Friday, December 02, 2005

Warner Takes Names

Some top Pentagon officials are going to find themselves in an uncomfortable position today: across the table from a displeased John Warner. Warner, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will hold a closed-door session with the brass to discuss ongoing reports of "reported secret military campaign in Iraq to plant paid propaganda in the Iraqi news media," the NYTimes reports this morning.

More from the Times: "Under the program, the Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations firm working in Iraq, was hired to translate articles written by American troops into Arabic and then, in many cases, give them to advertising agencies for placement in the Iraqi news media.

At a time when the State Department is paying contractors millions of dollars to promote professional and independent media, the military campaign appeared to defy the basic tenets of Western journalism."

Warner said Thursday "I am concerned about any actions that may undermine the credibility of the United States as we help the Iraqi people stand up as a democracy. A free and independent press is critical to the functioning of a democracy, and I am concerned about any actions which may erode the independence of the Iraqi media." Foreign Relations Committee chair Richard Lugar added "How are people going to get information that's reliable? Who can they trust? If you are a devout Shiite or Sunni, and you suspect that the press has been bought, why, then you wouldn't respect the press."

The military in Iraq insists that only truthful information is disseminated through this program. I'm not sure that matters. But I'm glad that Warner (clearly assisted by Lugar and others) is going to get to the bottom of it. I have to say, with all the scandals and accusations being thrown around Washington, I'm still glad there are people like John Warner and others about whom I can say positive things once in a while.


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