Pentagon seeks PR advice before diplomatic attempt

WASHINGTON: Public diplomacy - it's not just for diplomats anymore.

WASHINGTON: Public diplomacy - it's not just for diplomats anymore.

This month, both the Pentagon and an interagency government task force started up their own efforts at international diplomacy, a line of work more traditionally reserved for the State Department or White House.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld brought together his strategic communicators group, which comprises a dozen private-sector PR professionals who intermittently offer messaging advice to the Pentagon. Rumsfeld asked them to critique a presentation on the whereabouts of terrorists around the globe. Precisely for which audience the presentation is ultimately intended remains unknown, but Pentagon spokespeople and members of the communicators group made clear that its purpose is to convince someone of the need to engage "rogue states - including Iraq - that are likely to harbor terrorists.

Sheila Tate, principal at Powell Tate; Charlie Black, principal at lobbying firm Black, Kelly Scruggs & Healy; Tommy Boggs of lobbying shop Patton Boggs; and Rich Galen, a veteran Republican spokesman turned columnist, were among those present at the August 13 session. Victoria "Torie Clarke, former managing director of Hill & Knowlton's Washington, DC office and now the Pentagon's head of public affairs, is credited with the formation of the group.

"They wanted to show us a declassified version of a presentation they had developed that showed where terrorist groups are situated around the world, and at what stage of development those areas had weapons of mass destruction, said Tate. "They simply wanted us to see it before getting ready to present it elsewhere."

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Public Diplomacy Group, a task force comprising representatives from several federal agencies, is poised to launch a campaign of its own.

According to a report from United Press International, the group's internal polling shows remarkable global skepticism of America's reasons for wanting to invade Iraq. The campaign, slated to begin this fall, will present "foreign opinion leaders, including editors and foreign policy analysts, with evidence of the threat posed to all countries by Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

The task force was originally formed by President Clinton to counter an Iraqi PR campaign denouncing UN oil sanctions. The campaign is slated to begin this fall.

Several tactics for the effort have been discussed, including the production of a brochure outlining Hussein's perceived crimes, similar to the one produced by the State Department targeting Osama Bin Laden earlier this year. Also reportedly being considered is a series of teleconferences with overseas reporters and editors.

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