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Pentagon to spend $20 million to monitor news stories from Iraq and understand the "communications environment."

Published August 31, 2006 6:32PM (EDT)

If Iraq is really full of "good news" that's being ignored by the U.S. news media, you wouldn't think it would cost $20 million to find some of it.

The Pentagon apparently does. As the Washington Post reports today, U.S. military officials in Iraq are offering a $20 million public relations contract that includes "extensive monitoring of U.S. and Middle Eastern media in an effort to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq."

The goal? Help the military to understand "the communications environment" in order to "develop communication strategies and tactics, identify opportunities, and execute events ... to effectively communicate Iraqi government and coalition's goals, and build support among our strategic audiences in achieving these goals."

So, the question: Is this sinister or just pathetic? We were ready to go with the latter until we read this: As part of the contract, "monitors" are "to analyze stories to determine ... whether [their] 'tone' is positive, neutral or negative" and track various "media outlets" for "how they present coalition or anti-Iraqi force operations."

Maybe we can save us all some money here. The Pentagon can take two years and $20 million to research this one to death, or somebody over there can just write this down on some scrap paper and hand it to Donald Rumsfeld. "Fox News: Good. The New York Times: Very, very bad."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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