Sunday, October 01, 2006

Too Bad PR Doesn't Kill Terrorists, Part II

But it will cost $20 Million

What did I say in my last post on this topic? Oh yeah,

"Merely symptomatic but highly instructive & very timely..."

Reflecting Bushco's faith (pun intended) in the magic of mere PR--that is, style--to trump substance, which has, after all, has worked so well here at home in convincing American voters that they're not seeing nor hearing what they really are seeing and hearing-- in the news we see this item about efforts to export that same strategy overseas, to Iraqis.

News of a want-ad placed by the U.S. military for a private contractor to conduct polls & focus groups among disgruntled Iraqis was carried in the WaPo last Thursday (title bar), as follows:

"As violence continues in Iraq, the military is looking for ways to achieve stability through opinion polls and public relations.

"The Multi-National Command in Baghdad wants to hire a private firm to conduct polling and focus groups in Iraq 'to assess the effectiveness of operations as they relate to gaining and maintaining popular support,' according to a notice the Department of the Army posted yesterday.

"'Since the end of major combat operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Coalition Forces have sought to build robust and positive relations with the people of Iraq and to assist the Iraqi people in forming a new government,' the notice says, posted on the government contracting Web site

"Polling and focus groups are being sought as 'important tools for assessing changes in the level of a population's support for various groups,' according to the posting.

"Polling in Iraq is so sensitive that the contract proposal states that the winner must ensure those being questioned 'are not aware of the survey sponsor's identity.' One member of a firm that has conducted polling for the Baghdad command said yesterday that 'if someone out there believes the client is the U.S. government, the persons doing the polling could get killed.' The official insisted on anonymity for fear of putting his company's employees at risk.

"Word of the proposed new contract comes a day after release of a State Department poll that found that majorities in all regions of Iraq, except the Kurdish areas, want U.S. and allied troops to withdraw immediately and that their departure would make people feel safer. It also follows the release of an April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism that found that U.S. military action has become a 'cause celebre' in the Arab world and has fueled anti-American feelings in Iraq and the Middle East."

One of the bidders for the contract, the Lincoln Group, has previously done this type of work in Iraq (what did that cost the American taxpayers, we wonder?) but came under fire with the publication of a memo listing what it would cost to run Army-provided propaganda--er, news, to Iraqi news outlets. See, in our image.

"Lincoln's practices have attracted controversy, most recently because of a report in the current issue of Harper's Magazine. In it, Willem Marx, an Oxford University student, describes working for Lincoln in Baghdad last summer and using a spreadsheet listing amounts charged by Iraqi newspapers to run articles written by Army personnel, at costs that ran from $50 to $1,500."

Welcome to American-style politics & governance, Iraq. We call it "the best government money can buy" & "death by sloganeering."

All else we can tell ya is: Don't worry. Be happy.


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