Bruce Ackerman writes:
This is a time of good cheer at the Pentagon—its watchdog, the inspector general, has just ruled that its Bush-era campaign to manipulate the media was entirely acceptable under Defense Department regulations. The report, dated Nov. 11, was held back until Christmas Eve, when it was released at the happiest time of the year. But we should not allow it to slip into oblivion.No worries there. Since it's perfectly all right for the Pentagon to train and send scores of retired top officers out to spread propaganda that supports whatever project it has in mind—say another war of choice—we can expect to see it happen again in some new form.
It isn't bad enough that so many of these guys serve on the boards of the arms manufacturers. From those post-retirement perches, they work their past subordinates to obtain approval for the latest upgrade or new weapon. And they succeed by virtue of the fact it's hard to say no to someone who used to be your boss and may someday get you on the board of an arms maker. In addition, they now have the okay to get paid to shape public opinion as supposedly expert but objective analysts as long as they don't say anything contrary to what the Pentagon desires.
In case you have already let memory of this project slip into oblivion, it began in 2002 and was exposed by David Barstow at The New York Times in April 2008:
To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world. Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.The inspector general, whose preliminary report was effectively laughed out of the room as a whitewash, said the shilling project was okay under Defense Department regulations even though Gen. Barry McCaffrey was excluded from it because he had publicly criticized the Iraq war.
The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air. ...
Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.
In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.
Balanced analysis obviously was not what the Pentagon and its bosses had in mind. It was propaganda, pure and simple. Lying propaganda. And no doubt some Americans were persuaded or at least soothed because these men, these alleged patriots, were giving the public a thumbs-up to government policy both before the war began and for the next five years until, seeing that discovery was imminent, the Pentagon shut the project down.
So now the office charged with investigations says it's okay that retired generals and colonels and majors engaged in a war-drumming, flag-waving, prevaricating perversion of patriotism while the truth disappeared as if it were a dissident in some backwater military dictatorship.
From the media that used these "analysts" there was scarcely any news coverage after the exposé.
And there were certainly no apologies to viewers from stations that paid these retired officers to give an official patina to fabrications that caused the killing and maiming of tens of thousands of Americans and other coalition soldiers. Plus hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
For these "analysts" to tell the truth meant that they would have to say poof! to their "access" and their lucrative retainers, seats on the boards of major players in the military-industrial-congressional complex, their ability to get the Pentagon to assign a favorable contract to the guys who were filling their bank accounts. Yikes and a half, what would retirement be like with a lowered cash flow? So, instead of calling government policy into question, instead of acting like officers and gentlemen, they sold the country out and kept the moolah incoming. Spit on the men and women sent to fight. Spit on the Constitution. Spit on the truth.
And spit on the strict but simple code of honor that these men, most of them graduates of military academies, swore an oath to. Instead, for the sake of access, for the sake of a buck, for the sake of fame, they behaved dishonorably and with cowardice. Once upon a time, they painted a yellow stripe down the backs of cowardly soldiers. That's what ought to be done now to them, to those who trained them for their shillery, and to the inspector general who says the whole affair was just fine and dandy.