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Probe into Iraq coverage widens


By Rick Jervis and Zaid Sabah, USA TODAY
BAGHDAD — A U.S. investigation into allegations that the American military is buying positive coverage in the Iraqi media has expanded to examine a press club founded and financed by the U.S. Army.

The Baghdad Press Club was created last year by the U.S. military as a way to promote progress amid the violence and chaos of Iraq, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman.

The Army acknowledges funding the club and offering "reporter compensation," but insists officers did not demand favorable coverage. "Members are not required nor asked to write favorably," said Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone. "They are simply invited to report on events." He said the military exercised no editorial control over the coverage.

The U.S. military investigation, headed by Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, will look into whether there were efforts to place U.S.-produced stories into the local press without identifying the United States as the source. Paying reporters directly to write positive stories might also violate ethical guidelines.

The administration has expressed concerns about the allegations. Even if reporting is true, "it's got to be done in a way that reinforces a free media, not undermines it," national security adviser Stephen Hadley has said.

Ahmad al-Hamdani, a reporter at Alhurra, an American-funded television station, said press club members were invited to cover U.S.-led reconstruction efforts, such as restored sewage plants and newly-opened schools. The syndicate of 25 to 30 freelance reporters and staff employees for television stations and newspapers were paid about $25 for each story and $45 if the piece ran with photos, al-Hamdani said. Television reporters were paid $50 for pieces, he said. He said he did not participate.

Whetstone would not say how much the U.S. military paid the club, but said the budget included "basic journalism equipment, interpreters, assistant director, office employee, board members and reporter compensation."

It's not uncommon for Iraqi journalists to accept gifts or cash in exchange for favorable stories, said Emad al-Sharr, a reporter for Radio Dijla in Iraq. Cash or gifts such as watches and pens are often handed out following press conferences or on trips with Iraqi officials, he said. "The problem is you have poor journalists who will accept anything: $100, $50, $20 to publish articles under their names," al-Hamdani said. "They don't think it's wrong." Most monthly salaries in Iraq are under $300.

The investigation was launched after allegations surfaced that the U.S. military was paying to place stories and disguise the source. It centered on the Pentagon's contract with the Lincoln Group, a contractor hired to promote positive news about U.S. efforts in Iraq. The role of the Baghdad Press Club was first written about by Knight Ridder news service.

Laurie Adler, a spokeswoman for the Lincoln Group, said the firm "was not involved with the Baghdad Press Club."


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The media of 'the Matrix' can use ANY number of stories to distract you from the present plans for a military attack upon Iran.

What you have to get into your head is that it is the INTENTION of
the media to push this civilization into the horrors of Armageddon,
as it is also the intention of the politicians and the theologians:


This comment was written in haste.

The assertion that the media, the politicians, and the theologians are "INTENTIONALLY" pushing this civilization into the horrors of Armageddon is WRONG.

They are unaware of the consequences of their actions and are not doing this intentionally.

When informed that there is a theological resolution to the conflict between Judaeo-Christian civilization and Islamic civilization they ignore this as a matter of reflex.

Reflex is not intention.

That reflex is so strong and instantaneous, however, that it appears to be as if by intention; they do not perceive that they have any choice in the matter; that there is no other option than to do what they have always done.

There is also an element of the game of 'chicken' in their actions, especially in the area of theology: the willingness to risk Armageddon for the sake of one's beliefs is considered to be a demonstration of how CERTAIN one is that one's beliefs are the Truth inasmuch as, to them, that would appear to justify their actions--that is, the end justifies the means. The hope, of course, is that those on the 'other' side will back down before it is too late. The problem, however, is that that is the mentality of the other two sides as well. Jewish, Christian and Muslim Fundamentalists and the media officials and politicians who support them ALL hope that the situation will be resolved by the other sides backing down.

At the same time, there is a specific element of carelessness in the beliefs of Christian theology which REQUIRE that there be a battle of Armageddon in order for Jesus to return. This leads to the mentality by which the horrors of Armageddon can appear to be justified by the fact that they will lead to the return of Jesus and universal peace. But this mentality is based upon precisely the same mentality which is at the foundation of the 'conflict between civilizations' in the first place; which originates with the belief in the physical resurrection from the grave.

They are unaware of the reality of the situation.

They are blind to the consequences of their actions.

But they do not know what they are doing.

If the battle is joined, however--for example, in the conflict with Iran--that realization will in no way be helpful.


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