In Sunday's New York Times, investigative reporter David Barstow exposes television's "military analysts" on the Iraq War as sock puppets of the Pentagon who consciously peddle the Bush administration's talking points on Iraq while hiding their own vested economic interest in selling the public on the Bush administration's happy talk about the war.
This very long and very well-documented story lays bare the most blatantly obnoxious feature of the "Military-Industrial-Media Complex" which ensures that the airwaves convey the administration's major messages on the war day in a day out. The story should mobilize the blogosphere and news media figures who still have some integrity to demand immediate reform of a massively corrupt network system of covering military affairs.
For starters, the networks should be forced to fire every "military analyst" who has been recruited accepted all-expenses-paid trips to Iraq, uncritically mouthed the administration talking points while concealing their special relationship or maintained vested financial interests in Pentagon contracts through business relationships with contractors.
Based on 8,000 pages of email messages, transcripts and records, Barstow recounts a successful effort by Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon to use retired military officers to create a "media Trojan horse" on the Iraq War. Not only did the "military analysts" routinely violate basic ethical standards of journalism by accepting trips completely arranged and paid for the administration; they were consciously participating in its strategy to manipulate public opinion by regurgitating the pro-war arguments they were given in top-level official briefings -- which they had to promise to keep secret.
But even worse, Barstow shows how they had a personal financial stake in parroting the administration's war propaganda. He reports that several dozen military analysts who appear constantly on Fox, CNN and other networks and invariably support the administration's line "represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants."
Even when they knew they were being fed Pentagon BS, these agents of the war system could not utter a critical word about administration policy. They were afraid of retribution from Pentagon officials who could affect contracts for which their companies were competing. One corrupted former television analyst told Barstow he refrained from even the slightest criticism of the Pentagon's policies because of the fear "some four-star could call up and say, 'Kill that contract.'"
Several of these officers told Barstow that even the "mildest criticism" would bring telephone calls expressing official displeasure within minutes of being on the air. When one analyst went so far as to say that the United States was "not on a good glide path right now" in Iraq, the Pentagon immediately "fired" him from the analysts group which had received privileged access to high-ranking administration officials.
In the most egregious cases, such as retired Air Force general Thomas G. McInerney of Fox News, "analysts" operated just like employees of the Pentagon. McInenery assured the Pentagon in an e-mail in late 2006 that he would use in his on-air appearances the latest talking points that he had just been given.
The story of the Pentagon's "media Trojan horse" should bring overwhelming public pressure for the immediate termination of any "military analyst" who has been compromised by links with the Pentagon and/or its business allies. The television networks should adopt transparent rules about who can and can't be hired as analysts on military issues that would keep out paid agents of the war system. Unfortunately the networks themselves appear to be such an integral part of that system that they couldn't care less about conflicts of interest.