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Only the good news, please

By Nicole Colson | April 23, 2004 | Page 2

ALL NEWS is good news. At least for the Bush administration hacks working at the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) press office in Iraq.

And no wonder. According to the Associated Press, the CPA's press office is staffed with Bush campaign workers, political appointees and ex-Capitol Hill aides. Nearly half of the U.S. civilian workers in the office have ties to Republican Party officialdom.

The press office is supposed to follow strict guidelines and steer clear of politics. But Gordon Robison, a former CPA contractor who helped build the Pentagon-funded Al-Iraqiya television station in Baghdad, says Republicans in the press room are looking out for the top boss.

"Iraq is in danger of costing George W. Bush his presidency, and the CPA's media staff are determined to see that does not happen," Robison told the Associated Press. "I had the impression in dealing with the civilians in the [press office] that they viewed their job as essentially political, promoting what the Coalition Provisional Authority is doing in Iraq as a political arm of the Bush administration."

No wonder, then, that the press releases from the CPA seem to have a constantly upbeat view of occupied Iraq. In fact, one anonymous CPA staffer said the press office had sent targeted "good news" releases to American television, radio and newspaper outlets that were timed to deflect criticism of Bush during the Democratic primaries.

Press releases about the resistance to the U.S. occupation are virtually absent. Instead, statements from the office have hailed the unveiling of the new Iraqi Olympic logo, the creation of a new merchandise Web site for the Iraqi National Boxing Team--and the start of a $10 million "Baghdad Beautiful" program.

The CPA is so touchy about reporting only good news that it even issued a March 22 press release describing how "extraordinarily one-sided" coverage of the war and occupation has supposedly been. The release quotes Rend Rahim, a representative of the Iraqi Governing Council handpicked by the U.S., saying, "I went there and realized...that this was a country that was working, and I mean that both in the figurative and the literal sense.

"People lived normal lives. People had jobs in the ministries that they went to. People had jobs in offices and corporations that they went to. Students went to universities. Younger kids went to school. People went out shopping. They visited each other. They went to restaurants. They went to clubs. They stayed out late at night."

Of course, that was before the current uprisings across the country. But so far, no correction has been issued.

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