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[] WP: Bush Message Machine Is Set To Roll With Its Own War Plan,
Bush Message Machine Is Set To Roll With Its Own War Plan 

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 19, 2003; Page A01 

When American troops move into Iraq, the Bush administration's message 
machine, in its own way as massive and disciplined as the U.S. military, 
will be equally ready to roll. Staffed with veterans of countless 
political campaigns, and honed on the communications lessons of 
Afghanistan, its war plan is in place.

Senior spokesmen and coordinators from the White House, the National 
Security Council and the State and Defense departments held their latest 
formal planning session last week in the White House's Roosevelt Room, 
administration officials said. President Bush dropped by to bless their 
efforts and to remind them of the need to get out the news "in a 
coordinated way that reflects the truth about our efforts."

More than any other conflict in history, the Iraq war will be conducted 
under the staring eyes and within constant earshot of most of the world. 
In a new Pentagon strategy both to disseminate and control the news, U.S. 
and foreign journalists are integrated into virtually every U.S. and 
British unit, with satellite technology enabling them to broadcast reports 
on the war on the ground as it happens. A number of journalists remain in 
Baghdad, watching, for the moment at least, from the other side. 

While many in this country will welcome the opportunity to cheer on the 
U.S. forces and watch over their safety on a real-time basis, a large 
portion of the worldwide audience is opposed to an invasion of Iraq and 
could be quick to criticize the administration in the event of civilian 
casualties or other bleak news. 

Just as in a political campaign, the Bush administration wants its version 
of each day's events to be first and foremost, as it seeks to press 
preferred story lines.

"It's a given that we want to draw attention to the truth about Iraq," 
including humanitarian abuses, "as soon as the dictator's grip has been 
loosened," one administration official said. "The truth about Iraq has 
been at the heart of our arguments for six months," the official said, 
"and it's going to be front and center for the skeptics in the weeks 

The close attention to its war message mirrors the discipline the Bush 
team brought to his election campaign and to the passage of his domestic 
political agenda, especially the securing of a $1.35 trillion tax cut from 
Congress. Such a comprehensive communications strategy for a war, however, 
is unprecedented in the modern White House.

Once the war starts, the administration plans to fill every information 
void in the 24-hour worldwide news cycle, leaving little to chance or 

At dawn, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer will brief the television 
networks and the wire services in a conference call before the morning 
news programs. A conference call will follow among Fleischer, Bush 
communications director Dan Bartlett and White House Office of Global 
Communications Director Tucker Eskew, State Department spokesman Richard 
Boucher, Defense Department spokeswoman Victoria Clarke and British Prime 
Minister Tony Blair's senior spokesman, Alastair Campbell. During the 
call, they will set out thematic story lines for the day and deal with 
pending problems.

An afternoon briefing at Central Command headquarters in Qatar will be 
held most days, timed to hit the news at noon in the United States. 
Supper-time television news in the United States and late broadcasts in 
Europe will be fed by the Pentagon's afternoon briefing in Washington, 
where military officials will utilize the video images from targeted bombs 
that all agree worked well in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and in the Afghan 

Broadcasts on the government's Radio Sawa and on other Voice of America 
regional outlets will carry the U.S. message to the Middle East and the 
Persian Gulf region. A daily grid of senior officials available to be 
interviewed by Arab and other media will be prepared and coordinated. 
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, 
will be available for regular background briefings with selected small 
groups of print reporters, officials said.

Every night, the Office of Global Communications will distribute its 
"Global Messenger" via e-mail to government offices in Washington and to 
embassies and other U.S. facilities around the world. Already in 
operation, the Messenger supplies U.S. diplomats abroad with talking 
points and key quotes from Bush and senior officials to prepare them for 
the day ahead.

Yesterday morning, most of the Messenger was taken up with the text of 
Bush's Monday night speech on Iraq, along with a comment Secretary of 
State Colin L. Powell made earlier in the day that was critical of 
France's position in the U.N. Security Council.

"It's a good way for people to have in one place some key facts and 
quotes," Eskew said. "It can fit into a coat pocket or purse very easily."

The Iraq war will be the first test under fire for the Office of Global 
Communications, the progeny of the Coalition Information Centers (CIC) 
hurriedly set up in Washington, London and Pakistan in late 2001 when the 
administration realized it risked losing the Afghan propaganda battle to 
Taliban spokesmen and to rumors of hundreds of civilians dying under the 
U.S. air assaults. The CIC was set up by Karen Hughes. Bush's closest 
adviser, Hughes left the White House last summer but has been a frequent 
visitor in recent days. 

As the Office of Global Communications, the unit has grown into an 
11-person White House operation under Eskew, a longtime Bush spokesman and 
political operative. "In a sense, part of our mission has adapted from 
what CIC did," Eskew said in a recent interview. "We're here for daily 
coordination" among the White House and other government departments, 
"midrange planning and long-range strategy. We're working on all three 
every day."

One administration communications official acknowledged that his political 
campaign experience is valuable. "I don't think any of us will be willing 
to be seen as saying this is like a political campaign, because it's not," 
the official said. "This is war. It's real life and it's lives, and it's 
greater stakes than any campaign that any of us has ever been involved in. 
Campaign people take their campaign seriously, but this is a whole other 

More useful than any political experience, the official said, are the 
lessons they learned in communicating about the war in Afghanistan. U.S. 
and British officials were initially taken aback by the flood of quotable 
rhetoric that flowed from the Taliban's diplomatic office in Pakistan. 
Once the Pakistanis closed it down, new stories emerged from Afghanistan 
itself, as reporters crisscrossing the country on their own heard stories 
of bombs gone astray, friendly Afghans killed by mistake and military 
missions that looked different on the ground from the way they were 
described at the Pentagon.

There was no organized response to what the administration felt were 
erroneous reports and venomous commentary pouring from Arab media outlets.

In CIC work, now being continued by the Office of Global Communications, 
lists were compiled of Arabic-speaking government officials who could 
appear on Qatar-based al-Jazeera and other networks. Senior administration 
officials were made available for interviews with foreign media, 
particularly in the Arab world. A senior CIC official, Jim Wilkinson, was 
permanently headquartered at Central Command in Tampa to handle 

Wilkinson, a former spokesman for the National Republican Congressional 
Committee, is now based at the command's new war-fighting headquarters in 

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