Sunday, February 19, 2006

The United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that U.S. public diplomacy efforts need to do more in the media to communicate a message friendly to democracy.

“We’ll need to do all we can to attract supporters to our efforts and to correct the lies that are being told, which so damage our country, and which are repeated and repeated and repeated,” Rumsfeld said in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York city on Friday. He said that insurgent groups have learned to use media and its new satellite and Internet technologies, and are working 24/7, to manipulate public opinion.

Rumsfeld called for the need to implement a “strategic communications framework” to present news information in Afghanistan and Iran. He warned, ” …the [news] vacuum will be filled by the enemy and by news informers that most assuredly will not paint an accurate picture of what is actually taking place.” He said there was a need for communications training of military public affairs officials. The Department of Defense would begin with an emphasis on using out-sourced media expertise found in the private-sector, as was done with the controversial use of Lincoln Group who placed pro-democracy stories in Iraqi media in a business arrangement with the U.S. military.

Rumsfeld was critical of the U.S. media for its sharp response to that program at his address in New York, which he said had the effect of stopping that military effort. In an appearance on the The Charlie Rose Show, a televised program taped earlier and then aired by PBS last Friday, the same day as his New York address, Rumsfeld said “When we heard about it, we said, ‘Gee, that’s not what we ought to be doing.’ … They stopped doing that.” But in a Los Angeles Times report, a Lincoln Group insider and a U.S. commander in Iraq, General George W. Casey, said the program was still in existence.

The White House has signaled a shift towards the use of media in the “War against Terror”. The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Senate testimony on Wednesday last week that $10 million is already appropriated to support political dissidents, labor union leaders and human rights activists in Iran. The Bush administration will be asking for an additional $75 million in funding for the 2006 fiscal year to expand the program.

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