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Thread: Bush's War on the Press: A special report

  1. #1
    Partridge Guest

    Bush's War on the Press: A special report

    "Defend democracy from the White House assault on independent media"
    By Robert W. McChesney
    Republished from Free Press

    The White House Assault

    America’s leadership is waging a war against the journalistic standards and practices that underpin not only a free press but our democracy. The Fourth Estate is withering under an unprecedented White House assault designed to intimidate, smear and discredit investigative journalism — and allow the president and his political cronies to lie with impunity. If left unchecked, this and future administrations will continue to:

    manipulate the media “message” by producing propaganda, putting journalists on the government payroll and tightly scripting all public events;
    dismiss all dissenting views in the media as biased and politically motivated;
    undermine public trust in journalism using the right-wing “echo chamber” to sow hostility toward reporters who challenge the official line; and
    eliminate access to information making it nearly impossible for journalists to investigate vast swathes of the federal government.
    Bush’s Media Agenda

    The current administration is more inhospitable to truth and an informed citizenry than any before it. In fact, the administration seeks the opposite: a public that buys a carefully constructed myth over reality. This deception has manifest in seven lines of attack:

    Defending Our Press

    The damage already done is reflected in plummeting public faith in reporters and the unrelenting stream of lies flowing from the White House into mainstream news.

    This crisis can be attributed in part to the failure of big media corporations and some journalists to meet the basic responsibilities of the press in a democratic society. But the Bush administration’s wholesale assault on a free press is also to blame. This White House has gone well beyond the cynical maneuvers of past administrations and implemented a scheme to tear down journalism and erode civil liberties.

    Free Press has launched a nonpartisan campaign to defend democracy from the war on diverse and independent media. The campaign will exert grassroots and lobbying pressure to implement policies that hold our leadership accountable and ensure that abuses of press freedom are not repeated by this and future administrations.

    Join the fight for a free press.


  2. #2
    Partridge Guest
    It's propaganda (shock, horror)!
    By David Isenberg - Asia Times

    The news of a US military operation that pays Iraqi newspapers to run stories written by "information operations" troops about how wonderfully things are going in the war should not come as a shock.

    Even before the Iraq invasion, the Pentagon planned to create its own in-house propaganda and disinformation operation, to be called the Office of Strategic Influence. The program was supposedly killed after critics pointed out how easily the phony news it created could drift back into the domestic media.

    Nevertheless, the occupation of Iraq has put the Pentagon in the "strategic influence" business in a big way, with its own TV news operation (the Pentagon Channel), a then-coalition-controlled Iraqi TV and radio network (now nominally in the hands of the Iraqi government, but still powered by Pentagon dollars and run by a US vendor) and millions of dollars to hire public relations firms and consultants to spin the coalition's propaganda to the Iraqi people.

    In fact, paying off the Iraqi media to run good news mirrors what the Bush administration has been doing at home.

    For example, in the past year it was revealed that the Bush administration paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars to a prominent conservative commentator, Armstrong Williams, to promote a new education law that had been strongly supported by President George W Bush. The Education Department paid a public relations firm for a video that promoted the law and appeared as a news story, without making clear the reporter was hired as part of the deal.

    Similarly, some-time reporter and $200-an-hour gay escort, James Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, violated a ban on "fake" news stories by reprinting White House news releases verbatim.

    The gist of the latest story is that beginning this year as part of an information offensive in Iraq, the US military began secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the US mission in Iraq.

    Responding to the growing furor over the disclosure, the Senate Armed Services Committee has summoned Defense Department officials for a briefing on the issue. "I am concerned about any actions that may undermine the credibility of the United States as we help the Iraqi people stand up a democracy," said the committee's chairman, John Warner.

    The White House, too, says it is very concerned and is seeking more information.

    The articles, written by the US military troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers as unbiased news accounts with the help of the Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations firm located on legendary consultant central, K St, paid by the Pentagon. Lincoln's contract is with the Pentagon's special ops propaganda machine - JPOSE (Joint Psychological Operations Support Element).

    In addition to paying newspapers to print government propaganda, Lincoln has paid about a dozen Iraqi journalists each several hundred dollars a month. Those journalists were chosen because their past coverage had not been antagonistic to the United States,

    US officials in Washington said the payments were made through the Baghdad Press Club; an organization they said was created more than a year ago by US Army officers. Members of the Press Club are paid as much as $200 a month, depending on how many positive pieces they produce.

    A spokesman for the US military in Baghdad, Major General Rick Lynch, responded that "a propaganda war is under way in Iraq" as militants were also using the media. "Conducting these kidnappings, these beheadings, these explosions so that he gets international coverage to look like he has more capability than he truly has," Lynch said.

    "He is lying to the Iraqi people. We don't lie. We don't need to lie," Lynch added.

    Ironically, according to the reports, the Lincoln Group has also been paying Ahmad Chalabi's newspaper, al-Mutamar, to reprint pro-American propaganda. Hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies were lavished on Iraqi exile Chalabi and his surrogates in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Chalabi is now a deputy prime minister. Chalabi was influential in helping boost the Bush administration's "case" that Saddam Hussein had a weapons of mass destruction program.

    What is worth noting is the lack of substance in the stories. One of them was titled "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism". That ranks up there with the sun sets in the West and the tide rolls in and out. It also explains why the paper was only paid $50 for it.

    Also, in some cases the military articles placed in the Iraqi press had copied verbatim text from copyrighted publications and passed it on to be printed without attribution.

    These stories, however, are part of a continuing and longstanding effort to shape public opinion; more accurately described as psychological operations (psyops) in Iraq.

    An article in the American Prospect blog notes that in February a couple of local staffers of President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney headed to Iraq to work with Iraqex, the company that in March rebranded itself as The Lincoln Group to match that of its corporate parent, the Lincoln Alliance Corporation, a DC-based "business intelligence" firm.

    Also, famed New York ad man, Jerry Della Femina, is on The Lincoln Group's advisory board.

    But in late 2003 or early 2004 the Lincoln Alliance Corp became Iraqex. In October 2004, it won a $6 million contract from the Multi-National Corps-Iraq (formerly known as Combined Joint Task Force-7, which had operational control of all troops in Iraq) to design and execute an "aggressive advertising and public relations campaign that will accurately inform the Iraqi people of the coalition's goals and gain their support", according to the contract's August 2004 request for proposal.

    Lincoln Group executive vice president Christian Bailey, a British venture capitalist, was involved with Lead21, a Republican business organization registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 527 committee, which is a tax-exempt organization that engages in political activities

    After graduating from Oxford University in England in the 1990s, Bailey moved to the San Francisco area about 1998, and in 1999, founded Express Action, an e-commerce company he apparently later sold. In 2002, Bailey was identified as the founder and chairman of a New York-based hedge fund called Lincoln Asset Management. On March 1, 2003, it was reported that Lincoln Asset Management had an initial $100 million in commitments to underwrite a leveraged buyout fund to acquire defense and intelligence companies.

    The Lincoln Group is not the only firm engaged in psyops. In June, the Washington Post reported that the Pentagon had awarded three contracts, potentially worth up to $300 million over five years, to companies it hoped would inject more creativity into its psychological operations efforts to improve foreign public opinion about the US, particularly the military.

    SYColeman Inc of Arlington, Lincoln Group and Science Applications International Corp were to help develop ideas and prototypes for radio and television spots, documentaries, or even text messages, pop-up ads on the Internet, podcasting, billboards and novelty items.

    It is worth emphasizing that because of the security situation, US correspondents in Iraq are rarely able to leave the Green Zone in Baghdad or other US military bases to engage in on-the-ground reporting, and thus must rely, in part, on reports by Iraqis in the Iraqi press to assess the situation on the ground.

    But the news that some of this media are simply US military propaganda undermines even this source of information.

    Reportedly, the US military's top commanders, including General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not know about the Lincoln Group contract until it was first described by The Los Angeles Times. Pentagon officials said Pace and other top officials were disturbed and demanded explanations from senior officers in Iraq.

    The bottom line is the Iraqi press is neither free, nor even Iraqi.

    David Isenberg, a senior analyst with the Washington-based British American Security Information Council (BASIC), has a wide background in arms control and national security issues. The views expressed are his own.

    Copyright 2005 Asia Times Online Ltd

  3. #3
    Partridge Guest
    Published on Thursday, December 1, 2005 by The Nation
    The War on Al Jazeera
    by Jeremy Scahill
    Nothing puts the lie to the Bush Administration's absurd claim that it invaded Iraq to spread democracy throughout the Middle East more decisively than its ceaseless attacks on Al Jazeera, the institution that has done more than any other to break the stranglehold over information previously held by authoritarian forces, whether monarchs, military strongmen, occupiers or ayatollahs. The United States bombed its offices in Afghanistan in 2001, shelled the Basra hotel where Al Jazeera journalists were the only guests in April 2003, killed Iraq correspondent Tareq Ayoub a few days later in Baghdad and imprisoned several Al Jazeera reporters (including at Guantánamo), some of whom say they were tortured. In addition to the military attacks, the US-backed Iraqi government banned the network from reporting in Iraq.

    Then in late November came a startling development: Britain's Daily Mirror reported that during an April 2004 White House meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, George W. Bush floated the idea of bombing Al Jazeera's international headquarters in Qatar. This allegation was based on leaked "Top Secret" minutes of the Bush-Blair summit. British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has activated the Official Secrets Act, threatening any publication that publishes any portion of the memo (he has already brought charges against a former Cabinet staffer and a former parliamentary aide). So while we don't yet know the contents of the memo, we do know that at the time of Bush's meeting with Blair, the Administration was in the throes of a very public, high-level temper tantrum directed against Al Jazeera. The meeting took place on April 16, at the peak of the first US siege of Falluja, and Al Jazeera was one of the few news outlets broadcasting from inside the city. Its exclusive footage was being broadcast by every network from CNN to the BBC.

    The Falluja offensive, one of the bloodiest assaults of the US occupation, was a turning point. In two weeks that April, thirty marines were killed as local guerrillas resisted US attempts to capture the city. Some 600 Iraqis died, many of them women and children. Al Jazeera broadcast from inside the besieged city, beaming images to the world. On live TV the network gave graphic documentary evidence disproving US denials that it was killing civilians. It was a public relations disaster, and the United States responded by attacking the messenger.

    Just a few days before Bush allegedly proposed bombing the network, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Falluja, Ahmed Mansour, reported live on the air, "Last night we were targeted by some tanks, twice...but we escaped. The US wants us out of Falluja, but we will stay." On April 9 Washington demanded that Al Jazeera leave the city as a condition for a cease-fire. The network refused. Mansour wrote that the next day "American fighter jets fired around our new location, and they bombed the house where we had spent the night before, causing the death of the house owner Mr. Hussein Samir. Due to the serious threats we had to stop broadcasting for few days because every time we tried to broadcast the fighter jets spotted us we became under their fire."

    On April 11 senior military spokesperson Mark Kimmitt declared, "The stations that are showing Americans intentionally killing women and children are not legitimate news sources. That is propaganda, and that is lies." On April 15 Donald Rumsfeld echoed those remarks in distinctly undiplomatic terms, calling Al Jazeera's reporting "vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.... It's disgraceful what that station is doing." It was the very next day, according to the Daily Mirror, that Bush told Blair of his plan. "He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere," a source told the Mirror. "There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do--and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."

    Al Jazeera's real transgression during the "war on terror" is a simple one: being there. While critical of the Bush Administration and US policy, it is not anti-American--it is independent. In fact, it has angered almost every Arab government at one point or another and has been kicked out of or sanctioned by many Arab countries. It holds the rare distinction of being shut down by both Saddam and the new US-backed government. It was the first Arab station to broadcast interviews with Israeli officials. It is hardly the Al Qaeda mouthpiece the Administration has wanted us to believe it is. The real threat Al Jazeera poses is in its unembedded journalism--precisely what is needed now to uncover the truth about the Bush-Blair meeting.

    Conservative British MP Boris Johnson, who is by trade a journalist and is editor of The Spectator magazine, has offered to publish the memo if it is leaked to him. It should be published, and if any journal is prosecuted for doing so, it should be backed up by media organizations everywhere. The war against Al Jazeera and other unembedded journalists has been conducted with far too little outcry from the powerful media organizations of the world. It shouldn't take another bombing for this to be a story.

    Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!, has spent extensive time reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. He can be reached at

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