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The best news from Iraq that money can buy.

US officials in Washington have admitted that Iraqi journalists have been receiving under-the-table payoffs of up to $200 a month for producing upbeat newspaper, radio and television reports about American military operations and the conduct of the war in Iraq.

These monthly payoffs, made through the Baghdad Press Club, are equivalent to approximately twice the average monthly salary of most people living in Iraq. It's as if you took a US journalist who earned $55K a year and offered him another $110K for articles supporting a particular ideology or political party.

Eight current and former military, defense and other U.S. officials in Baghdad and Washington agreed to come forward because they fear that the US efforts are promoting practices that are unacceptable for a democracy. They requested anonymity to avoid retaliation.

"We are teaching them the wrong things," one military officer said.

Moreover, the defense and military officials said, the U.S. public is at risk of being influenced by the information operations because what's planted in the Iraqi media can be picked up by international news organizations and Internet bloggers.

"There is no `local' media anymore. All media is potentially international. The Web makes it all public. We need to ... eliminate the idea that psychological operations and information operations can issue any kind of information to the media ever. Period."

This reports follows a recent report that the US military secretly paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of pro-American articles written by the military's "Information Operations Task Force" ia Baghdad, which controls an Iraqi newspaper and radio station, and has been using them to disseminate pro-American views. (Incidentally, I mentioned this creation of such US-run Iraqi media initiatives in my post just a few days ago.)

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, described the Los Angeles Times report as "troubling" and has asked military officials in Iraq for information.

"This article raises some questions as to whether or not some of the practices that are described in there are consistent with the principles of this department," he said.
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