The DOD has decided to drop $300 million to produce news stories and public service advertisements in Iraq to support pro-America messages and themes. The pentagon has awarded three year deals to private U.S. contractors-last week to four companies- which means this could last long after our withdrawal from Iraq.
This will expand and consolidate what the U.S. military calls “information/psychological operations” in Iraq far into the future, even as violence appears to be abating and U.S. troops have begun drawing down.
The military’s role in the war of ideas has been fundamentally transformed in recent years, the result of both the Pentagon’s outsized resources and a counterinsurgency doctrine in which information control is considered key to success. Uniformed communications specialists and contractors are now an integral part of U.S. military operations from Eastern Europe to Afghanistan and beyond.
Iraq, where hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on such contracts, has been the proving ground for the transformation. “The tools they’re using, the means, the robustness of this activity has just skyrocketed since 2003. In the past, a lot of this stuff was just some guy’s dreams,” said a senior U.S. military official, one of several who discussed the sensitive defense program on the condition of anonymity.
See the Pentagon is trying to compete with the propaganda market dominated by al-Qaeda, as Secretary Gates puts it “We’re being out-communicated by a guy in a cave.” So basically, the government is admitting that anyone with a Web site is doing better than they are at spinning their doctrine. Psst..that might not be a good thing to tell the American people.
There’s hope, officials think they are getting better at this propaganda game-you are not going to believe this part-the military considered producing an Iraqi version of “American Idol.” That was the DOD’s idea of being “increasingly imaginative and competitive.” The Bush administration has been trying to dumb down Americans for eight years; so let’s give Iraq a little taste of our “Reality TV” maybe that will work. Lucky for them the production costs were too expensive so that little brainstorm had to be pushed aside.
Military and contractor-produced media campaigns, spotlighting killings by insurgents, “helped in developing attitudes” that led Iraqis to reject al-Qaeda in Iraq over the past two years, an official said. Now that the insurgency is in disarray, he said, the same tools “could potentially be helpful” in diminishing the influence of neighboring Iran.
U.S.-produced public service broadcasts and billboards have touted improvements in government services, promoted political reconciliation, praised the Iraqi military and encouraged Iraqi citizens to report criminal activity.
Here is a sample of a program that they are currently using.
One official described how part of the program works: “There’s a video piece produced by a contractor . . . showing a family being attacked by a group of bad guys, and their daughter being taken off. The message is: You’ve got to stand up against the enemy.” The professionally produced vignette, he said, “is offered for airing on various [television] stations in Iraq. . . . They don’t know that the originator of the content is the U.S. government. If they did, they would never run anything.”
“If you asked most Iraqis,” he said, “they would say, ‘It came from the government, our own government.’
President Bush has made sure the State Department has kept these “strategic communications” going strong, to the sum of $5.6 million this year alone to promote “public diplomacy.” Money that could have funded so many other worthwhile programs-just another crime to add to the ever growing legacy of President Bush’s failures.