Saturday, August 25, 2007

AP Scoop: Pentagon Readies New 'Info Desk' on War ( Iraq Propaganda Department )

WASHINGTON - As anticipation builds for September's progress report to Congress on the Iraq war, the Bush administration is getting more involved in shaping the character of the conflict to the American people.

For the Defense Department, getting out Iraq information now will include a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week Iraq Communications Desk to pump out data from Baghdad and while serving more or less as a campaign war room.

According to a memo circulated Thursday and obtained by The Associated Press, Dorrance Smith, assistant defense secretary for public affairs, is seeking personnel for what he called the high-priority effort to distribute Defense Department information about Iraq.

The move, requested by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, comes as administration officials are gearing up for a rash of reports on the status of the war and recommendations from the military on troop levels going into next year. The crucial report will come from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Other reports are expected from the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace; retired Gen. James Jones, who will examine the progress of the Iraqi security forces; and the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, which will review whether the Iraqi government has satisfied security and political benchmarks outlined by Congress.

The Pentagon dismissed suggestions that the communications desk will be a message machine or propaganda tool and said it is being set up to gather and distribute information from eight time zones away in a more efficient and timely manner.

"I would not characterize it as a war room," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Friday. "It's far less sinister than that. It's more like a library."

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