The U.S. Defense Department has allegedly used
questionable PR tactics in Iraq. Positive articles about
the war written by U.S. troops have appeared in Iraqi
newspapers under the guise of independent journalism --
part of a coordinated effort by the U.S. military to win
over Iraqi civilians, according to military officials.
U.S. officers in Iraq say the program is an essential
element of an "information war" against an insurgency
adept at using violent acts to spread its message
through local and international media. The newspaper
articles promote positive aspects of the U.S.-led
coalition's work and encourage Iraqis to take part in
their burgeoning democracy.
"This is a military program to help get factual
information about ongoing operations into Iraqi news,"
said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in
Baghdad. "Because this is part of our ongoing operations
and an important part of countering misinformation in
the news by insurgents, I can't provide details of what
that entails. I want to emphasize that all information
used for marketing these stories is completely factual."
The program has been run out of the Multinational Corps
commanded by Lt. Gen. John Vines in Baghdad, with the
help of a Washington-based contractor, Lincoln Group.
The company translates the articles and markets them to
Iraqi media outlets without indicating the material came
from the U.S. military. This lack of clear attribution
resembles a similar tactic used by the U.S. for domestic
video news releases. (see story.)
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said officials are
looking into the matter and that "some things about it,
if true, are a bit troubling." Media experts decried the
practice of planting articles by the military as
undermining the newly emerging free press in Iraq.
"In the very process of preventing misinformation from
another side, they are creating misinformation through a
process that disguises the source for information that
is going out," said John Schulz, dean of Boston
University's College of Communications and a veteran
journalist. "You can't be creating a model for democracy
while subverting one of its core principles, a free