"The latest poll results testify to growing doubts about President Bush and the policies he is pursuing. The Gallup and Princeton Research Center polls cited above both have Bush's job approval ratings at 58 percent, the first time he has dipped below 60 percent since the September 11 tragedy," writes Ruy Teixeira. Bush's handling of the economy has the approval of only 48 percent of respondents; health-care policy, 43 percent; abortion, 39 percent; and 60 percent want the administration to take time to find an alternative to war with Iraq.
'War Is Sell,' and the techniques being used by the US are familiar marketing and PR strategies. The Financial Times notes today that the Bush Administration has "published a dossier depicting Saddam Hussein's government as an 'apparatus of lies', as President George W. Bush maintained a high-pitched note of impatience with the Iraqi leader. ... However, the White House's own version of agitprop also skates over some aspects of history. ...
"The U.S. State Department has suspended its ad campaign extolling Muslim life in the U.S., barely a month after propaganda czar Charlotte Beers pitched 'paid media' as the best way to influence the Islamic World," reports O'Dwyer's PR Daily. The TV ads were controversial in the countries where they aired, and government-run channels in Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan refused to run them. "Islamic opinion is influenced more by what the U.S.
"What would Americans think if they knew that their best newspaper, The New York Times, had allowed one of its national-security reporters to negotiate a book deal that needed the approval of the CIA?" writes Allan Wolper. "What would they say if they knew the CIA was editing the book while the country is days or weeks away from a war with Iraq and is counting on the Times to monitor the intelligence agency?"
The Pentagon is training civilian reporters on its military bases for war reporting. "One hundred twenty journalists trained last November at the Quantico Marine Corps Base and the Norfolk Naval Station; another wave of reporters trained last month at Fort Benning, and another session is scheduled this month at Fort Dix in New Jersey," Democracy Now reports.
Last week U.N. weapons inspectors swooped in to inspect the Iraqi manufacturing plant that U.S. planes bombed in 1991. Iraq said the plant made infant milk formula; the U.S. said it made biological weapons. Mark Crispin Miller examines the evidence and concludes that Iraq's version was correct. Nevertheless, "Iraq, in trying to publicize the targeting of its civilian infrastructure, had engaged in clumsy propaganda (which backfired in the West), while the US counter-propaganda was apparently disinformation (which succeeded).
"The Bush administration has put a much tighter lid than recent presidents on government proceedings and the public release of information, exhibiting a penchant for secrecy that has been striking to historians, legal experts and lawmakers of both parties," writes Adam Clymer in a detailed report on the administration's new and wide-ranging secrecy policies.
"At a press briefing Dec. 18, State Dept. public diplomacy chief Charlotte Beers announced that her division has asked author Ken Pollack to interrupt a book tour and travel overseas to talk about his book 'The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.' Turns out the State Dept. also has been courting foreign journalists over the past year.
"The administration's fight to keep a tight hold over government information is far from over," reports Vanessa Blum. "Watchdog groups continue attempts to penetrate the inner sanctum of the executive branch using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other open government laws." Numerous FOIA fights are currently underway against the White House and Justice Department. "It's absolute trench warfare," says Georgetown University Law Center professor David Vladeck.
"The United States edited out more than 8,000 crucial pages of Iraq's 11,800-page dossier on weapons, before passing on a sanitized version to the 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations security council," reports the UK's Sunday Herald. Apparently the report includes embarrassing evidence of U.S. and European culpability in aiding the Iraqi weapons programs, dating back to before the Gulf War, but covering the period of Saddam Hussein's rise and his worst crimes.