Thursday, May 10, 2007
By Jim Lobe
"WASHINGTON - In the run-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon planned to create a "Rapid Reaction Media Team" (RRMT) designed to ensure control over major Iraqi media while providing an Iraqi "face" for its efforts, according to a report obtained by the independent National Security Archive (NSA), which released it on Tuesday.
The partially redacted three-page document was accompanied by a longer PowerPoint presentation that included a proposed six-month, US$51 million budget for the operation, apparently the first phase in a one-to-two-year "strategic information campaign"......
Both the paper and the slide presentation were prepared by two Pentagon offices - Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, which, among other things, specialize in psychological warfare, and the Office of Special Plans under then under secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith - in mid-January 2003, two months before the invasion, according to NSA analyst Joyce Battle.....
The PowerPoint presentation called for the RRMT to identify and vet Iraqi media experts and "anchors", and train a group of Iraqi journalists to staff the new networks.
The RRMT should also "identify the media infrastructure that we need left intact, and work with CENTCOM targeteers to find alternative ways of disabling key sites", including, presumably, those media outlets whose messages were not consistent with the themes the Pentagon wished to convey.
"Evidently, the Baghdad headquarters of the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera was not part of 'the media infrastructure that we need left intact'," noted the NSA's Battle, who pointed to the April 8, 2003, US missile attack that hit the network's Baghdad bureau, killing reporter Tariq Ayoub. The Pentagon had been extensively briefed on the bureau's location before the invasion, and the offices were well marked as a TV facility.
Al-Jazeera's Kabul bureau, which was in a downtown office building, was also destroyed by two "smart bombs" during the US air campaign in Afghanistan in late 2001. In April 2004, during an extended battle covered by Al-Jazeera - for Fallujah, Iraq - President George W Bush suggested attacking the network's headquarters in Qatar during a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, according to leaked notes of the talks. "