Washington The U.S. military plans to continue paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories favorable to the United States after an inquiry found no fault with the controversial practice, the top U.S. general in Iraq said Friday.
Army Gen. George Casey said the review had concluded that the U.S. military had not violated any American laws or Pentagon guidelines by running the information operations campaign in which U.S. troops and a private contractor called Lincoln Group write pro-American stories and pay to have them planted without attribution in the Iraqi media.
"By and large, it found that we were operating within our authorities and responsibilities," Casey said, adding that he has no intention of shutting the program down.
The information program has been criticized both inside and outside of the military as detrimental to U.S. credibility and contrary to the principles of a free press in a nascent, embattled democracy.
While the final report by Navy Adm. Scott Van Buskirk is not complete, Casey's comments are the clearest sign that the U.S. military sees the propaganda effort as a critical tool for winning hearts and minds in Iraq. Van Buskirk's report could pave the way for the Pentagon to duplicate the practice - which would be illegal for the military in the United States - in other parts of the world.