Pentagon Hires PR Firm to Win Battle for Overseas Opinion
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Pentagon Hires PR Firm to Win Battle for Overseas Opinion

The Pentagon has hired a Washington public relations firm with expertise in international affairs to help it explain U.S. policy to global audiences.

Paul Holmes

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Pentagon has hired a Washington public relations firm with expertise in international affairs to help it explain U.S. policy to global audiences. The Pentagon will reportedly pay The Rendon Group close to $400,000 for a four-month campaign to address concern, particularly in the Islamic world, about military strikes in Afghanistan.
 
The Rendon Group, founded by former Democratic National Committee executive director John Rendon, has provided communications counsel to the governments of such hot spots as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kuwait, and Haiti, and has also worked for several U.S. government agencies, including the CIA, which retained the firm to boost the image of the Iraqi National Congress, a U.S.-backed group opposed to Saddam Hussein.
 
According to a report from Knight-Ridder, the Pentagon has asked Rendon to monitor news media in 79 countries; conduct focus group to assess public opinion; create a website that will provide information about U.S. efforts to fight terrorism; and recommend ways in which the military can counter disinformation while improving its own public communications.
 
According to Lt. Col. Kenneth McClellan, a Pentagon spokesman, “The war on terrorism started without notice. We needed a firm that could provide strategic counsel immediately. We were interested in someone that we knew [who] could come in quickly and help us orient to the challenge” of communicating to a wide range of groups around the world.
 
Some observers have suggested that the Bush administration is losing the propaganda war, at least overseas, where anti-American groups have sought to portray the war on terrorism as a war against Islam—a perception fueled by the president’s description of the campaign as “a crusade.” Moderate Arab opinion is crucial to maintaining the coalition against terrorism and to minimizing the risk that others will flock to Osama bin Laden’s cause.
 
The administration has stepped up its PR efforts in the past week, with senior officials including national security advisor Condoleeza Rica appearing on the widely-viewed Arab news station Al-Jazeera. 
 
Rendon did not return calls seeking comment, and it is believed the contract is subject to a confidentiality agreement.
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