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Land of Lincoln

Whiskey bar

November 30, 2005

Last summer I took a long, speculative look at a company called the Lincoln Group, which appeared to have parlayed its Republican Party connections into a whopping big contract with the Pentagon's special ops propaganda machine -- the JPOSE (Joint Psychological Operations Support Element) to use the proper Orwellian acronym.

Now the Los Angeles Times has obtained a little more information on what the Lincoln Group has been giving the taxpayers for their money -- which appears to be a bunch of bribes paid to Iraqi newspapers to regurgitate official Cheney Administration talking points. (Sorry you had to sit this one out, Armstrong)

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 . . . small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group . . . The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets.

Now the thrust of the story -- and of the outrage expressed by the anonymous Pentagon sources who passed out the paperwork on Lincoln's little payola scheme -- is the utter hypocrisy of preaching democracy and transparency while secretly bribing journalists to print government propaganda.

But knowing what we already know about how the Cheney administration and the semi-official media (Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Judy Woodward, etc.) operate here at home, it's not exactly a surprise to learn the same techniques are being used to shape the information "battle space" in Iraq. After all, why should the Iraqis get more democracy than we do? (I suppose one could argue that since it's taken the USA almost 230 years to devolve into the corrupt and decadent republic we've become, the Iraqis should be required to wait in line just like everyone else.)

And indeed it turns out that the ethical standards of at least some of the Pentagon's journalistic hirelings in Iraq are higher than those of their U.S. counterparts. According to the Times, some of the planted articles have been run under special headings identifiying them as "advertising" or "media services." Which is a hell of a lot more than the New York Times ever did for any of Judy Miller's WMD propaganda.

But even by the efficiency and integrity standards of the Cheney administration (i.e. the Jack Cunningham test) you really have to wonder what's going on. According to the Times, the Lincoln Group has actually been paying Ahmed Chalabi's newspaper to reprint pro-American propaganda. You'd think that after the hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies lavished on Chalebi and his surrogates, they'd be willing to comp the Pentagon on the articles -- the same way the casinos comp the high rollers on their hotel rooms. (Calm down, Bill, the craps tables aren't open yet.)

And indeed, the editor of Chalebi's rag sounds perfectly willing to do so:

We publish anything," he said. "The paper's policy is to publish everything, especially if it praises causes we believe in. We are pro-American. Everything that supports America we will publish."

And he does mean everything. The Times article includes a few choice quotes from some of the government-issue dreck the Lincoln Group has been pushing:

"As the people and the Iraqi security forces work together, Iraq will finally drive terrorism out of Iraq for good."
"Both cities are stopping points for foreign fighters entering Iraq to wage their unjust war."

Almost as bad as one of Bush's speeches -- or the transcript of a Rumsfeld press conference.

Still, while the prose may be dreadful, the price tag for placing it is pretty damned cheap, even by Iraqi standards -- as low as $50 for Chalabi's paper, according to the LA Times. (By contrast, during my brief interlude as a PR whore in Washington, my firm charged its corporate clients up to $15,000 for writing and placing a single ghosted op-ed in the New York Times or the Washington Post.)

Which raises an important question: What has the Lincoln Group done with the other $5,499,950 in its Pentagon contract for PR work in Iraq? (not to mention the company's even bigger $100 million global disinformation deal with JPOSE.)
We're talking enough money to buy the entire Iraqi media industry -- but the Pentagon is doing that itself already:

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.

Or, as the saying goes: Why rent when you can own?

To be sure, Lincoln Group appears to have a few other projects going, like producing "public service" TV ads to remind Iraqi viewers that road bombs directed at U.S. soldiers often kill innocent civilians. (I'm guessing the ads don't make the same point about errant 500-pound bombs dropped from U.S. war planes.) But this would still seem to leave an awful lot of Uncle Sam's money unaccounted for.

If you go back and read my original post, you'll see my interest in Lincoln Group was less because of its propaganda and disinformation work in Iraq, and more because of a few intriguing hints of possible involvement in similar work here in the domestic battle space -- where it's generally conducted under the brand name Grand Old Party. Granted, there's nothing specific in the LA Times article to feed such suspicions (the company's Republican Party ties aren't even mentioned) but given the amount of money involved, and what we've learned about the Cunningham-MZM ring, the Abramoff-Scanlon rackets, etc., I would strongly urge the Times to dig deeper -- even though I can't afford to pay them for it.

:: Article nr. 18337 sent on 02-dec-2005 01:15 ECT


Link: billmon.org/archives/002347.html

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

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