This post originally appeared on The Nation Blog:
Watch most TV channels and if Iraq is the subject, you see bombs going off. You hear grisly tales of tortured Iraqis slaughtered in the internecine strife that’s gripped that country, and you get the almost daily accounts of American troops dying in small but steady numbers. But just as the Bush administration promised us, there is good news, Virginia — and it’s been over on Fox for the last two months.
Since late July, if your timing was right, you might have caught a lilting, almost Edenic-looking ad at Fox, one of a series from "the other Iraq." We’re talking about the autonomous region of Kurdistan here. The ad begins with a male over-voice in mellifluous English: "Saddam’s goal was to bury every living Kurd. He failed." By now, you’re seeing Kurds of every stripe, young and old, many with small US flags, beginning to offer a fulsome chorus of "Thank you" "Thank you, America." The voice continues: "The Kurds of Iraqi Kurdistan Iraqi Kurdistan just want to say thank you for helping us win our freedom."
"Thank you." "Thank you for democracy."
Though little commented on anywhere other than right-wing blogs (after Bill O’Reilly played the ad for Arianna Huffington on his show), this has certainly been manna from heaven for the Bush administration. In fact, just what the (spin) doctor ordered from poor, sickly Iraq as the election season approached. And from genuine Iraqis no less! You can check them out (sort of) at the website of the Kurdistan Development Corporation, the "official investment site for Kurdistan, The Other Iraq — and while you’re there, scroll down for the ads.
So the semi-autonomous government of Kurdistan has put up money to thank the Bush administration in its time of need. Touching, really. But almost guaranteed not to be half the story. In the only substantial piece I’ve found on this "thank you" campaign, Aaron Glantz of Inter Press Service points out that it’s being run by an "A-list" Republican PR firm, Russo, Marsh, and Rogers. Responsible for the "Stop Michael Moore" campaign to discredit Fahrenheit 9/11, it also organized an Iraqi "truth tour" to allow right-wing radio hosts to discover "the good news that the old-line liberal news media won’t tell you about."
Let’s recall that when the Pentagon couldn’t get the good news it wanted in Iraq itself, its officials simply bought it. Via The Lincoln Group under a $5 million-plus yearly contract, the Pentagon concocted Iraqi "good news," translated it, and with copious payments placed it in the Iraqi media, offering a lesson in the workings of a "free" press to all those new Iraqi journalists. Now, the Pentagon is plugging "the Other Iraq" by sending out glowing press releases about its latest trade fair, as is the Voice of America.
Is there a reporter in the house? I wouldn’t mind knowing if this was an example of a Bush administration-funded disinformation campaign coming home to roost just in time for a rugged election. In August, Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times reported on the President’s frustration that Iraqis had not shown greater public support and appreciation for the American mission in their country. Is the Bush administration, in essence, using our money to thank itself?