The Pentagon is investigating allegations that the military paid to have positive stories about the war published in Iraqi newspapers. Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Iraq, believes the program is "an important part of countering misinformation in the news by insurgents." Johnson said in an e-mail, "This is a military program initiated by the Multi-National Force to help get factual information about ongoing operations into Iraqi news. I want to emphasize that all information used for marketing these stories is completely factual."
In this, as in other wars, propaganda has been a useful tool in winning hearts and minds. Propaganda is defined on dictionary.com as "The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause."
The late columnist Walter Lippmann observed, "We must remember that in time of war, what is said on the enemy's side of the front is always propaganda, and what is said on our side of the front is truth and righteousness, the cause of humanity and a crusade for peace." Lippmann was possibly being sarcastic, but propaganda is an important weapon in any war.
In his speech last week on our "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" and in the 35-page document available at whitehouse.gov, President Bush used propaganda to persuade the public he has a winning strategy in Iraq. Democrats, who have engaged in their own propaganda, calling on the president to present a winning strategy, engaged in propaganda by criticizing his strategy. That their response to the president's speech was contrary to their earlier propaganda, which made many of the president's points, apparently escaped them.
Propaganda is sometimes true. It can be used to advance a policy that is workable, or not, depending on the intent of the one engaging in it.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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