The Defense Department is launching a major propaganda campaign to “engage and inspire” the Iraqi people. US contractors will be paid up to $300 million over the next 3 years to produce pro-American news and entertainment for the Iraqi media, the Washington Post reports. Such “information/psychological operations” are considered a crucial part of counterinsurgency strategy, but al-Qaeda has long out-flanked the US in propaganda.
Lately, however, the Pentagon is feeling confident in its media endeavors. Campaigns showing insurgents killing innocents turned public sentiment against al-Qaeda. Less direct operations—like an Iraqi version of American Idol intended to boost national reconciliation—also have been considered. But all this must be done in secret; Iraqi stations would never knowingly air US-generated content. “They are so afraid they're going to be Westernized,” aid one Pentagon document. “You have to be careful.”