Pentagon halts feeding of information to retired officers while issue is reviewed
By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, April 26, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. - The Defense Department has temporarily stopped feeding information to retired military officers pending a review of the issue, said Robert Hastings, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for public affairs.
The New York Times first reported on Sunday that the Defense Department was giving information to retired officers serving as pundits for various media organizations in order to garner favorable media coverage.
Some of these retired officers saw their access to key decision-makers as possible business opportunities for the defense contractors they represent, according to the newspaper. The story also alleged that the officers who did not repeat the Bush administration's official line were denied further access to information.
Hastings said he is concerned about allegations that the Defense Department's relationship with the retired military analysts was improper.
"Following the allegations, the story that is printed in the New York Times, I directed my staff to halt, to suspend the activities that may be ongoing with retired military analysts to give me time to review the situation," Hastings said in an interview with Stripes on Friday.
Let me point out to Stars & Stripes that the issue is not so much that the Pentagon was “feeding information” to retired military officers serving as network and cable news analysts. It’s that they they were feeding these so-called “analysts” spin, talking points and propaganda. And these so-called “analysts” were in most cases willing propaganda-pushers:
Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show.
Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.
“Good work,” Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general, consultant and Fox News analyst, wrote to the Pentagon after receiving fresh talking points in late 2006. “We will use it.”
Or, how about this one:
At the same time, in e-mail messages to the Pentagon, [Fox News analyst] Mr. Garrett displayed an eagerness to be supportive with his television and radio commentary. “Please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay,” he wrote in January 2007, before President Bush went on TV to describe the surge strategy in Iraq.
Aww. That’s so sweet! Thanks for thinking of us!
It is tempting to fault the Pentagon and the phony “analysts” for this scenario, but really I fault the networks and cable news. Why weren’t they paying attention? Why weren’t they examining who these phony “analysts” were? Why this:
The analysts, they noticed, often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events. What is more, while the analysts were in the news media, they were not of the news media. They were military men, many of them ideologically in sync with the administration’s neoconservative brain trust, many of them important players in a military industry anticipating large budget increases to pay for an Iraq war.
Why, CNN? Why, MSNBC? Why, CBS and ABC?
Why didn’t you do your job and report the news? Why did you never once question the information your phony “analysts” presented on the air?
What’s truly amazing to me is that despite pulling out all the stops, despite all of the propaganda and media manipulation, 63% of Americans still think the war was a mistake.
After all of that, Americans still aren’t buying it.
But the news media--and this extends to the New York Times, which happily printed Judith Miller’s BS on page one--has a lot to answer for. Their willing compliance in the largest scam ever perpetrated on an entire nation’s populace will have deep repercussions years down the road. They have blood on their hands for pushing America to war.
And as they continue to promote the same thinkers and opinion makers who were wrong about everything on Iraq, all I can say is: Stop hurting America. And stop hurting yourselves.