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For Release:
December 13, 2002

For more information contact:
Joyce Battle jbattle@gwu.edu

U.S. embassy Baghdad cable from May 1953 mentions several Iraqi officials who will be delivering anticommunist lectures at government camps.

Overview Essay: U.S. Propaganda in the Middle East - The Early Cold War Version

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Documentation on Early Cold War
U.S. Propaganda Activities in the Middle East

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Security Archive at George Washington University today published on the World Wide Web documents concerned with an early Cold War campaign to win hearts and minds in the Middle East, launched 50 years before current efforts to achieve United States "public diplomacy" goals in the region.

Soon after the events of September 11, the administration of George W. Bush announced a wide-ranging campaign to improve the image of America in Arab countries and in the greater Muslim world. One year later, its results appear unimpressive: a recent Pew Research Center poll found increasingly unfavorable international views of the U.S., "most dramatically, in Muslim societies."

The documents collected here describe an earlier program to expand and revitalize American propaganda directed at the Middle East, and the methods that were utilized, including graphic displays, manipulation of the news, books, movies, cartoons, activities directed at schools and universities, and exchange programs. U.S. propaganda efforts were assisted by collaborating governments, the news media, academics, publishers, and private associations. The documents show that many of the factors that generated resentment of the U.S. during the 1950s, and that impeded the effectiveness of U.S. propaganda, have persisted into the 21st century.

Topics discussed in the documents include:

  • The objectives, targets, and methodology of U.S. propaganda.
  • Propaganda planned to win popular acceptance for the shah of Iran after he was restored to power by a British-American coup.
  • Propaganda seeking to enhance America's image by demonstrating its "overwhelming and increasing industrial and military strength," including its nuclear capabilities, to Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq.
  • The U.S. government's identification of religion, including Saudi Arabia's conservative interpretation of Islam, as "an important asset in promoting Western objectives," including anticommunism, in the Middle East.

Overview Essay: U.S. Propaganda in the Middle East - The Early Cold War Version

Documents List


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