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[infowar.de] WSJ 14.08.02: Pentagon Will Play The Pitchman In PR Offensive On Rogue States
Wall Street Journal August 14, 2002
Pentagon Will Play The Pitchman In PR Offensive On Rogue States
By Greg Hitt and Greg Jaffe, Staff Reporters of The Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is preparing an unusual public-relations effort
intended to broaden the public debate on Iraq to address threats posed by
other nations that support terrorism.
The initiative reflects concern among top military leaders that the current
discussion of the danger presented by Iraq has shifted largely to planning
a war against Baghdad, and misses the broader perils facing the U.S. and
The Pentagon Tuesday invited a dozen or so political and communications
consultants, mostly Republicans, to attend a special briefing that sought
to put the threats in a larger context, focusing not just on Iraq, Iran and
North Korea -- President Bush's so-called Axis of Evil -- but also other
nations of concern, among them Syria, Libya and Sudan, according to some of
those who attended.
A Pentagon official said the briefing described a "nexus of terrorism,
terrorist states and weapons of mass destruction."
The session, aimed at soliciting expert input on how to shape public
opinion regarding Iraq and other so-called rogue states, outlined various
efforts by such nations to obtain weapons of mass destruction. It also
attempted to show how terrorist groups in some cases have used those
countries as a base of operations.
One attendee said the briefing leaves a "chilling impression," but doesn't
make a case for any specific course of action by the U.S. "It's an
educational effort," this person said. Pentagon officials will outline the
same material Friday to nongovernment foreign-policy experts. Beyond this
week, it isn't clear how the initiative will go forward. But officials hope
ultimately to spur a broader debate within the U.S. about the
Sheila Tate, who was press secretary to first lady Nancy Reagan, said,
"There was discussion about the kinds of threats, and the nature of today's
Such a public-relations effort is unusual for the Pentagon, which typically
focuses more on prosecuting foreign wars than on shaping domestic opinion.
Ultimately, Mr. Bush himself will have to make the case for whatever course
the U.S. takes toward Iraq or others and he has said repeatedly in recent
weeks that he has made no decisions in this regard.
But much of the public's focus on an invasion has been fostered by the
administration itself, which has stated its commitment to an Iraqi regime
change and has engaged in much internal military planning aimed at
achieving that goal.
Polls show Americans' support for invading Iraq drops if it entails many
casualties. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found Americans favored
an invasion 57%-36%. But when asked whether they would favor a ground war
if it produced "significant" U.S. casualties, respondents opposed action
51% to 40%.
Tuesday's briefing was given to a group the Pentagon calls "strategic
communicators," and was the third time Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
had met with them since taking office, a defense official said. In recent
weeks, Mr. Rumsfeld has given the same briefing to members of Congress as
well as U.S. allies. He is meeting Friday with a team of "national-security
experts" drawn from foreign-policy think tanks.
The Pentagon effort is spurred in part by Mr. Rumsfeld's frustration with
how the Iraq debate is covered in the media. Media questions with regard to
Baghdad tend to focus on deposing Saddam Hussein and not on what Mr.
Rumsfeld sees as a broader threat posed by other potentially hostile states.
Meanwhile, some senior Democrats and Republicans say the administration
will have to make a better case for invading Iraq before Congress will go
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