The US military is investigating allegations that the Pentagon is buying positive coverage in the Iraqi media.
The ever-expanding investigation into US propaganda efforts is being headed by Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk and will include an investigation of a press club founded and financed by the US Army. Van Buskirk will look into whether there were efforts to place US-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.
If true, it doesn't say much for US credibility as a purveyor of democracy, given that one of our nation's founding principles is a free press.
The Baghdad Press Club was created last year by the US 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."
To JABBS' ears, that spin sounds all too familiar.
It's a similar concept to what President Bush said in March, defending the administration's use of undocumented video news releases - something the nonpartisan General Accountability Office labeled "covert propaganda."
BUSH: "There is a Justice Department opinion that says these pieces are OK so long as they're based upon facts, not advocacy. And I expect our agencies to adhere to that ruling."
Amazingly, Bush was suggesting that propaganda created by the government was not "advocacy" - as if the administration would pay a journalist or create a video news release to oppose the administration.
Similarly, it's hard to believe the Army would pay Iraqi journalists to write "negative" stories about the US-led effort in Iraq.