Local Marine fights in war of public opinion

Analysis:

This story is based upon the current Pentagon campaign to send US troops around the country to convince Americans that the War in Iraq is necessary. Grandville High School graduate and Marine Sgt. Paula Payne is one the the military’s PR spokespersons and is scheduled to speak at East Grand Rapids High School one week after President Bush spoke there. The story has comments from another military source, Payne’s parents and a woman who heard her speak in Pennsylvania. Payne herself is cited several times in the story. Here are her statements: “I serve because I know that freedom isn’t free,” “I know there are men and women who need to fight. We have to make sure that this war in Iraq doesn’t come back to the home front.” “People are entitled to their own opinion. If they want to believe it’s propaganda, they can do that. But this is my story,” “People are dying. But I think we are making progress. If we don’t finish the job now, we will be back in 10 years. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my children over there.” After reading such statements do you feel that Sgt. Payne provided adequate justifications for the US War in Iraq?

The story also begins with the idea that the Pentagon is merely “selling the war” or that this is “simply smart public relations.” The irony of this story is that it appeared on the front page of the Grand Rapids Press. On Page three there was a story about how the military lied to build heroic legends around Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch. For the Grand Rapids Press not to question the integrity of Sgt. Payne’s role in the “war for public opinion” is pretty amazing. We have cited other examples of military propaganda during the war in Iraq that gets reported as news. We have documented the military’s creation of their own Video News Releases(VNRs) and that the US military was caught paying for stories to be sent out of Iraq. Numerous groups have been documenting the role that public relations and the public relations industry has played in the current US Occupation of Iraq. The Grand Rapids Press reporter failed to provide a counter-voice in this story or at a minimum provide some context to why the Pentagon feels it is necessary to “win the war of public opinion.”

Story:

As America grows weary of the war in Iraq, the Pentagon is summoning troops such as Marine Sgt. Paula Payne to a new front.

Call it the selling of the war — or simply smart public relations — but Payne is proud to hit the road across America to give her view of military service and the war.

“I serve because I know that freedom isn’t free,” said Payne, 23, a 2003 graduate of Grandville High School.

“I know there are men and women who need to fight. We have to make sure that this war in Iraq doesn’t come back to the home front.”

The initiative comes at a critical juncture, as President Bush demands funds to continue the war and Congress tries to impose deadlines for withdrawal of U.S. troops. Bush made his case for the war last week in stops in Ohio and in an appearance Friday at East Grand Rapids High School.

Payne is one of eight service members with experience in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa tapped for what the military calls Why We Serve.

Participants are attached to the Pentagon public affairs department for about 90 days and dispatched across the country to convey their personal stories of service.

“We’re sending the best of the best from each of the services,” said Maj. Ann Biggers, the program’s director.

Payne said she understands if war critics are skeptical of her mission.

“People are entitled to their own opinion. If they want to believe it’s propaganda, they can do that. But this is my story.

“Nobody is standing behind me with a knife, saying, ‘support the war.’ “

Payne has served in Iraq twice, from September 2004 to March 2005 and from February 2006 to January.

In her last tour, Payne was assigned duty at military checkpoints near the border with Syria. Called Operation Lioness, it was part of a strategy to place female troops at checkpoints to ease cultural concerns about having male soldiers frisking Iraqi females.

Pennsylvania resident Virginia Lisbon, 62, heard Payne speak late last month in an appearance at a state conference of the American Legion Auxiliary. Lisbon was impressed.

“I didn’t feel it was propaganda at all,” Lisbon said. “You only hear the bad things on the news. She was just talking to us. She wasn’t preaching to us. She was really great.”

Payne is the daughter of missionaries Dan and Sally Payne. She decided during high school to investigate the military as a means to pay for college. She eventually settled on the Marines.

Payne’s mother, a Wyoming resident, said she is “unbelievably proud” of her daughter.

“I think what she is doing is wonderful and absolutely necessary,” she said. “But I think it is appalling that it is necessary because there are people in this nation that are treating the troops so badly.

“It is sad that the military has to come to the point to say, ‘Look, these people are protecting the nation against the terrorists.’ “

In addition to the Pennsylvania trip, Payne has appeared before youth groups, elementary students and a nonprofit organization in North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. She is scheduled next month to speak in Missouri, Texas, Tennessee and southeastern Michigan.

Her basic message: Things are tough, but now is hardly the time to quit.

“There are horrible things going on over there,” Payne said. “People are dying. But I think we are making progress. If we don’t finish the job now, we will be back in 10 years.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my children over there.”

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org