Digital Journal 
Monday, Oct 6, 2008
The Department of Defense plans to spend $100 millian USD a year, for the next three years in an effort to “engage and inspire” the local population to support the Iraqi government.
The DOD will pay private U.S. contractors in Iraq up to $300 million over the next three years to produce news stories, entertainment programs and public service advertisements for the Iraqi media. It is part of a program that the US military is categorizing as “information/psychological operations” that is to be conducted in Iraq far into the future, presumably even after combat troops are withdrawn. Uniformed communications specialists and contractors are now an integral part of U.S. military operations from Eastern Europe to Afghanistan and beyond.
The Pentagon’s effort is designed to close the gap in a propaganda market dominated by al-Qaeda, whose media operations include sophisticated Web sites and professionally produced videos and audio tapes featuring Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates often remarks:
“We’re being out-communicated by a guy in a cave,”
U.S. law, under the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act. prohibits the use of government money to direct propaganda at U.S. audiences. Lawmakers have often challenged the propriety of military information operations, even when they take place outside the United States. The Pentagon itself has frequently lamented the need to undertake duties beyond combat and peacekeeping. It was with these thoughts in mind that the US government began funding Alhurra, which translates into “The Free One”.
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Al-Hurra, what government sources generally refer to the channel as, began broadcasting on February 14, 2004 in 22 countries across the Middle East. The station was founded by Norman Joel Pattiz, who was at the time a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees the government’s non-military international broadcasting services, including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia. Other related American-funded projects include the Arabic-language Radio Sawa founded in 2002 and also funded by the BBG.
The Congress approved $62 million to pay for Alhurra’s first year and committed $40 million more to launch a sister station in April of 2004 aimed solely at Iraq. The U.S. government launched Alhurra after deciding that existing Arab news channels such as al-Jazeera and al-arabiya displayed anti-American bias. The aim was to promote a more positive U.S. image to Arabs. The $300 million over three years so far allocated for the new Pentagon program, pales in comparison to what has been spent on these projects so far.