View Full Version : Most Think Propaganda Campaign in Iraq Wrong

12-23-2005, 11:55 AM
23 Dec. USA Today - Most Think Propaganda Campaign in Iraq Wrong (http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20051223/a_propaganda23.art.htm).

Almost three-quarters of Americans think it was wrong for the Pentagon to pay Iraqi newspapers to publish news about U.S. efforts in Iraq, a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows.

USA TODAY reported earlier this month that the Pentagon plans to expand beyond Iraq an anti-terrorism public relations campaign that has included secret payments to Iraqi journalists and publications who printed stories favorable to the USA. In some cases, the stories will be prepared by U.S. military personnel, as they have been in Iraq.

The military will not always reveal it was behind the stories, said Mike Furlong, deputy director of the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element. The global program will be part of a five-year public relations campaign costing up to $300 million...

The Pentagon's secret public relations work in Iraq has been in the news since the Los Angeles Times revealed that the Lincoln Group, as part of a $6 million Pentagon contract, had paid members of the Iraqi news media to anonymously publish stories written by U.S. military personnel. The military has started an investigation of the program.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman says the Pentagon understands the public's concern about the pay-to-publish program and is reviewing the “policies, procedures and performance of not only the servicemembers that have been involved but also the contractor that's been used.”

“It's important to acknowledge that we're dealing with a very tough communications environment in Iraq … where our enemies and adversaries make it a practice to misinform, to deceive and to lie about what's going on,” he says. The goal of the military, he says, is to give Iraqis “good, accurate and timely information.”

12-23-2005, 11:43 PM
Don't believe a poll unless you faked it yourself. I seriously doubt anyone outside the MSM is really the least bit concerned about this. For the media to gin up a poll to support what they believe is the easiest thing in the world, it is all in the way you phrase the questions you ask.

If a poll is about a subject most people don't know much about, nor have strong opinions, it is easy to fabricate such results by using leading questions.

12-24-2005, 10:22 AM
The pentagon should pay and create issues that divide (exploiting fault lines) between each insurgency group.

12-28-2005, 09:53 AM
28 Dec. Christian Science Monitor - How Useful is U.S. Propaganda? (http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/1227/dailyUpdate.html).

In a USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey released just before Christmas Day, 72 percent of Americans thought that it was "wrong for the US to pay Iraqi newspapers and journalists to publish and write stories about US efforts in Iraq." USA Today reported earlier this month, however, that the US actually plans to continue with the program and expand it to other countries, spending more than $300 million in the effort...

Round-up / sampling of editorial and Op-Ed comments.

12-29-2005, 09:49 AM
29 Dec. Los Angeles Times - Pentagon Calls Its Pro-U.S. Websites Legal (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-infowar29dec29,0,2874690.story?coll=la-home-headlines).

U.S. military websites that pay journalists to write articles and commentary supporting military activities in Europe and Africa do not violate U.S. law or Pentagon policies, a review by the Pentagon's chief investigator has concluded. But a senior Defense Department official said this week that the websites could still be shut down to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

The Pentagon inspector general's inquiry concludes that two websites targeting audiences in the Balkans and in the Maghreb region of northern Africa are consistent with U.S. laws prohibiting covert propaganda, are properly identified as U.S.-government products and are maintained in close coordination with U.S. embassies abroad, according to a previously undisclosed summary of the report's findings.

Yet a top Pentagon official, chief spokesman Lawrence DiRita, said he was concerned that a Pentagon practice of hiring news reporters to advance a U.S. government agenda could draw criticism and that an ever larger military role in shaping public opinion overseas might have negative consequences.

The Pentagon's efforts to win hearts and minds abroad have come under intense scrutiny since it was revealed last month that the military had hired a private contractor, Lincoln Group, as part of a separate operation to pay Iraqi newspapers to print positive stories written by U.S. troops...

12-30-2005, 07:49 PM
It is important to get out the message but it seems like the pentagon is pretty sloppy here.

01-01-2006, 03:58 PM
1 Jan. Baltimore Sun Op-Ed - Paying Foreign Media Makes Sense if it Helps Us Win the War (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.payola01jan01,1,4410724.story?coll=bal-oped-headlines) by LTC Charles Krohn (USA Ret.).

Many Americans may have felt betrayed after learning that U.S. Army officials in Iraq paid editors and TV producers to publish stories friendly to the United States, some without attributing the source.

My only question was, did planting those stories help turn Iraqi hearts and minds to U.S. favor?...

...my support is conditional. It's based on the distinction I draw between the American media and foreign outlets.

Under no condition, except for extreme exceptions, should government public affairs officials lie or manipulate facts to reporters responsible for keeping the American public informed.

But the rule changes overseas, where a local population's support of U.S. involvement is a war-tipping issue. Specifically, it's important for the Iraqis to believe that the United States and its allies have more to offer for the future than the Islamic extremists we're confronting.

The extremists believe the opposite, and that must be challenged, or else we will lose the war by default. Demonizing them doesn't necessarily defeat them. More is needed.

Because propaganda is a force multiplier, both sides use it to their advantage. It's also been a practice accepted in warfare. Does propaganda really work? Is it worth the price?

Looking back to the Vietnam War, there have been recent revelations from Hanoi about how effective the anti-war movement was in the United States, ultimately forcing us to withdraw all material support to South Vietnam. It's no secret now that the North Vietnamese fueled the anti-war movement with slogans and suggestions and even initiated "cultural exchanges" with American war protesters, presumably to embellish their credentials.

If we are only half as successful in Iraq as North Vietnam was in the United States, the outcome of the war may depend on our ability to influence hearts and minds, as much or more than the military situation on the ground...

Winning over the local population, however, cannot be ignored by public affairs professionals. But they should enlist the help of those who speak the language and know the culture. This is part of the skill in the psychological warfare community. I suspect that community is understaffed and overcommitted...

01-02-2006, 06:11 AM
Really no more complex than the sad fact that the military must do such things to get any coverage of positive developments.

All else arguing either side is simply busy-work convincing others how smart one side or the other is, because it all boils down to that one simple point.

01-02-2006, 01:51 PM
The op-ed by LTC Charles Krohn makes a good point. If it is a stupid idea and it works it is not a stupid idea. I personally wonder how effective it could be at least internally to Iraq. It seems as though people from a country with a long history of government manipulation of the press might catch on to our BS pretty quick

01-10-2006, 07:34 AM
10 Jan. Washington Post Op-Ed - 'Hearts and Minds' in Iraq (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/09/AR2006010901430.html).

Once again we are confronted with stories about how the Pentagon and its ubiquitous private contractors are undermining free inquiry in Iraq. "Muslim Scholars Were Paid to Aid U.S. Propaganda," reports the New York Times. Journalists, intellectuals or clerics taking money from Uncle Sam or, in this case, a Washington-based public relations company, is seen as morally troubling and counterproductive. Sensible Muslims obviously would not want to listen to the advice of an American-paid consultant; anti-insurgent Sunni clerics can now all be slurred as corrupt stooges.

There is one big problem with this baleful version of events. Historically, it doesn't make much sense...

Surely democracy in Iraq is at least as shaky as it was in Western Europe after the defeat of Hitler. The real complaint that ought to be made against the Bush administration is that it has allowed such important work to be contracted to a public relations firm (in the case cited above, the Lincoln Group) that has done a poor job of protecting anonymity. Nevertheless, one has to give the Pentagon credit: It seems to be the only government agency that is at least trying to develop Iraqi cadres to wage the "hearts and minds" campaign. The CIA seems to have all but abandoned its historical mission in this area.

The Bush administration shouldn't flinch from increasing its covert "propaganda" efforts in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The history in the last great war of ideas is firmly on its side.

01-10-2006, 06:04 PM
There are several strategies to follow here and the USG is not separating them sufficiently:

It would seem to me that the way you build a readership that allows you to make inroads into even a hostile cultural environment would be by creating outlets that sustain themselves with a reputation for sterling credibility and accuracy. This was the decision made regarding VOA and Radio Free Europe after WWII that they would serve long term U.S. interests best by being scrupulously accurate dispensers of information. As it happened, East bloc elite, intelligentsia and nomenklatura all came to be avid listeners to cross-check the propaganda of their own media. They may not have liked what they heard but they believed that the information was reliable.

The CIA and military intelligence also " planted stories" in the media and recruited reporters in the postwar struggle to prevent France and Italy from going Communist. These " black operations" were quiet and the secret tightly held in order to achieve the psychological effects intended. Most of the activities were not disclosed until the late 1980's.

Our current program of achieving widespread media influence combines the disadvantages of bnoth approaches without garnering benefits. We have no organ that Iraqis or Arabs regard with the credibility they give al Jazeerah or the BBC and the frequent revelations of our buying influence discredits any Arab voice holding pro-American, pro-Western or liberal views.

If we can't keep operational security - and it is clear that we cannot without some kind of housecleaning to remove leakers or very tight compartmentalization being enforced - we would be better off dropping disinformation and propaganda efforts altogether.

01-12-2006, 12:56 AM
I would content that our message should be one of justice (yes, I know this term has considerable associated baggage), NOT democracy.

01-12-2006, 06:45 AM
11 Jan. Reuters - Pentagon to Set New Communications Policy (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/11/AR2006011101307.html).

The Pentagon, stung by criticism over secret U.S. military payments to Iraqi newspapers to print pro-American articles, is moving to develop a "strategic communications" plan, a senior defense official said on Wednesday.

The White House and some members of Congress have expressed concern over the payments, but the military says it is important to spread the truth in Iraq to counter what it calls lying by insurgents to the Iraqi people

The defense official said that developing clear guidance for communicating with the public at home and abroad is a key issue that will be taken up this year as a result of top-level debate in the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR...

01-13-2006, 03:50 AM
The Pentagon, stung by criticism over secret U.S. military payments to Iraqi newspapers to print pro-American articles, is moving to develop a "strategic communications" plan,

"...after which, Pentagon personnel will be dispatched to close the doors of empty barns and affix carts to the front of horses"

This might have been more helpful around, say, January 2002. better late than never.

01-15-2006, 08:08 AM
15 Jan. Washington Post Op-Ed - Use Every Article In the Arsenal (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/13/AR2006011302303.html).

Precision-guided munitions and night vision are terrific military technologies, and no one would deny them to our soldiers in Iraq. But as much as it needs innovative equipment, any army that's serious about winning a war needs innovative media. As one of the most successful warriors in Middle East history wrote: "The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armory of the modern commander."

This pillar of wisdom from the great British military strategist T. E. Lawrence -- better known as Lawrence of Arabia -- remains as compelling today as it was when he penned it in 1920, after helping engineer a victorious Arab revolt against the Ottomans. Yet revelations that U.S. forces in Iraq have surreptitiously purchased and placed stories in the local media to promote the quality-of-life improvements they have made possible and to highlight the country's democratic progress have provoked journalistic outrage here at home. Newspaper editorials have condemned the classified "information operations" program. A White House spokesman has said that President Bush is "deeply concerned." Most journalists I know have reacted with cynical disgust. "This time, someone really does have to be fired," wrote Christopher Hitchens, who otherwise supports the war effort, in Slate.

Enough, already. The truth is, you can't wage a successful counterinsurgency campaign without an "information warfare" component. An occupying force can't effectively "stand up" local police and military forces without positively influencing the media that their friends and family see and hear, according to Lt. Col. John A. Nagl's highly regarded counterinsurgency manual, "Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife," which he revised after serving in the Sunni Triangle. Securing positive coverage for our troops in Iraq can be as important to their safety as "up-armoring" vehicles and providing state-of-the-art body armor. The failure to wage the media war is a failure to command...