WASHINGTON: Political PR operatives revived the term "war room"
strictly as a metaphor in the early '90s. The war rooms that went into
operation last week, however, brought a strangely literal twist to the
The White House and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have set up
intensive round-the-clock communications centers - classic "war rooms"
born of Bill Clinton's 1992 Presidential campaign - to knock down false
Taliban reports and spread its own message to media outlets around the
Separated by seven time zones, the two centers, located within the White
House and Blair's 10 Downing Street office, will coordinate efforts to
accommodate deadlines and broadcasts in both hemispheres. A third center
is scheduled to open in Islamabad, Pakistan within the week, allowing
for seamless operations.
The move is the latest attempt by the allies to reverse the overseas
flow of anti-US public sentiment. Administration officials believe the
combination of false reports by the Taliban and photos showing
slaughtered Afghan civilians are largely fueling those sentiments. With
the introduction of the war rooms, both the US and the UK hope they can
counter those reports - day and night - before they reach the
As for proactive messaging, the communication centers concentrated on
dispersing two messages in their first days of operation: that the US
was considering halting the bombing during the Islamic holy month of
Ramadan, and that the millionth package of humanitarian aid had been
delivered to the people of Afghanistan.
The Bush administration is also attempting to improve coordination
between its various message chiefs spread throughout Washington. Every
morning, the three centers will conduct a conference call involving Bush
advisors Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, communications director Dan
Bartlett, Dick Cheney advisor Mary Matalin,undersecretary of state for
public affairs and public diplomacy Charlotte Beers, and Pentagon
director of public affairs Torie Clarke.
The State Department will be starting its own PR initiative next
Using the internet, it will translate and distribute statements of
support from Muslim leaders to US embassies around the world, and then
distribute them to local reporters.
Republicans had once de-cried the use of war rooms in political
campaigns as fostering a culture in Washington obsessed with attacking
Earlier this year, however, both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol
Hill established Intensive Communications Units (ICU) based on the
war-room model to sway public sentiment on healthcare reform.