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Public relations preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq

The Rendon Group, a Washington, DC based public relations firm with close ties to the US government, and which has had a prominent role in promoting the Iraqi National Congress, was alleged by some journalists to be planning to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq by a careful public relations campaign.

Such a campaign would be viewed by many with skepticism, recalling that the PR firm Hill & Knowlton, damage-comptroller for the tobacco industry,[1] was hired by the Kuwaiti Royal Family to support the Gulf War in 1991 with a campaign including misinformation such as a false story of Iraqi soldiers' barbaric treatment of incubator babies.[1] (see Nurse Nayirah)

In late 2001, with the Pentagon's focus on information warfare as an integral facet of the American war doctrine increasing, the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence was formed. This office was created with a mandate to propagandize throughout the Middle East, Asia and Western Europe, with the help of the abovementioned Rendon Group. In February 2002, amid a backlash of public outcry resulting from a New York Times article, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed he lacked knowledge of the program and the OSI was closed down. [1]

In January of 2003, with the Office of Strategic Influence dismantled, President Bush formally announced "the creation of a White House "Office of Global Communications" to broadcast the United States' message worldwide ahead of possible war on Iraq," [1] which had been effectively operating for several months prior. [1] According to the White House, the office will disseminate the policies of the US Government to media sources, domestic and foreign, and send "teams of communicators to international hot spots, areas of media interest." [1] Having a similar mission to the now-defunct OSI, many skeptics have voiced opinions regarding the legitimacy of this new office. [1]

The national broadcast media in the United States have generally refused to run antiwar ads paid for by antiwar groups. CNN, among other companies, has also expressed reluctance at running such ads. Antiwar groups have tried to get around this by running ads locally, although they have also run into censorship by local companies as well. The cable television company Comcast refused to air antiwar ads that the Peace Action Education Fund wanted to air during President Bush's 2003 State of the Union Speech. CBS has threatened to unplug the microphones on any performer who expresses any antiwar sentiments on the Grammy Awards broadcast. Critics claim that the refusal of television companies to run antiwar ads is due to the fact that they would profit from a war, as more people would watch more television, and that subsequently these news outlets can not possibly present an unbiased view of world events.

See also