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Documents show US had propaganda campaign plan two months before invasion
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday May 9, 2007
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Months before the US invaded Iraq, Pentagon planners were developing an elaborate propaganda campaign to ensure US government-"approved" information was broadcast to the Iraqi public, according to a previously classified White Paper released Tuesday by the independent National Security Archives.

The White Paper, prepared in January 2003, lays out plans to install American-friendly media with an Iraqi face and to silence local anti-US news outlets, referred to in the paper as "hate media." Also released by the National Security Archives were a Power Point presentation outlining the goals of the media plan and other briefing materials.

Transformation of Iraq’s media would be accomplished by a Rapid Reaction Media Team, which planners envisioned as a bridge between the state-controlled outlets of Saddam Hussein’s regime and a long-term “Iraqi Free Media” network, which would broadcast America-friendly programming.

"This team will deploy from Washington immediately upon cessation of hostilities … and begin broadcasting and printing approved USG information to the Iraqi public," the paper says.

The paper was prepared by two Defense Department offices, Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, which is in charge of psychological warfare, and Near East and South Asian Affairs (Special Plans), which was established to plan the Iraq war in secret. A Pentagon spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

"Having professional US-trained Iraqi media teams immediately in-place to portray a new Iraq (by Iraqis for Iraqis) with hopes for a prosperous, democratic future, will have a profound psychological and political impact on the Iraqi people," reads the White Paper.

To deal with native voices unfriendly to US interests in the war, the paper calls for installation of a “temporary Media Commissioner to regulate against ‘hate media’ that might destabilize Iraq.” The commissioner would work with military commanders to “identify the media infrastructure we need left in tact and … find alternative ways of disabling key sites.”

The National Security Archives' Joyce Battle mused, “Evidently the Baghdad headquarters of Arab satellite network al-Jazeera was not part of "the media infrastructure that we need left intact."

The project was estimated to cost about $2 million, and be completed within 12 months from the end of the invasion, according to briefing materials prepared along with the White Paper.

The Pentagon’s media strategy enriched several defense contractors including the Rendon Group, Scientific Applications International Corporation and the Lincoln Group, reports Battle. According to press reports that emerged in late 2005, the Lincoln Group was paid $100 million by the Pentagon to act as a go-between to allow the US military to covertly place articles written by military information officers into Iraqi newspapers as if Iraqi correspondents had written them.

Despite the Pentagon’s stated goals of a “free” Iraqi media, Battle reports, the International Press Institute ranks Iraq as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists and says Iraq’s media is closer to what would be found in an “autocratic regime” rather than an emerging democracy.