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U.S. Out to Bribe Foreign Journalists

To The Editor, People's Daily Online:

Middle Eastern journalists are the target of a $300-million bribery campaign by the Pentagon to get them to write favorably about America’s aggression against Iraq, it has just been divulged.

If Middle Eastern readers find their newspapers are taking Pentagon money, it could destroy their trust in the free press. The Pentagon bribes mock the American Constitution’s free press guarantees. Maybe this is one reason United Press International reported the US has plunged to 44th place on the list of 167 nations in terms of press freedom.

Another reason for the poor showing might be a US Air Force fighter plane in April, 2003, targeted and killed Al Jazeera reporter Tariq Ayoub on the roof of his Baghdad office; the U.S. military also killed Taras Protsyuk of Reuters; and Josê Couso of Spanish TV network Telecinco, according to “The Nation” magazine.

Middle Eastern editors can expect a phone call any day now from so-called “public relations(PR) firms” the Washington-based Lincoln Group; San Diego-based Science Application International Corp., and SYColeman Inc., of Arlington, Va., picked for this delicate assignment. This reporter has spent 50 years in media and is familiar with PR firms but the above outfits don’t appear to be on anybody’s list but the Pentagon’s.

The Bush Administration talks about free markets but these firms’ contracts typically have been let without competitive bidding, just as Vice President Cheney’s old employer, Halliburton, got no-bid contracts in Iraq.

When it comes to bribing reporters, President Bush is in distinguished company. Hitler did it in the 1930s, according to historian John Weitz, ("Hitler's Diplomat"), when Nazi propaganda boss Goebbels “made strenuous efforts to assure good reports in the foreign press. Certain British free-lance journalists were paid to write enthusiastic articles.” Soviet dictator Stalin also rewarded Communist editors who parroted the Kremlin line.

President Bush’s bribe-the-press attempts first surfaced in 2002 when the Pentagon announced it would set up the Office of Strategic Influence(OSI) to spread “rumors and untruths” but a storm of protest in America killed the scheme. Now it’s back in a new disguise. The Pentagon awarded three, five-year contracts last June to the above-cited firms to create slogans, ads, newspaper articles, radio spots, and TV shows to plug U.S. policies overseas, the newspaper “USA Today” disclosed.

According to The New York Times (January 2nd,) acting for the Pentagon, Lincoln “paid Iraqi newspapers to print positive articles written by American soldiers (and) has also been compensating Sunni religious scholars in Iraq in return for assistance with its propaganda work, according to current and former employees.”

Lincoln’s action is not the first time the U.S. has paid off Muslim clergy. When President Jimmy Carter took office in 1981, according to “Politics Today” magazine, he learned the CIA had been buying off hundreds of mullahs and ayatollahs in Iran. Carter put a stop to it.

It was also revealed the CIA during the administration of President Bush’s father, President George Bush, was bribing thousands of Brazilian political candidates and operating “a worldwide pattern of payments to key figures, in a system of institutionalized bribery circling the globe,” author Darrell Garwood wrote in “Under Cover: Thirty-Five Years of CIA Deception.”(Grove Press).

Bush’s team also pays off American reporters. Armstrong Williams, an American TV show host, got $240,000 to plug a Bush educational scheme. After it was learned in January, 2005, that Bush’s aides paid columnist Maggie Gallagher $21,500 to do “research” on marriage issues, (she apologized to her readers for not disclosing her government income), Bush said the payoffs would stop because “our (domestic) agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet.”

Shouldn’t that philosophy prevail about America’s conduct in Iraq and throughout the Middle East? Why can’t it stand on its own two feet? Sadly, all the PR firms in the world cannot paper over the misery and death Bush & Britain’s Tony Blair have inflicted upon Iraq.

So, what will Middle Eastern journalists do when the Pentagon’s PR cronies offer them the opportunities to do some work in return for bribes? In America, there’s an expression “take your job and shove it!” It’s not in the U.S. Constitution but maybe it should be.

#

Sherwood Ross

Founder

League for Nonviolent Solutions

747 Lenox Avenue, Miami Beach, FL, USA 33139

(Sherwood Ross has worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, as an executive in the civil rights movement, and as a wire service columnist. He also contributes articles to history magazines.)




(from Sherwood Ross, 01.11,2006)

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