12-18 communicators to support military PR efforts in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, as well as influence "the morale and support for the war in the United States," per Media Transparency.

While Bush and Co. are busy probing North Korea and Iran's pressure points, those wunderkinder of spin grow richer and richer. Talk about job security; employees of the company most often associated with fabricating much of what we believe to be going on in Baghdad are in no danger of standing on unemployment lines anytime soon; the rest of us may be, but not the Lincoln Group. They, no doubt, have already set their sights on greener pastures as evidenced by the big smile on the president's face, in Korea yesterday, as he beamed at the camera from the Hanoi Hilton.

Despite the daily plummeting of support for the war in Iraq, business for Lincoln is so good that they have recently moved to larger offices on Pennsylvania Avenue, and are, no doubt, within walking distance of the White House . The company currently employs 40 in the U.S. and 200 abroad, most of whom are situated in Iraq, at the moment anyway, numbers that can only grow as the politics of pre-emption expansionism grows.

Oh, and the Lincoln Group isn't the only "strategic communications and public relations firm providing insight and influence in challenging and hostile environments," per their Web site. Over the past few years, some $400 million in contracts have been turned over by the Pentagon to "media consultants" to put a happy face on an internationally maligned occupation, and "effectively communicate Iraqi government and Coalition goals with strategic audiences" in the words of Alvin Snyder, a former executive of the United States Information Agency. Moreover, some in the news business, in this country, suggest that the efforts by the Lincoln Group have spread, like the measles, and have even contaminated our own mainstream media. And, indeed, in this age of instant messaging, there is no way to contain a disinformation virus.

You may recall that LG was in the spotlight, last fall, when the Los Angeles Times revealed that the U.S. military was also "secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the mission in Iraq." Ostensibly, the role of the Lincoln Group was essentially as that of a liaison between the military and Iraqi newspapers; "company staff and subcontractors wrote and translated stories, then paid local editors varying amounts to run them, pretending to be freelance reporters, for example, or advertising executives." (Media Transparency)

Back in 2004, when Iraqex, precursor to the Lincoln Group, was originally given $5 million by the military to provide communications services to Iraq, the New York Times reported, a year later, that fact that Iraqex was awarded a contract was "something of a mystery" given that the two founders "had no background in public relations or the media." (Media Transparency)

More importantly, the most recent $20 million contract has been awarded in defiance of findings by the Defense Department, late last spring, that paying Iraqi journalists for pro-American propaganda could damage our credibility. Ironically, the Defense Department urged ending the practice of paying Iraqi nationals to tweak their news accounts, in Baghdad, and 6 months later the Pentagon handed over another $20 million to the group whose name has come to be synonymous with spinning news out of Iraq. Moreover, keep in mind, too, that the American military created the Baghdad Press Club, two years ago, in order to pay Iraqi reporters to write positive accounts of the developments in that country as a result of the U.S. occupation.

Clearly, among the many implications of the awarding of yet another Pentagon contract to the Lincoln Group, this fall, is that they are being funded, as their Web site advertises, to continue their work around the world in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and any other locations that some might consider "inhospitable," but that they prefer to call "challenging." No doubt, Pakistan and Iran might be considered "challenging," and lucrative terrain for more empire building. Moreover, it seems that the Lincoln Group, as well as other spin contractors, are replacing the CIAas usurpers-at-large in how they exploit the "information age" to manipulate, and meddle in the affairs of once sovereign nations.

The underlying, and vexing question about the award of this new two year contract, by the Pentagon, to the Lincoln Group is will they confine their propagandizing to Iraq, or move on to more fertile domains of Iran and North Korea? When the Defense Department itself reports that the military's tampering with articles by so-called "independent news organizations" in Iraq and, arguably, in our own country, and raises questions about the viability of a "free press" in occupied Baghdad, it is ludicrous that the Pentagon would turn around, less than 6 months later, and award the godmother of spin another $20 million contract which may well enable them to expand their propaganda efforts into Tehran, and Hanoi.

Oh, if you happen to be in the neighborhood and want to stop by, you may now find the Lincoln Group in the same quarters that were once home to Jack Abramoff's famous restaurant, Signatures. Jack, as you know, has moved elsewhere.
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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