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10/21/03

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Muppets Take Baghdad


WASHINGTON (DPI) - The administration opened a campaign today to bypass the usual press channels, which they claim are emphasizing only the bad in Iraq, and have gone to less traditional outlets and using less conventional methods to get its message out. One of the more innovative methods is enlisting the help of the Muppets in a series of short films to tell the story of rebuilding in Iraq.

The first 15-minute film made available to news outlets, titled The Muppets Rebuild Iraq, features many of the Muppet characters that people have come to identify with over the years. Hosted by ambiguously defined partners Bert and Ernie, the show forgoes real footage of gritty scenes in Baghdad for staged recreations featuring songs and Muppet Babies to represent the citizens of the war-torn country.

But not everyone is amused by this tactic. Administration critics such as presidential hopeful Howard Dean contend that representing Iraq as "a giant Sesame Street" sanitizes the real problems and will radically skew the publics' perception. "Suicide bombings and attacks against our soldiers are represented by a trash can lid blowing into the air and a slightly blackened Oscar the Grouch sticking his head up and saying, 'Uh-Oh! A little anti-Democracy foreign terrorist did a whoopsy daisy again!'" said Dean. "I think that understates things a bit." Other detractors point to some of the songs, which they claim further the agenda of the contractors, such as Halliburton and Bechtel -- particularly the "Haliburton is Our Friend" song, set to the tune of "Rubber Duckie." A sample of the lyrics:

Halliburton, you know it's true
Reconstruction would fail without you,
Halliburton, America wants to thank you,
Yes, you! You, you, you, you!

Halliburton, joy of joys,
All your critics make stupid noise,
But Halliburton, we love the things you do,
Boop boop a doop!

For its part, the Bush administration has brushed aside the criticism. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who appears in the first film as Oscar the Grouch's cousin, Rummy the Grouch, deflected questions about whether the Muppet method distorts the events on the ground. "If you're asking me if giving the American People the truth in the form of their most beloved characters without burdening them with violence gives them a clearer picture of the rebuilding, I would have to say, yes, the American people do love America and want these films to continue."

(Reported by Davejames and Marsha Clodfelter; Graphic by Kevin Wickart)




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