Webb Urges Halt To U.S. Propaganda In Iraq
"At a time when this country is facing such a grave economic crisis, and at a time when the government of Iraq now shows at least a $79 billion surplus from recent oil revenues, it makes little sense for the Department of Defense to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to propagandize the Iraqi people," said Webb, adding that Iraq is at this point "capable, both politically and financially, of communicating with its own people ... without being accused by adversaries of being a foreign government that is fulminating internal conditions through propaganda."
Webb has previously raised the issue to both Gates and Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the Department of Defense (DoD) using "general appropriations accounts" for such efforts because they avoid routine congressional scrutiny and award lucrative contracts to companies performing quasi-military functions such as Blackwater.
With a copy to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), the Virginia Senator's letter said that he was alerted to the most recent contract in an October 3 Washington Post story.
"I have serious reservations about the need for this expenditure in today’s political and economic environment," wrote Webb to Gates. "Consequently, I am asking that you put these contracts on hold until the Armed Services Committee and the next Administration can review the entire issue of US propaganda efforts inside Iraq."
"There is now an elected government in Iraq, which is recognized to have the power and authority to negotiate a long-term security agreement with the government of the United States. Clearly that government is capable, both politically and financially, of communicating with its own people in the manner now contemplated by these DoD contracts – and without being accused by adversaries of being a foreign government that is fulminating internal conditions through propaganda."
According to the Post story, four companies will receive the $300 million, including the Lincoln Group, which in 2006 was revealed by the Pentagon's Inspector General to have produced "news items" for the Iraqi media and placed them without attribution to the U.S. government.
Webb, who also sits on the Armed Services Committee, has sent a second letter to Levin requesting hearings at the start of the new Congress to discuss the entire issue of the DoD's "strategic communications programs" and the civilian contractors used to support them.