George Hesselberg, columnist with the Wisconsin State Journal, is fed up with all the government and media hype for war on Iraq. He excoriates the ignorance of US citizens as reflected in recent surveys but asks, "What do you expect in a country where ... the media seem to spend more money printing fast-fading flags and producing flag-waving promotions than on researching and reporting the actual degradation of rights, even the dissolution of rights, among citizens. ...
The State Department is providing media training to Iraqi dissidents to "help make the Bush administration's argument for the removal of Saddam Hussein," PR week reports. In addition to teaching the 17 Iraqis how to write "effective op-eds and speeches," the State Department is giving direction on "what to speak about in order to convince the public of the need to topple Hussein." PR Week reports a State Department spokeswoman saying, "The message is democracy. The message is open and free elections.
It seems Washington just can't get enough PR advice these days.
"Some people are suspicious that President Bush will go for a 'wag the dog' strategy -- boosting Republican prospects with a military assault on Iraq shortly before Election Day. But a modified approach now seems to be underway. Let's call it 'wag the puppy,'" media watcher and nationally syndicated columnist Normon Solomon writes. He suggests the appearance of a "healthy debate" on Iraq may lack real substance and may instead serve to distract attention from negative economic issues facing the Bush Administration.
As the current Bush administration gears up for a second war with Iraq, now would be a good time to refresh our memories about the PR campaign used to sell the first war to the American people. In our book, Toxic Sludge Is Good For You, we showed how the first Bush administration collaborated with the Hill & Knowlton PR firm to peddle a false story about "babies removed from incubators by Iraqi soldiers," which helped swell public outrage against Saddam Hussein.
Conservative pundits such as Charles Krauthammer are accusing the New York Times of "liberal bias" for reporting that "Leading Republicans from Congress, the State Department and past administrations have begun to break ranks with President Bush over his administration's high-profile planning for war with Iraq." As Joshua Marshall notes, however, the Times coverage has been far more accurate than K
"In the days since the United States launched its armed and diplomatic responses to the Sept. 11 atrocities, few phrases have passed the lips of American leaders as often as 'this is not a war against Islam.' But as civilian casualties from American airstrikes in Afghanistan begin to pile up, and as the timeline for military action threatens to stretch into months, growing anti-American riots in the Muslim world are underscoring the message's limited reach."