Major television networks continue to host retired generals as military analysts without alerting viewers to their extensive ties to defense contractors and the Pentagon.
Military strategy is a frequent topic on TV in the wake of President Obama's announcement that he will send more troops to Afghanistan now -- and start bringing them out by mid-2011. But few television viewers have any idea that some of what they're hearing originates from men who are literally profiting from the war.
One of these men in particular -- NBC News military analyst and retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey -- has appeared on MSNBC at least 10 times in the past month to criticize Obama's proposed troop-withdrawal deadline, to lavish praise upon Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, and to underscore the importance of training Afghan security forces.
But neither McCaffrey nor the MSNBC anchors ever mentioned the fact that McCaffrey sits on the board of directors of DynCorp International, a company with a lucrative government contract to train the Afghan National Security Forces. Nor did they mention that McCaffrey recently completed a report about Afghanistan that was commissioned by Petraeus and funded by the Pentagon.
On December 4, McCaffrey appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, where he was introduced only as "retired General Barry McCaffrey." Upon being asked whether we are creating our own enemy in Afghanistan, McCaffrey said: "The key is, can we create an Afghan security force that in a couple or three years will replace us? That is the real question on the table."
He added, "I think there's some belief, strong belief on the part of General [Stanley] McChrystal and others, to include me, that yes, you can create an Afghan security force. I don't believe it's possible in a year. I see this as a 3- to 10-year effort, at the front end of which we're going to take casualties and spend a lot of money."
According to Forbes magazine, this 3- to 10-year effort in Afghanistan will generate about 53% of DynCorp's $3.1 billion in annual revenue, a fact that McCaffrey failed to mention.
McCaffrey describes the report he authored last week assessing security operations in Afghanistan as an "independent civilian academic contribution to the national security debate." In the report, McCaffrey effusively praises Petraeus and the top military officials in Afghanistan, calling them "brilliant" and the "absolute best leaders in uniform."
McCaffrey continues to be presented as an objective expert despite widespread, public evidence to the contrary. In late 2008, as part of a Pulitzer-Prize winning series about the relationship between retired generals, the Pentagon, and defense contractors, New York Times reporter David Barstow wrote an article that exposed McCaffrey for "consistently advocat[ing] wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests."
According to Barstow's article, McCaffrey used his close relationship with Gen. Petraeus and his contacts at the Pentagon to secure lucrative contracts for corporations such as Defense Solutions and
Veritas Capital. Armed with extensive ties to both the government and the private sector, McCaffrey exercises a third sphere of influence through his media exposure. He did not respond to repeated messages from the Huffington Post, requesting an interview.
McCaffrey is only one of several on-air military analysts with extensive, interconnected Pentagon and corporate relationships. Retired Gen. Richard Myers, who appeared on NBC's Meet the Press on October 11 to discuss Afghanistan strategy, sits on the board of directors of Northrop Grumman, the third largest arms manufacturer in the world. But David Gregory simply introduced him as the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gregory asked Myers whether it was necessary to escalate the Afghanistan war, Myers replied: "I think you probably do [have to escalate]," and later added that he thinks U.S. allies "should pony up as well."
Retired Gen. Robert H. Scales, Jr., an analyst for both Fox News and National Public Radio, is the president of Colgen, Inc., a consulting company specializing in issues relating to land power, war gaming and strategic leadership. Colgen's clients include the U.S. Military, the CIA and Special Operations Command. On December 1, Scales appeared on Fox News with host Bret Baier and disparaged Obama's plan to start troop withdrawals in 2010.
"Well, there's an old saying in the Army, Bret, that an operation must conform to the actions of the enemy and not to the clock or the calendar," Scales said. "My concern is we need to focus on the enemy, defeat the enemy in this region before we start talking about a timeline."
Not surprisingly, these "military analysts" on the boards of defense contractors with large potential for financial gain have consistently used their media appearances to make the case for escalation.
Last year, the Society of Professional Journalists called on NBC to sever ties with military analysts that could personally profit from the shaping of public opinion.
"By failing to be forthright and transparent, these networks -- which are owned by General Electric, a leading defense contractor -- are giving the public powerful reasons to be skeptical about their neutrality and credibility," said Andy Schotz, the chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists' Ethics Committee.
NBC has ignored the SPJ's call. A spokesperson from NBC said that McCaffrey's biography on the MSNBC website details his involvement with DynCorp and other corporations, but she declined to comment about why anchors do not identify McCaffrey as a Pentagon contractor or defense contracting consultant when he appears on their shows.
"The media are not legally obligated to disclose their connections," said Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "It's obviously a little misleading, though."