US military pays Iraqis for positive news stories on war

The US military in Iraq has implicitly admitted that it is running a campaign to plant articles in Iraqi papers aimed at improving its image in the country.

The Los Angeles Times said the Pentagon had secretly paid &to=' target=_blank>Iraqi newspapers to run articles reflecting well on the US. Many stories are being presented as independent accounts, the paper said.

Questioned about the issue, a US spokesman in Baghdad said Iraq's most-wanted militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was also using the media. "He [Zarqawi] is conducting these kidnappings, these beheadings, these explosions, so that he gets international coverage to look like he has more capability than he truly has," Maj Gen Rick Lynch said in Baghdad.

"He is lying to the Iraqi people. We don't lie - we don't need to lie," he added. "We do empower our operational commanders with the ability to inform the Iraqi public but everything we do is based on fact, not based on fiction", reports BBC.

According to New York Times, military spokesmen in Washington and Baghdad said Wednesday that they had no information on the contract.

In an interview from Baghdad on Nov. 18, Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, a military spokesman, said the Pentagon's contract with the Lincoln Group was an attempt to "try to get stories out to publications that normally don't have access to those kind of stories." The military's top commanders, including Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, did not know about the Lincoln Group contract until Wednesday, when it was first described by The Los Angeles Times, said a senior military official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

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