"I'm for every bit of deception and trick if you're directing it toward the bad guys. That's a good and useful thing to be doing," said Clarke, now a media consultant. "But paying journalists for favorable coverage? Absolutely not."
Clarke says the revelations have undermined the goal of the overall mission: to create a free Iraq and free Iraqis. That can't happen if burgeoning Iraqi newspapers are seen as tools of the United States or anyone else.
"I understand the frustration of the military. They thought they weren't getting the kind of good press they deserved," Clarke said. "But that is short-term thinking. You might have a good story for one day, but you aren't going to instill in the society you're hoping to create the kind of independent values that you want."
Meanwhile, the Defense Dept. Inspector General has just ruled that Pentagon-funded publications such as the Clinton Administration-created Southeast European Times—where the financial arrangement is discoverable only by clicking on the word "Disclaimer" at the bottom of the site—do not violate American law.
Yet a top Pentagon official, chief spokesman Lawrence DiRita, said he was concerned that a Pentagon practice of hiring news reporters to advance a U.S. government agenda could draw criticism and that an ever larger military role in shaping public opinion overseas might have negative consequences. […]
"If somebody comes back to me and says there's nothing wrong with the Department of Defense paying journalists, I'll say, 'Even if there's nothing wrong, does it make sense?'" DiRita said.