Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"Pay For Play" Scandal Fizzling?

Remember the stories last November about the Lincoln Group's contract to place, sometimes with a bit of bucks as an incentive, pro-American stories in Iraqi media?

When Dems heard of it -- Dems who routinely accept a big chunk o' bucks as an incentive -- they were, of course, beside themselves with allegations of misdeeds by the Bushies. "How can you teach freedom of the press when you're paying off the press?" they howled in self-righteous indignation.

Well, NYTimes is reporting that the investigation of the deal reveals no foul.
An inquiry has found that an American public relations firm did not violate military policy by paying Iraqi news outlets to print positive articles, military officials said Tuesday. The finding leaves to the Defense Department the decision on whether new rules are needed to govern such activities. ...

Officials at the Pentagon and in Iraq said the Lincoln Group's contract remained fully in effect. The group's work, under a contract estimated at several million dollars, has included paying friendly Iraqi journalists stipends for favorable treatment.

Commanders in Iraq have said the group's efforts may continue unless a new policy to restrict or halt the practice is issued in Iraq or from the Pentagon. Those officials said the review acknowledged the "gray area" in which military communications and information operations are conducted in the battle zone, but found that no legal violations had been committed by the Lincoln Group in planting the stories.

Unsaid in this coverage is the fact that the "stipends" were typically $50 or less. Baksheesh in Arabic, these little payoffs are part of the culture and while reprehensible in our media context, are probably necessary in Iraq if we're going to get a pro-America story placed regularly.

Baksheesh isn't what's getting the stories in the paper. No anti-American paper would run the stories, and pro- or neutral papers probably would run them if they're well done. Baksheesh just oils the wheels.

The story's not done yet. When the report is made public -- no date on that yet -- it will set of the howls again. It's just another tempest, another teapot.