Crikey reporter Sophie Black writes:


Last week we covered Rolling Stone‘s eyebrow-raising
report about CIA-linked PR group The Rendon Group (Crikey 28 November),
which highlighted the role of spin in the US government’s campaign to
invade Iraq. Now The Los Angeles Times
has published revelations that the US military and propaganda peddler
the Lincoln Group have been secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish
stories written by American troops in an effort to boost the US image
in Iraq.

Lincoln Group, formerly known as Iraqex, is one of
several companies (including The Rendon Group) hired by the US military
to carry out “strategic communications” in countries where large
numbers of US troops are based. Their official website
promises to “work every day of the year in some of the most
inhospitable environments in order to get your message communicated
effectively.”

In this case, communicating the US government’s
message effectively means planting pro US stories in Iraqi newspapers,
without indicating where they came from. The LA Times’ revelations come off the back of Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s recent Pentagon briefing,
where he claimed that the hundreds of newspapers, television stations
and other “free media” offer a “relief valve” for the Iraqi public to
debate the issues of their burgeoning democracy.

The LA Times, like Rolling Stone,
explains that US law forbids the military from carrying out
psychological operations or planting propaganda through American media
outlets. “Yet several officials said that given the globalisation of
media driven by the internet and the 24-hour news cycle, the Pentagon’s
efforts were carried out with the knowledge that coverage in the
foreign press inevitably ‘bleeds’ into the Western media and influences
coverage in US news outlets.”