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Happy Iraq and Yuppie Careers in Iraq

by Thomas Pany Friday, Mar. 03, 2006 at 6:06 AM
mbatko@lycos.com

While the spread of propaganda is prohibited in the US, it returns to the homefront on the roundabout way of foreign publications.. The witty and resilient Chalabi is still indirectly on the Pentagon payroll.

HAPPY IRAQ

How the Pentagon Buys the Iraqi Press

By Thomas Pany

[This article published in the German-English cyber-journal Telepolis, 12/3/2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.telepolis.de/r4/artikel/21/21486/1.html]




The American military pays good money to Iraqi newspapers for publishing good news articles. That was the core of the article [1] published in the Los Angeles Times, 11/29/2005. Since then this procedure caused anxiety [2] in high-ranking Pentagon circles and shock everywhere. The news is not the real shocker since no one is really surprised. Cunning is hidden in this propaganda maneuver.

Whoever hears radio station Sawa in Iraq financed with US funds [cf. The Truth in the Orient (3)] knows what can be expected from the sunny prospects news that interrupt the music program and changes the station until music is played again. This is not limited to Iraqi taxi drivers [4].

Iraqi newspaper readers deal with news in a similarly cautious way when the news is published in the al-Mutamar newspaper, the central organ of Ahmed Chalabi’s INC party – since the PR articles are simply published in the news section. Chalabi’s good connections to influential neo-con circles in the US are well known. The witty and resilient Chalabi has survived many crises [cf. The End of the Masters of Darkness (5)], is a very respected guest in Washington as the active vice-premier in Iraq and is still indirectly on the Pentagon payroll.

Chalabi is not the only profiteer of a wide-scale good news initiative of the info-warriors of the Pentagon. The American news sellers pay up to 00 for publication of an article in Iraqi newspapers. Dozens enjoyed rich dollar gifts, according to the report of the Los Angeles Times. Further background for the camouflaged PR-campaign was provided a little later by the famous Knight-Ridder organization [7] and the opinion-makers of the professional journal Editor & Publisher [6].

American journalists quickly uncovered the camouflage of the Pentagon that passed on its view of Iraqi conditions through a private firm, the Lincoln group, and through the Baghdad Press Club” to Iraqi newspapers. Only a few were surprised by the network and supplied several newspaper editors with money and articles. Considerable funds are spent on the “information war.” According to the Washington Post, the Lincoln Group with three other firms specializing in communication received contracts amounting to 0 million (over 5 years).

The effect that can be realized with this news selling is formidable. This is a textbook example of “blow-back,” the American expert for publicity in the Arab world, Marc Lynch [9], said. While the spread of propaganda is prohibited in the US, it returns to the home front – bypassing US laws – on the roundabout way of foreign publications. The reports written by US military collaborators and circulated by the Lincoln Group and the Baghdad Press Club appear in the Arab language as seemingly original articles from Iraqi publications, are taken up by other media as ostensibly original and channeled in the news cycle:

Some of these “positive” articles in Arabic (which are not inaccurate in detail but simply grossly one-sided) may then get translated by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service of the CIA, the articles from which in turn are often picked up by BBC World Monitoring; or Iraq bloggers may put out the information and perspective so that it gets into English. The Pentagon is forbidden from planting articles in the US press, but this method gets around the prohibition.

Juan Cole [10]

Thus the critical press in the country is avoided with the good news from Iraq. However the blow-back [11] makes waves in other directions causing bad feelings for some members of the US government [12]. The democratic values proclaimed by the US are evaded by this practice and feared by this side [13]:

Eight current and former military, defense and other U.S. officials in Baghdad and Washington agreed to discuss the payments to Iraqi reporters and other American information operations because they fear that the efforts are promoting practices that are unacceptable for a democracy. They requested anonymity to avoid retaliation.

“The Iraqi press is neither free and independent nor Iraqi.” The quintessence of this phenomenon, as David Isenberg said polemically yesterday in the Asian Times [14], may be very familiar to the Iraqi public. One turns on al-Jazeera to keep informed about current affairs in the country.

“Remember, half of the battle will be won on the battlefield of the media,” an American general said on the scandal [15]: “Sarkaw lies to the Iraqi people; the American people don’t do that.” The puppet show in Iraq apparently goes on merrily.









YUPPIE CAREERS IN IRAQ

“If you have problems, go to D.C.”

by Thomas Pany

[This article published in the German-English cyber-journal Telepolis, 2/17/2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.telepolis.de/r4/artikel/22/22061/1.html]

At the beginning of December 2005, the American military caused a sensation in the national and international press when it became known that Iraqi newspapers were paid good money for publishing good news articles [cf. Happy Iraq (1)]. The Lincoln Group [2] that acted as a kind of press agent for propaganda articles was at the center of the scandal. A few months later it was revealed that the propaganda contract gave away several million dollars to big mouths, hot air, wind-up merchants and Yuppie businessmen.

There are already several distinguished examples of careers “made in Iraq.” However unlike the political careers of Chalabi and Ziad Cattan [cf. From Flower Seller to State Weapons Supplier (3)], the history [4] of the two Lincoln Group founders, Christian Bailey and Paige Craig, provide revealing insights on the awarding of private contracts in Iraq worth millions. This picture shows how reality is simply concocted in the professional and sophisticated propaganda work of the superpower.

Two years ago the two Lincoln founders lived in rather modest conditions according to a report [5] in the New York Times with a series of business failures in their past. Today they can afford an elegantly furnished firm headquarters, expensive houses, cars and even bodyguards. Thanks to a five million dollar contract with the pentagon, the Lincoln Group should help “inform the Iraqis about American efforts to defeat the insurgents and form a new government.”

“VERY PROFESSIONAL ON THE SURFACE”

The Lincoln Group does not have special abilities to offer. The rise of the firm, as the New York Times uncovered after several interviews with past and present employees, was largely based on “exaggerated claims about their abilities and connections”:

They appear very professional on the surface, then you dig a little deeper and you find that they are pretty amateurish.

Jason Santamaria, a “strategic advisor” to the Lincoln Group

The 30-year old Oxford graduate Christian Bailey and the 31-yerar old Page Craig, a former marine with a West Point training that was broken off and a “Business Administration” degree from the National University were professional in following the advice of a mentor who gave Bailey two maxims to transform their past failure into an American “success story.”

When you have problems, go to D.C. (Washington)


How does one get good references?


By making a joint venture with someone who has good references.

The Lincoln Group gained lucrative contracts by claiming to have excellent relations to large media – and advertising agencies, former government representatives with rich experiences in the Middle East and former officers with experiences in secret service work and knowledge4 of psychological warfare. In contrast, the partners saw these business relations as rather fleeting acquaintances.

The general inspector of the Pentagon is now investigating the awarding of contracts to the Lincoln Group. Another investigation commissioned by the American commander-in-chief in Iraq, General Casey involved in the propaganda scandal connected with the Lincoln Group, was recently completed but has not yet been published.

COMPETENT IN STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION

According to the sources of the New York Times, Lincoln wanted to do business in the reconstruction in Iraq in 2004 – in the export of metal and the manufacture of bricks. Both business ideas failed because of ignorance of Iraqi conditions. Success arose through partnership with the Rendon group [6], a giant firm that like the Lincoln Group boasts on its homepage of competence in “strategic communication.” The Rendon Group that glories in close relations to the Bush administration had a five million dollar contract for news editing for the Iraqi media. Lincoln alone had to fulfill this contract.

However Lincoln only had two-dozen workers at that time, according to statements of former employees, with only trifling experience in journalism, hardly any money to pay employees and no money for necessary security precautions in Iraq. Nevertheless Lincoln co-founder Craig advertised for his business in the US and claimed competence in “information operations” over the army.

Craig presented the nice-sounding name Lincoln… In the summer of 2005, the Lincoln Group as a civil partner of the US army for the propaganda campaign was awarded “tens of millions of dollars” for the project. [7]

A mammoth telecommunication firm Omnicom [8], that presented Lincoln to the Special Operations Command [9] of the US Army as an important sub-contractor, denies any collaboration. While Lincoln obviously undergirded its credibility with Omnicom, the spokesperson of Omnicom said: “We are not aware of any relation to the Lincoln Group.”

The young and talented Mr. Bailey faces two Pentagon investigations.

[The numbers in parentheses refer to notes in the original German in Telrepolis.]

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