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
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
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
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.