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BAGHDAD -- The pages of Baghdad Now, an Arabic-language newspaper, portray a country on the upswing.
The paper's editorials hail democracy. Fashion pages chronicle the latest fads in Beirut and Kuwait. There's little news of the more than 130,000 American troops who remain in the country.
That the paper has no publicly known editor, no bylines and no ads is no mistake. It is part of America's huge psychological warfare campaign to influence Iraqis' behavior and attitudes.
U.S. military officials and contractors have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on billboards, pamphlets and TV and radio airtime in Iraq over the past six years to burnish the U.S. military's image, marginalize extremists, promote democracy and foster reconciliation.
Some campaigns have been designed to encourage Iraqis to turn their backs on insurgent groups and cooperate with the U.S. military and Iraq's security forces. Others have loftier themes: democratic values, sectarian reconciliation and national pride.
In 2004, reeling from the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal and wrestling a burgeoning insurgency, the U.S. military hired public relations firms -- including some that were apparently established to compete for the contracts -- to improve its image.
"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.
"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."