as President Bush urged support for a "free, independent and responsible
Iraqi media," the Los Angeles Times reported that the military in
Iraq is spending millions on a DC-based defense contractor to
plant stories favorable to the US occupation in the Iraqi media. Senior
Pentagon officials, including General Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, are said to have had no idea that this secret campaign was going
this even news? We’re told that operatives (or if you will, troops) of an
Information Operations Task Force in Baghdad write news stories,
called "storyboards", and deliver them to the Iraqi staff of the Lincoln
Group. These staffers translate the storyboards into Arabic and then pay
(i.e. bribe) newspaper editors in Baghdad to run the stories.
Actually this "new" program has been around for a time, only with
After the fall of Baghdad, Science Applications International Corp (SAIC), a
defense contractor with no media experience, got a no-bid contract for
the Iraqi Media Network (IMN) program. Seems it was picked solely for its
resume as a long-time buddy of the US military. In 2002, about two-thirds
of its $6 billion revenues came largely from the defense budget and David
Kay, chief hunter for WMD, is a former Veep.
TV producer Dan North was approached to set up a public broadcast
station. But North soon became disillusioned when he found that his boss,
Paul Bremer couldn’t tell the difference between independent Iraqi
journalism and PR for the US military. North, a veteran of Vietnam,
Bosnia, Rumania, and Afghanistan and his news director, an Iraqi ex-pat,
Achmed Al-Rikabi, a former Swedish producer/reporter and BBC broadcaster,
knew quite well what the Iraqis needed after years of state-controlled
pablum. Instead, they found themselves dishing out Bremer’s pablum. The
Iraqis naturally tuned out and began listening to Al Jazeera and Al
Arabiya. Iraqi journalists started calling the Americans "Little Saddams."
So General Pace’s stupefaction about the fake news story is touching.
And absurd. Last year, the IMN (its local name is Al Iraqiya) had a
$100 million budget that came right out of Special Operations and
Low-Intensity Conflict, the group in Defense that handles psyops.
Pace, Chief of the JCS, does not know this?
The unholy blending of psyops, information ops and military diplomacy
was roundly criticized at the time even by military commanders who thought
it would eventually ruin the army’s ability to communicate with the
public, but it went ahead anyway in mid- September 2004 under Erv Lessel,
of the Strategic Communications office, but ultimately under the
Undersecretary for Defense Policy, who was at the time Douglas Feith.
Feith, meanwhile, also headed the Office of Special Plans (OSP) that
"stove-piped" cooked intelligence to the White House to support the war
and OSP itself was simply the brand new moniker under which the defunct
Office of Strategic Information (OSI) was resurrected. Formed after 9-11,
OSI did nothing but plant fake stories in the international (not just
Iraqi) media until it was shut down from public outrage.
But Pace knows nothing about this.
I suppose he also knows nothing about a secret 74-page directive
called "Information Operations Road Map," (late 2003) that invited
proposals for a "director of central Information" who would be responsible
for controlling all public or secret messages across all national security
and foreign policy operations. That was presented to a "senior Pentagon
panel" including none other than Doug Feith. A "senior Pentagon panel"
would, one suspects, include General Pace, who is now in a swoon about the
LA Times report.
There is even a whole field devoted to this blending of military and psy-ops.
It’s called Defense Support for Public Diplomacy.
Back to the Iraqi PBS (perhaps not such a bad analogy, by the
way, considering recent reports of the infiltration of PBS and the
Corporation of Public Broadcasting by the pro-war faction). In January
2004, after mounting complaints about SAIC’s no-bid contract, inexperience
and bias, Harris Communications, a company that specializes in
designing, manufacturing and installing communications equipment and
infrastructure, took over the IMN contract. It was also a no-bid contract.
Harris also had no media experience except for a stint upgrading Romania’s
But perhaps that was enough.
Harris subcontracted the media work to the Lebanese Broadcasting
Corporation and Al Fawares, an Iraqi owned Kuwaiti company which publishes
the Al Sabah newspaper in Kuwait. Even so, under Harris (an
Australian firm), American government influence was so heavy-handed that
the entire staff of Al Sabah walked out and the Iraqi general director of
Al Iraqiya (the Iraqi TV network) resigned after just 6 months.
But senior Pentagon officials wouldn’t know that.
They also might not know that Harris worked with CACI together in at
least one aspect of US telecommunications -- electronic platforms. Nearly
half of all interrogators and analysts employed in January 2004 were CACI
That’s the same CACI which is deeply involved with Homeland Security in
a majority of defense and civilian agencies, the intelligence community,
44 state governments, more than 200 cities, counties and local agencies
in North America, and also contracts with government agencies in
Asia-Pacific and Europe. It does not just collect information but "maps
terrorist social networks."
Meanwhile SAIC -- which was supposedly removed for its incompetence and
bias -- is back again under the new program, this time sharing the Special
Ops Command contract (worth 100 million) to provide media work for five
But not in Iraq, we are told. And they have nothing to do with planting
fake stories, says a spokesman for the Special Ops Command.
The generals would probably believe that.
is a freelance writer in Baltimore, and the author of
The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the US
Media (Monthly Review Press, 2005) from which this
article was adapted. She can be reached at:
(c) 2005 by Lila Rajiva
* Lila Rajiva will discuss The
Language of Empire in Oakland, Sacramento, Seattle and Portland this
week (December 14-17 respectively).
Click here for more details.
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Downing Syndrome, or Why the Not-So-Secret Air War Stayed “Secret”
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* Iraqi Women
and Torture, Part IV: Gendered Propaganda, the Propaganda of Gender
* Iraqi Women
and Torture, Part III: Violence and Virtual Violence
Women and Torture, Part II: Theater That Educates, News That Propagandizes
Women and Torture, Part I: Rapes and Rumors of Rape
Kristof's Fox Pas(s)
Conservatives on the Couch: Transactional Analysis and the Torture
* The New
in Iraq: The L.A. Times and the Fog of War