Best Defense

If reporters commanded rifle companies…

  If reporters commanded rifle companies, the results would not be good. (Remember Bill Murray in Stripes?) That’s the best way to understand American propaganda efforts in Iraq, with newspapers run by soldiers and bureaucrats. Take a gander at this summary over the weekend by the Washington Post‘s estimable Ernesto Londono: Baghdad Now is not ...

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If reporters commanded rifle companies, the results would not be good. (Remember Bill Murray in Stripes?) That’s the best way to understand American propaganda efforts in Iraq, with newspapers run by soldiers and bureaucrats. Take a gander at this summary over the weekend by the Washington Post‘s estimable Ernesto Londono:

Baghdad Now is not labeled as a U.S. military publication, although the military acknowledges it is produced by an Army psychological operations unit and distributed for free by soldiers. Piles of it are left at entrances to the Green Zone for passersby to pick up.

The headlines in a recent edition paid homage to a newly promoted police chief in Baghdad, reported that the implementation of a security agreement between Iraq and the United States is going swimmingly, and highlighted efforts at the Interior Ministry to root out corruption. A front-page ad showed Iraqis marching down a street, apparently protesting. Under the image was the statement: “The security forces protect your right to demonstrate peacefully.”

Another edition included a cartoon showing a maimed insurgent leaving Iraq as a smiling refugee returns.

“This is so wrong,” Aajeely said with a chuckle. “The people in charge of this are not professional journalists.

“They do it the same way the prior regime did its newspapers,” he added, referring to publications that hewed to the narrative Saddam Hussein wanted to push.

A U.S. Army officer in Baghdad, speaking on the condition of anonymity so he could express criticism of the product, said the Iraqi soldiers at his outpost mock the publication and are more interested in the editorially independent Department of Defense newspaper, Stars and Stripes, and in the magazines soldiers get in the mail.

“They say it’s childish,” the officer said. “Baghdad Now makes a good fuel source at the Iraqi checkpoints.”

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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