"Tony Blair and George Bush are encountering an unexpected obstacle in their campaign for war against Iraq - their own intelligence agencies," reports Raymond Whitaker.
"If Colin Powell were to visit the shabby military compound at the foot of a large snow-covered mountain, he might be in for an unpleasant surprise," reports Luke Harding. "The US Secretary of State last week confidently described the compound in north-eastern Iraq - run by an Islamic terrorist group Ansar al-Islam - as a 'terrorist chemicals and poisons factory.' Yesterday, however, it emerged that the terrorist factory was nothing of the kind - more a dilapidated collection of concrete outbuildings at the foot of a grassy sloping hill.
The Wisconsin State Journal advocates a US attack on Iraq, but WSJ columnist George Hesselberg remembers 'Nayirah.' He recently wrote a column suggesting "perhaps we should question some of the evidence being gathered to justify an invasion of Iraq. The column was not appreciated by several readers, including ... Teddy Fedkenheuer, of Baraboo: 'To either accuse or blame an American President of lying to the American people ... is un-American. ... You are also implying that his stand on Iraq is also 'smoke and mirrors.' I find that offensive.' ...
The Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press has established a weblog to cover freedom of information and other issues related to the new Department of Homeland Security, which came into existence officially on Jan. 24. "Behind the Homefront" is a "daily chronicle of news in homeland security and military operations affecting newsgathering, access to information and the public's right to know."
"The budget request for the State Department for 2004 reflects the changing foreign policy priorities of an administration set on winning the global war on terrorism and the hearts and minds of the countries where terrorists recruit," UPI's Eli J. Lake writes. "It includes $30 million to launch the Middle East Television Network, an Arabic language satellite station. Also, the budget will double funding for the Voice of America's Indonesia channel. ... Big losers in the budget include both big and small programs.
"The State Department's public affairs division has gone on the offensive to combat last month's reports that its Shared Values initiative was faltering after the disappearance of its centerpiece, a $15 million advertising campaign," PR Week's Douglas Quenqua writes.
In his State of the Union address, President Bush asked Americans to imagine what would have happened if the Sept. 11 hijackers had been armed with poison gas or germs. "However, U.S. officials and private analysts said Bush's suggestion that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein might give such weapons to terrorists - and the implication that the risk of American retaliation can no longer deter him - stretches the analysis of U.S. intelligence agencies to, and perhaps beyond, the limit," reports Warren P. Strobel.
As it prepares for war with Iraq, the new White House Office of Global Communications (OGC) is "revving up a global effort to defuse its image as arrogant and overbearing," reports Randall Mikkelsen. The State Department is creating an Islamic media center in London to manage U.S. communications with the al Jazeera satellite television network. The OGC is also organizing "daily telephone conference calls to coordinate foreign policy messages among U.S. government agencies and representatives of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The Council of American Muslims for Understanding, an organization created by the U.S. State Department, has been trying to impress Muslims abroad with glowing portrayals of religious diversity and tolerance in the United States. Unfortunately, the Bush administration's supporters in the Christian Coalition of America (CCA) have been sending a different message.