Page 3 of 3   <      

Many Iraqis Dismiss High-Priced U.S. Media Campaign as Propaganda

"Most people think it's American propaganda," said Wamid Nadmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University. He said the messages of hope and political reconciliation are well-intentioned but disconnected from Iraq's reality.

"There's no talk of the atrocities committed by the local police or the people who have spent years in prison" without being formally charged, Nadmi said.

Ridiculed in the Arab World

As'ad AbuKhalil, a political science professor at California State University who writes the Angry Arab blog, said the campaigns are ridiculed in the Arab world.

"They have a very crude tone and content, and the narrator sounds like Saddam's own propagandist," he said. "The Arabic used also is awkward, clearly translated from English texts most likely drafted in some office on K Street. One is struck by the extent to which the ads show Iraqis as Westernized and secularized."

One television campaign produced in 2004 under the title "We stay" showed a long line of U.S. military vehicles and helicopters fading into the horizon. A small group of Iraqi children watches as the contingent disappears. For a few seconds, they appear wary. Then they smile and start kicking a soccer ball.

An ad launched this year featured Iraqis from different regions listing the things that united them. The billboard component had a split image of a man's and a woman's faces, under the words: "Despite our differences, Iraq unites us."

Of a couple of dozen Iraqis interviewed about the ads, the overwhelming majority said they find them ineffective.

"All Iraqis know that these organizations are supported" by the U.S. government "with the aim of normalizing the occupation," said Abdul Kareem Ahmad, a lawyer in Salahuddin province. "I say to the Future Iraq organization: If those funds had been given to the poor and the widows, Iraq would have become a pioneer in social welfare. Millions of dollars go into the pockets of war profiteers who believe victory in Iraq can be won through the media using underground movies."

Noor Sabah, an engineer in Fallujah, said her friends and relatives ridicule the ads.

"These commercials are boring, poor and annoying," she said. "Everyone knows they're American -- not Iraqi-made."

Special correspondents K.I. Ibrahim, Aziz Alwan, Zaid Sabah and Dalya Hassan contributed to this report.

<          3

© 2009 The Washington Post Company