“We call our stuff information and the enemy’s propaganda,” says Col. Jack N. Summe, former commander of the Fourth Psychological Operations Group, in Jeff Gerth’s masterful, must-read investigation into how the US military is waging a quasi-secret information war in Iraq and the Middle East. Even in the Pentagon, Summe admits to Gerth, “some public affairs professionals see us unfavorably,” and inaccurately, he says, as “lying, dirty tricksters.”

It turns out that the Lincoln Group, the Washington-based subcontractor hired by the Pentagon to plant stories in Iraq’s media was no rogue operation. Instead, as Gerth documents, it was just one of many elements in the Bush Administration’s vast, extensive and costly propaganda apparatus.

Recent news stories have documented how the Lincoln group received tens of millions of dollars in Pentagon contracts to plant paid, boosterish articles in the Iraqi and Arab media. Now we learn that while US troops had defective bulletproof vests, US taxpayer money was being used to help Lincoln pitch pop culture ideas as a way to win hearts and minds in the Middle East.

Did you know that Lincoln proposed that the US government fund a version of the satirical paper “The Onion,” and an underground paper to be called “The Voice”? It even had the brilliant plan, according to Gerth’s article, of trying “comedies modeled after Cheers and the Three Stooges, with the trio as bumbling wannabe terrorists.”

I used to think that if Terry Southern (who brought us Dr. Strangelove) were still alive, he’d have a hard time finding material. Reality is now so radically outrageous. An anti-terrorist comedy based on The Three Stooges?

Rush Does Afghanistan

Another nugget from Gerth’s article: Courtesy of our very own US AID, Afghan journalism students were treated to a lecture on journalism by a man who has done about as much as any media personality to distort, divide and debase our media landscape.

In February, according to Gerth, Limbaugh was a guest of AID. When asked by an Afghan journalism student about how he balances justice and truth and objectivity, Limbaugh allegedly replied that the answer was to “report the truth.” This from Rush Limbaugh! Need I say more?