PROPAGANDA is the GREASE of EMPIRE
The Lincoln Group: Unethical Weapon of Mass Deception
by Bill Berkowitz
Since the inception of the Iraq war, and even during the run-up to the
invasion, the Bush Administration aimed to control the news about, and
from Iraq. Early on, embedded reporters told stories about the toppling
of the statue of Saddam and the heroism of individual soldiers as the
military quickly seized Baghdad. Over the course of the subsequent
three-year 8 months occupation, several hundred million dollars have
been spent on an assortment of media projects that were specifically
designed to sell "good" news about the occupation. Perhaps the most
notorious US effort involved a US public relations company that was
contracted to pay for positive news stories -- written by US military
personnel -- to be placed in Iraqi publications.
In late-September, the Pentagon once again turned toward that company,
and inked a two-year contract with the Lincoln Group, which "put
together a unit of 12-18 communicators to support military PR efforts in
Iraq and throughout the Middle East from media training to pitching
stories and providing content for government-backed news sites."
According to ODwyerpr.com-- an information service produced by the
highly respected industry publication O'Dwyers PR Daily -- the "contract
with the Multi-National Force-Iraq is valued at more than $6 million per
year, although contracting documents indicated that additional efforts
could be "ordered" from the Pennsylvania Avenue firm for up to $20
A Fortune magazine story dated January 20, 2006, pointed out that
Lincoln Group "says it has entered into more than 20 Defense Department
contracts-the biggest of which could be worth as much as $100 million
-and a similar number of commercial and nonmilitary government deals. It
has more than 40 employees in the US and 200 overseas, mostly in Iraq,
doing research, communications, and even some investing."
The Lincoln Group acted as an intermediary between the US military and
the media outlets; company staff and subcontractors wrote and translated
stories, then paid local editors varying amounts to run them, pretending
to be freelance reporters, for example, or advertising executives.
In their recently published book, The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies,
and the Mess in Iraq, co-authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber
document how Pentagon money was "thrown" at the Lincoln Group and other
public relations outfits to promote the war in Iraq:
In September 2004, the US military awarded a $5.4 million contract to
Iraqex -- which soon after changed its name to The Lincoln Group -- a
"newly formed" Washington, DC-based company "set up specifically to
provide services in Iraq." A year later, the New York Times' Jeff Gerth
would report that Iraqex's winning of the contract was "something of a
mystery" given the fact that the "two men who ran the small business had
no background in public relations or the media."
According to Rampton and Stauber, "In its various [pre-war]
incarnations, Iraqex/Lincoln dabbled in real estate, published a
short-lived online business publication called the Iraq Business
Journal, and tried its hand at exporting scrap metal, manufacturing
construction materials, and providing logistics for US forces before
finally striking gold with the Pentagon PR contract."
In late-May of this year, bulldogreporter.com pointed out that "a
Defense Department investigation of Pentagon-financed propaganda efforts
in Iraq warned that paying Iraqi journalists to produce positive stories
could damage American credibility and called for an end to military
payments to a group of Iraqi journalists in Baghdad, according to a
summary of the investigation."
The review, ordered after news reports last November disclosed "that the
military had paid the Lincoln Group to plant articles written by
American soldiers in Iraqi publications, without disclosing the source
of the articles. The firm's work also included paying Iraqi journalists
for favorable treatment."
The New York Times' David S. Cloud reported, though the document
prepared by Rear Admiral Scott Van Buskirk doesn't mention the Lincoln
Group by name, it nevertheless found that the military should scrutinize
contractors involved in the propaganda effort more closely "to ensure
proper oversight is in place". According to the summary, Van Buskirk
also blamed the military for not investigating whether paying for
placement for articles would "undermine the concept of a free press," in
"The most critical portion of the report concerns the military's
creation in 2004 of an entity called the Baghdad Press Club, in which
Iraqi journalists were paid if they covered and produced stories about
American reconstruction efforts, such as openings of schools and sewage
The report says, "The military's 'direct oversight of an apparently
independent news organization and remuneration for articles that are
published will undoubtedly raise questions focused on 'truth and
credibility,' that will be difficult to deflect, regardless of the
intensions and purpose of the remuneration."
Over the past three-plus years, the Pentagon has initiated an endless
stream of public relations efforts aimed at stemming the tide of
negative news from Iraq. As "The Best War Ever" points out, "much of the
U.S. propaganda effort" -- from manipulating events, such as the
toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein after the U.S. marched into
Baghdad, creating heroic stories for domestic consumption, sitting on
negative information as evidenced by the slow initial response to
torture at Abu Ghraib prison -- "is aimed not at tactical deception of
enemy combatants but at influencing morale and support for the war in
the United States."
Many observers appear to agree with Alvin Snyder's assertion that the
millions spent by the Pentagon have basically come to naught. It hasn't
won the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, it has failed to win
support abroad for the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, and it has
ultimately failed to convince the American public that the war in Iraq
Despite the chaos enveloping Iraq, business for The Lincoln Group is
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