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Pentagon contractor pays Sunni religious scholars for propaganda
Yahoo News/AFP
January 2, 2006

NEW YORK, United States (AFP) - The same Pentagon contractor that paid Iraqi newspapers to print positive articles written by US soldiers has also been paying Sunni religious scholars in Iraq for assistance with propaganda work, The New York Times reports.

In its Monday edition, the paper said that the Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations firm, was told early in 2005 by the Pentagon "to identify religious leaders who could help produce messages that would persuade Sunnis in violence-ridden Anbar Province to participate in national elections and reject the insurgency," citing an unidentified former employee.

The company since "has retained three or four Sunni religious scholars to offer advice and write reports for military commanders on the content of propaganda campaigns," the report cited the former employee as saying.

"But documents and Lincoln executives say the company's ties to religious leaders and dozens of other prominent Iraqis is aimed also at enabling it to exercise influence in Iraqi communities on behalf of clients, including the military," the Times reported.

"We do reach out to clerics," Paige Craig, a Lincoln executive vice president, was quoted as saying in an interview. "We meet with local government officials and with local businessmen. We need to have relationships that are broad enough and deep enough that we can touch all the various aspects of society." He declined to discuss specific projects the company has with the military or commercial clients.

"We have on staff people who are experts in religious and cultural matters," Craig said. "We meet with a wide variety of people to get their input. Most of the people we meet with overseas don't want or need compensation, they want a dialogue."

According to the Times, internal financial records show that Lincoln spent about 144,000 dollars on the program from May to September, though it was not clear "how much of this money, if any, went to the religious scholars, whose identities could not be learned."

Minority Sunnis form the core of the insurgency in Iraq.

Commentary:
If Iraq were the US all Bush would have had to do is cut their taxes and they'd have given him all the favorable press coverage he could want. Bush Iraq is not the US so buying influence is done the old fashioned way - using bribery. The hallmark of modern conservatism can be summed up with two words "ethically challenged."