Who knows when U.S. troops will be leaving Iraq, but the Washington Post reports that the Pentagon has a long-term strategy for the information war:
The Defense Department will pay private U.S. contractors in Iraq up to $300 million over the next three years to produce news stories, entertainment programs and public service advertisements for the Iraqi media in an effort to “engage and inspire” the local population to support U.S. objectives and the Iraqi government.
While the Post article is still a bit too heavy on U.S. spin (“Defense Department officials think their own products have become increasingly imaginative and competitive,” for example; the Post also relies on an anonymous Pentagon official to enthuse, “The tools they’re using, the means, the robustness of this activity has just skyrocketed since 2003,” reporters Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus should get some credit for raising the issue of legality:
While U.S. law prohibits the use of government money to direct propaganda at U.S. audiences, the “statement of work” included in the proposal, written by the U.S. Joint Contracting Command in Iraq, notes the need to “communicate effectively with our strategic audiences (i.e. Iraqi, pan-Arabic, International, and U.S. audiences) to gain widespread acceptance of [U.S. and Iraqi government] core themes and messages.”
Don’t worry, though–when investigating its own propaganda machinery “in 2006, the Pentagon’s inspector general found that media work that the Lincoln Group did [planting pro-occupation propaganda in media] in Iraq was improperly supervised but legal.”
Read the FAIR publication Extra! Update: Pentagon Disinformation Should Be No Surprise (2/05) by Peter Hart