I was reading the article in the ny times today on the Lincoln group which was hired by the military to spread pro-US propaganda in Iraq. Earlier, they were printing articles in the newspaper without attributing the authors (who were US soldiers). Now they're maybe paying sunni clerics and US muslim scholars to help with the program.
Now I believe it is very important that we work to promote our image in the middle east. But I believe we shouldn't do it using propaganda, but instead by actually changing the way we project ourselves. We have a military to handle war, why not have a peace corps-- a real peace corps who goes to build infrastructure, schools, hospitals so that the people in a wartorn area like Iraq can begin to live normal daily lives. They would be trained to know about the culture, the language, the needs of the people-- and also about how to remain safe, of course-- but not about how to bust into a room and kill the person they're looking for.
The only image most of the middle east people have of us is military men at checkpoints, with large guns and gruff voices, speaking english to them as though they should understand. Additionally they see President Bush proclaiming victory, "mission accomplished" on television, they see celebrities with dresses whose price could feed them for years.
In my grandfather's time it was respectable to go and risk your life to serve your country. I believe it still would be, if the service was in peace.