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Mahablog: We Are All Conspiracy Theorists Now

We Are All Conspiracy Theorists Now
Monday, June 13, 2005

Let's all give a robust "WTF?" to this WaPo article from Saturday:

The Pentagon awarded three contracts this week, potentially worth up to $300 million over five years, to companies it hopes will inject more creativity into its psychological operations efforts to improve foreign public opinion about the United States, particularly the military.

All together now: "WTF?"

The writer, Renea Merle, continues:

"We would like to be able to use cutting-edge types of media," said Col. James A. Treadwell, director of the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element, a part of Tampa-based U.S. Special Operations Command. "If you want to influence someone, you have to touch their emotions."

He said SYColeman Inc. of Arlington, Lincoln Group of the District, and Science Applications International Corp. will help develop ideas and prototypes for radio and television spots, documentaries, or even text messages, pop-up ads on the Internet, podcasting, billboards or novelty items.

Much more alert than I, Xan of Corrente has already coaxed considerable background info out of Google Cache, which "can be talked into just about anything, the slut."

First thing I learn is that this is is, and absolutely not to be confused with the Lincoln Group .org, a perfectly respectable outfit dedicated to the study of Father Abraham. But back to our search...Nosing around turns up the name of Christian Bailey as a high muckety-muck at the Lincoln Group that's getting the Big Baghdad Bux.

Turns out this same Christian Bailey is on the board of directors and is New York City co-chair of an organization called "Lead 21," which according to its own web site ...

Since its inception in Fall 2001, Lead21 has been doing its part to cultivate the next generation of business leaders committed to building a dynamic future for the Republican Party. Lead21 has always prided itself as an organization built by dreamers, doers, and difference-makers. We created a thriving community of emerging Republican entrepreneurs and professionals in the blue state capitals of New York City and San Francisco. As we matured as an organization, Lead21 broadened its focus toward deployment of its members to make a lasting impact on election outcomes.

The sweeping GOP victories in Election 2004 have unleashed a sense of optimism for the future of the Republican Party. We at Lead21 are proud of the part we played in support of the 2004 GOP Victory.

Can I hear another "WTF?"

Dontcha love the way Republicans treat "blue" states as foreign enemies to be conquered? I got a real kick out of the part about "deployment of its members to make a lasting impact on election outcomes." I can just see the unmarked truck screeching into Times Square, and Christian and his troops spilling out.

Billmon has more:

Now $300 million is a hell of a lot of clams to be spending on text messages and podcasts, even in this day and age. So I paid particular attention to the recipients of all that dough. I know SAIC and SYColman -- both large (especially SAIC) established Pentagon contractors. But I'd never heard of the Lincoln Group. Curious, I spent a few hours checking Google and Nexis to see what I could find out. Which, as it turned out, wasn't much, but it was enough to put a few scraps of meat on the bones of my suspicions.

According to O’Dwyer’s Newsletter, a PR industry tip sheet, the Lincoln Group was formerly known as Iraqex, but changed its name in March to match that of its corporate parent, the Lincoln Alliance Corporation, a DC-based "business intelligence" firm.

In this audio clip of an interview with the web site, Lincoln Group executive vice president Christian Bailey, a British venture capitalist -- who appears in this picture (scroll down) to be about 18 years old -- claims to have started Iraqex with some unidentified partners in October 2003 to explore private equity and property related transactions in the New Iraq.

Not surprisingly, given the realities of doing business in a war zone, government contracting transactions proved more attractive to Iraqex, and in October 2004, the firm was awarded a one-year $6 million contract from the Pentagon to do PR work for the military in Iraq, with three six-months options for another $12.2 million.

An' they been doin' a bang-up job, huh? BTW, Billmon connects some dots between Republican political campaign consultants and the Lincoln Alliance Corporation. Be sure to read Billmon's post for all the details. For now, I will skip to Billmon's summary:

We have a tiny start-up venture, controlled by persons unknown, that suddenly materializes in late 2003 doing "private equity" deals in the middle of a war zone, and then obtains a huge PR contract from the Pentagon, and then hires a bunch of unemployed GOP campaign operatives to execute that contract, and then is absorbed by a shadowy DC company that specializes in corporate and political detective work and that may have close ties to both the Republican Party and the intelligence community, which then is awarded an even bigger contract to produce even more Pentagon propaganda.

Now maybe that's just the way business is done in George Bush's government, but it doesn't make me any less creeped out by what I was able to dig up with a few online searches. You don't have to have too much of a taste for paranoid conspiracy theories to imagine scenarios in which such contracting relationships could prove very useful for the Bush administration and the GOP machine.

I've been saying all along that the Iraq War is the mother of all money-laundering schemes, and that at least some dollars being paid to defense contractors are being recycled back into Republican Party war chests. But this looks even better. It appears that money is coming out of the Pentagon budget and going directly to the propaganda machine. And I don't for a minute think that propaganda is aimed primarily at Iraqis, or even that expenditure is limited to propaganda.

What was that again about "deployment" and "election outcomes"?


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