'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, January 06, 2006

Honorariums from the Lincoln Group 

A couple of months ago Jeff Gerth and Scott Shane revealed that the US via the Lincoln Group pays to plant pro-US articles in Iraq papers. On Monday Gerth and David Cloud followed up the story with a second Times piece asserting that American Enterprise Institute fellow Michael Rubin, who was cited in the original article, received money (in Rubin's words, "reimbursement of expenses including a per diem and/or honorarium") from the Lincoln Group for services rendered.

Rubin has now responded to these charges. He calls the allegation a non-story only picked up by "a few shrill blogs and a Baath-party website" and says that there is no scandal because taking money from the Lincoln Group for "look[ing] over some products" is similar to giving a lecture at Yale or working on behalf of the UN:

... Cloud sought to construct an affiliation. He suggested that, because the Lincoln Group had covered my travel, I was an affiliate and had a conflict of interest. First, if this logic holds true, then I confess I am also affiliated with the State Department, Defense Department, various military units, and Harvard, Yale, and Princeton universities. I have at various times received travel reimbursement from each and honorarium from all but Harvard. When I travel overseas, I usually receive a per diem--as I told Cloud, it was in the neighborhood of $200. I have received travel reimbursement and per diem expenses for lectures and consultations in Germany, Belgium, Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Turkey, and Slovakia. Various civil groups have also covered my expenses to lecture in Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Cloud's logic and front page accusations of ethical lapse falls flat. Had it not been for a scheduling difficulty, Cloud could also accuse me of affiliation with the United Nations.

Look, I may just be the author of a shrill blog and not an analyst at a neoconservative think-tank but the difference here is pretty clear. The difference is that Yale and the UN are well-known and respected institutions while the Lincoln Group is a shadowy enterprise unknown to most that is enacting a propaganda program that most people view as antithetical to American values if not deeply immoral.

Also in light of Gerth and Cloud's revelation, I find it interesting that Rubin is the only bigtime policy guy I know who is on record endorsing the notion that the break with Ahmed Chalabi was a deliberate attempt to bolster Chalabi's popularity in Iraq: (from here)

"Much of the information he collected was to roll up the insurgency and Ba'athist cells. It caught people red-handed," said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser who is now at a conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

"By telegraphing that he is not the favourite son of America, the administration will bolster him, showing he is his own man."

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