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S ince the inception of the Iraq war, and even during the runup to the invasion, the Bush administration aimed to control the news about and from Iraq. Early on, embedded reporters told stories about the toppling of Saddam’s statue and the heroism of individual soldiers. Over the course of the subsequent occupation, several hundred million dollars have been spent on an assortment of media projects specifically designed to sell “good” news about the occupation. Perhaps the most notorious U.S. effort involved a U.S. public relations company that was contracted to pay for positive news stories—written by U.S. military personnel—to be placed in Iraqi publications.
In late-September, the Pentagon once again signed a contract with the Washington DC-based Lincoln Group, which “put together a unit of 12-18 communicators to support military PR efforts in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, from media training to pitching stories and providing content for government-backed news sites” (see ODwyerspr.com). According to the information service of industry publication O’Dwyers PR Report , the “contract with the Multi-National Force-Iraq is valued at more than $6 million per year, although contracting documents indicated that additional efforts could be ‘ordered’ from the Pennsylvania Avenue firm for up to $20 million.”
Company representative Bill Dixon said, “Lincoln Group is proud to be trusted to assist the multi-national forces in Iraq with communicating news about their vital work.” According to its website, the Lincoln Group is a “strategic communications and public relations firm providing insight and influence in challenging and hostile environments.”
The company claims that its “employees and consultants have worked, and continue to work, around the world in such places as Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Colombia, Indonesia, and elsewhere. While others may view these locations as ‘inhospitable’, we prefer to call them ‘challenging’.”
A Fortune magazine story dated January 20, 2006 pointed out that the Lincoln Group “says it has entered into more than 20 Defense Department contracts (the biggest of which could be worth as much as $100 million) and a similar number of commercial and nonmilitary government deals. It has more than 40 employees in the U.S. and 200 overseas, mostly in Iraq, doing research, communications, and even some investing.”
According to SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, O’Dwyer’s reported in March 2006 that the Lincoln Group was “working to boost economic development in Pakistan. Lincoln is working with former U.S. diplomat Carol Fleming to increase ‘investments in the country’s textile, energy, technology and telecom’ industries. The firm produced ‘a documentary’ of areas devastated by the October 2005 earthquake ‘to remind countries to honor their pledges to support the victims.’ Lincoln has also ‘expressed interest’ in a contract to help the U.S. Army Reserve communicate its ‘vision of the future.’ The contract includes ‘speech writing, research, development of a comprehensive... communications plan,’ support for ‘national outreach programs,’ and media outreach for Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. James Helmly.”
While no stranger to government contracts, the company is also no stranger to controversy. In November 2005 the Los Angeles Times revealed that the U.S. military was “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.” Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi reported in the LA Times that the stories were authored by U.S. military “information operations’ troops” and “translated into Arabic and covertly placed in Baghdad newspapers.”
The Lincoln Group has acted as an intermediary between the U.S. military and media outlets. Company staff and subcontractors wrote and translated stories, then paid local editors varying amounts to run them, pretending to be freelance reporters or advertising executives.
In their recently published book, The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006), co-authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber document how Pentagon money was “thrown” at the Lincoln Group and other public relations outfits to promote the war in Iraq: “In September 2004, the U.S. military awarded a $5.4 million contract to Iraqex—which soon after changed its name to The Lincoln Group—a ‘newly formed’ Washington, DC-based company ‘set up specifically to provide services in Iraq.’” A year later, the New York Times’ Jeff Gerth reported that Iraqex’s winning of the contract was “something of a mystery” given the fact that the “two men who ran the small business [Christian Bailey, a young businessperson from England, and Paige Craig, a young former marine intelligence officer] had no background in public relations or the media.”
According to Rampton and Stauber, “In its various [pre-war] incarnations, Iraqex/Lincoln dabbled in real estate, published a short-lived online business publication called the Iraq Business Journal , and tried its hand at exporting scrap metal, manufacturing construction materials, and providing logistics for U.S. forces before finally striking gold with the Pentagon PR contract.”
Rampton and Stauber report that at first the Lincoln Group worked with the Rendon Group, “a public relations firm that had already played a major role in leading the U.S. into war through its work for Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress.” After Rendon left the project, Lincoln “hired another Washington-based public relations firm as a subcontractor—BKSH & Associates, headed by Republican political strategist Charles R. Black, Jr. BKSH is a subsidiary of Burson-Marszteller, a PR firm whose previous experience in Iraq also included work for Chalabi. Other Pentagon contracts for public relations work were awarded to SYColeman Inc. of Arlington, Virginia and Science Applications International Corporation. PR contracts added up to $300 million over a five-year period.”
In late May 2006 David S. Cloud reported in the New York Times that, “A Defense Department investigation of Pentagon-financed propaganda efforts in Iraq warn[ed] that paying Iraqi journalists to produce positive stories could damage American credibility and call[ed] for an end to military payments to a group of Iraqi journalists in Baghdad, according to a summary of the investigation.”
All in all, as the New York Times reported, the Lincoln Group managed to place more than 1,000 stories in the Iraqi and Arab press.
The review was ordered after news the previous November disclosed “that the military had paid the Lincoln Group to plant articles written by American soldiers in Iraqi publications without disclosing the source of the articles. The firm’s work also included paying Iraqi journalists for favorable treatment.”
Though the document prepared by Rear Admiral Scott Van Buskirk doesn’t mention the Lincoln Group by name, it nevertheless found that the military should scrutinize contractors involved in the propaganda effort more closely “to ensure proper oversight is in place,” Cloud reported. Van Buskirk also blamed the military for not investigating whether paying for placement for articles would “undermine the concept of a free press” in Iraq, according to the summary.
Cloud reports that, “Overall, the report conclude[d] that American commanders in Iraq did not violate military regulations when they undertook a multipronged propaganda campaign beginning in 2004 aimed at increasing support for the fledgling Iraqi government.
“The most critical portion of the report concerns the military’s creation in 2004 of an entity called the Baghdad Press Club in which Iraqi journalists were paid if they covered and produced stories about American reconstruction efforts, such as openings of schools and sewage plants.... The military’s ‘direct oversight of an apparently independent news organization and remuneration for articles that are published will undoubtedly raise questions focused on “truth and credibility,” that will be difficult to deflect, regardless of the intensions and purpose of the remuneration,’ the report says.”
T he war in Iraq has spawned a new industry in Washington that could be called psy-ops journalism,” Alvin Snyder, a former executive of the United States Information Agency (USIA) and a senior fellow at the USC Center for Public Diplomacy, recently wrote on the Center’s website. “The new breed of journalists are following the money trail to the Pentagon.”
Psyops is, of course, not a new phenomenon. An Air Force document published in 1994 titled “Air Force Intelligence and Security Doctrine: Psychological Operations (PSYOP)” pointed out that psychological operations aim to “convey and (or) deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning.... In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover, deception, and psyops.”
In the information age, psyops, or the effective manipulating of information for political gain, knows no borders. A Defense Department document titled “Information Operations Roundup,” approved in 2003, acknowledged that “information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and vice-versa. PSYOP messages disseminated to any audience...will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public.”
Snyder writes that, “Some $400 million in media consulting contracts has been awarded during the past few years by the Pentagon, for the purpose of helping ‘to effectively communicate Iraqi government and Coalition goals with strategic audiences’.”
Over the past three-plus years, the Pentagon has initiated an endless stream of public relations efforts aimed at stemming the tide of negative news from Iraq. As The Best War Ever points out, “much of the U.S. propaganda effort”—from manipulating events, creating heroic stories for domestic consumption, sitting on negative information as evidenced by the slow initial response to torture at Abu Ghraib prison—“is aimed not at tactical deception of enemy combatants but at influencing morale and support for the war in the United States.”
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.