This is the news from Iraq according to Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration.
A week after the US Defense Secretary criticized the media for "
exaggerating" reports of violence in Iraq, The Independent has obtained
examples of newspaper reports the Bush administration want Iraqis to read.
They were prepared by specially trained American "psy-ops" troops
who paid thousands of dollars to Iraqi newspaper editors to run these
unattributed reports in their publications. In order to hide its
involvement, the Pentagon hired the Lincoln Group to act as a liaison
between troops and journalists. The Lincoln Group was at the centre of
controversy last year when it was revealed the company was being paid more
than $100m (£58m) for various contracts, including the planting of such
The Pentagon - which recently announced that an internal investigation had
cleared the Lincoln Group of breaching military rules by planting these
stories - has claimed these new reports did not constitute propaganda
because they were factually correct. But a military specialist has
questioned some of the information contained within their reports while
describing their rhetorical style as "comical". Furthermore, it
has been alleged that quotations contained within these reports and others -
attributed to anonymous Iraqi officials or citizens - were routinely made up
by US troops who never went beyond the perimeter of the Green Zone.
What seems clear is that, taken by themselves, these reports would provide
an unbalanced picture of the situation inside Iraq where ongoing violence
wreaks daily chaos and horror. Three years since US and UK troops invaded,
more than 2,500 coalition troops have been killed. How many Iraqi civilians
have died is unclear. The Iraqi Body Count puts the minimum at 33,773, but
this figure is based on media reports and the group admits "it is
likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the
media". An extrapolation published in The Lancet 18 months ago said
more than 100,000 had been killed.
A former employee of the Lincoln Group, who spent last summer in Baghdad
acting as a link between US troops who were part of the Information
Operations Task Force and Iraqis contracted by the company to establish
contact with Iraqi journalists, said his job was to ensure "there were
"The Iraqis did not know who was writing the stories and the US troops
did not know who the Iraqis were," said the former employee, who
declined to be named. It is not known whether the stories included here were
ever printed or simply prepared for publication, but he said it was normal
for around 10 stories a week to be printed. He said US troops routinely
fabricated their quotations.
The former employee said the Lincoln Group paid up to $2,000 for the
publication of each article - a sum that had risen from when he started
working, suggesting the Iraqi editors realized who was behind the articles
and knew there was plenty of money. The Lincoln Group was paid $80,000 a
week by the military to plant these stories.
The former employee said the stories - which often feature phrases such as "
brave warriors" and "eager troops" - were designed to bolster
the image and purported efficiency of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and
their involvement in operations. The Bush administration says the ability of
Iraqi security forces to deal with insurgents remains the key to a
withdrawal of US troops.
In reality, while one article describes the ISF as a "potent fighting
force", the training of Iraqi forces has been a slow and troubled
process. The Pentagon recently said the only Iraqi battalion judged capable
of fighting without US support had been downgraded, requiring it to fight
with American troops.
John Pike, the director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington-based defense
think-tank, who reviewed some of the Lincoln Group stories, said he found
them unconvincing. "Anybody who knows about propaganda knows the first
rule of propaganda is that it should not look like propaganda," he
said. "It's embarrassing enough that [the US military] got caught ...
but then for their product to be so cheesy ... It's just embarrassing."
He added: "Some of the vignettes are cartoonish. The ISF? Many of them
are surely brave. But a potent fighting force? I think that's a little
clearer than the truth. It's propaganda."
Another story mentions the Iraqi oil industry and calls it "unique in
that it is the only sector in which every dollar invested, either directly
or indirectly, provides direct revenue to Iraq for future reconstruction"
Yet a report published last November by a group of aid agencies and NGOs
claimed that production-sharing agreements (PSAs) proposed by the US State
Department before the invasion and adopted by the Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA), could see Iraqis lose $200bn in revenue if the plan comes
Data collated by the Brookings Institution says oil production in Iraq
remains below the estimated pre-invasion levels. At the moment, Iraq
annually spends $6bn to import oil.
The Lincoln Group is headed by Christian Bailey, a Briton with no experience
in PR, and a former US Marine, Paige Craig. The company failed to respond to
a call seeking comment yesterday. A spokesman for the US military in Iraq,
Lieut-Col Barry Johnson, said last night: "The results of the
investigation have not yet been made public while the report undergoes final
review by Multinational Force leadership. I am unable to comment on
While the Lincoln Group has been cleared by one Pentagon inquiry, it remains
the subject of a separate inquiry being conducted by the Pentagon's Office
of the Inspector General (OIG). A spokesman, Gary Comerford, said that the
OIG had been asked by the Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy to review how the
company had won its contract.
Criticizing the media last week, Mr Rumsfeld said: "Much of the
reporting in the US and abroad has exaggerated the situation...
Interestingly, all of the exaggerations seem to be on one side.... The
steady stream of errors all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation
and to give heart to the terrorists."
© 2006 The Independent