A New York Times report shines a light on how the military-industrial complex tries to shape broadcast news.

TV military 'analysts' are part of what Ike warned against

A New York Times report shines a light on how the military-industrial complex tries to shape broadcast news.

April 27, 2008


The faces dominating the front page of The New York Times last Sunday were male, strong-jawed and familiar. Indeed, that was the point.

They were the faces of nine retired military officers (there were more inside the paper) who appear regularly on network and cable television news to give viewers informed, independent assessments of the war in Iraq.

At least that was the idea.

What viewers have been getting, the Times revealed, is something quite different. The paper reported convincingly that some retired officers appearing as "military analysts" have been pushing Pentagon propaganda in return for continued access to top officials and financial benefit for themselves.

According to the Times report, "Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters. 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.

"In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated," the report said. "Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access. A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public."

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an enthusiastic golfer in his presidential years, left behind more than spike marks on the White House floor. He stood at a convergence in American history. He knew it. And he gave voice to a solemn warning, delivered in 1961, three days before he left office.

Eisenhower, a renowned World War II general, declared, "Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.

"In the councils of government," he warned, "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes," he declared. "We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

The Times' report on the military analysts is a tale of propaganda, hidden loyalties and financial interests. It reveals a vulnerability that reaches all the way to the survival of the United States as a country governed by the informed opinion of its people.

The newspaper's investigation shows that in case after case, the military analysts take their cues and their information from specially prepared Pentagon briefings and trips.

A number wear more than one hat. In addition to offering their "analysis" on television, they work for pay for defense-related industries. Employers range from military equipment manufacturers and contractors to lobbyists and consulting firms on the hunt for defense-related business.

The report is important for the glimpse it provides into how powerful forces help keep us enmeshed in Iraq.

The 17 military analysts pictured include such oft-seen faces as retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey on NBC News, retired Brig. Gen. James Marks on CNN and retired Lt. Gen. Tom McNerney on Fox. Even so, television...

news audiences haven't heard much about the report. Up it popped on Sunday morning, and by Sunday night, it was smothered like a Philadelphia cheese steak in rehashed political news.

"This article would have come sooner, but it took us two years to wrestle 8,000 pages of documents out of the Defense Department that described its interactions with network military analysts," reporter David Barstow explained on the Times' Web site. "We pushed as hard as we could, but the Defense Department refused to produce many categories of documents in response to our requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act."

Ultimately the Times went to court. Yet even then, Barstow said, "the Pentagon failed to meet several court-ordered deadlines." Finally, the judge had enough. He threatened the Defense Department with sanctions if it continued to defy court deadlines. The stalling stopped.

The television networks and cable fiefdoms involved probably would prefer this story follow another military tradition and just fade away. Like it or not, however, the report on the Pentagon puppets leaves an indelible mark.

Eisenhower, president and general, would see it and heed it. So should we.

Nancy Grape comments on state and national issues for the Maine Sunday Telegram. She can be contacted at: spargrape@msn.com

It's about time the NY Times published a fair article. Now when

are they going to fully retract all the fraud Judith Miller published about WMDs & her warmongering??? Long after all the deaths & damage have been done!!!

Newspapers are supposed to truthfully report CURRENT events. Several years later is TOO late! Is the NY Times a newspaper or a history book?

Consider mass emailing truth messages. More info here: http://www.911blogger.com/node/13321

Progress Report

The Pentagon's Puppets

The Bush administration has covertly tried to influence public opinion in its favor throughout the Iraq war, planting stories in Iraqi newspapers and disseminating misleading polls. Last week, The New York Times reported that the Pentagon has been using more than 75 "military analysts" as "puppets," revealing one of the most extensive attempts at domestic propaganda in this war. These retired military officials, many of whom have contracting business with the government, have pushed the Bush administration's talking points but without revealing their contracts with the Pentagon. In a disturbing tit-for-tat, analysts admitted that they were reluctant to buck the Bush administration out of fear that they might lose access to future briefings and information. "Our military services have an important story to tell, and public affairs offices are critical to that task," said Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) on the House floor this pasts week. "But credibility is paramount. Once lost, it is difficult or impossible to regain."

PRIVILEGED ACCESS: Day after day, the American public has watched distinguished retired military officers go on television and assess progress in the Iraq war. Many of these analysts, however, were repeating talking points given to them during private briefings by the administration, using this special access "as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities." They were all instructed to not "quote their briefers directly or otherwise describe their contacts with the Pentagon." "It was them saying, 'We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,'" said Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst. Certainly not all retired military officials have parroted Pentagon talking points. Last year, for example, CBS asked Iraq veteran Gen. John Batiste to step down as a consultant because he appeared in a VoteVets ad criticizing the war. A CBS vice president justified the network's decision by saying of Batiste, "By putting himself front and center in an anti-Bush ad, the viewer might have the feeling everything he says is anti-Bush." The largest contingent of "puppets" was affiliated with Fox News, followed by MSNBC and CNN, although analysts also appeared on CBS and ABC. At least nine of them wrote op-eds for The New York Times. After significant public outcry, the Pentagon announced last week that it would be temporarily suspending the program, pending a review of the situation.

MEDIA BLACKOUT: "[T]he degree of behind-the-scenes manipulation -- including regular briefings by then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials -- is striking, as is the lack of disclosure by the networks of some of these government and business connections," wrote Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz last week, who also addressed the controversy on CNN. On the whole, however, the media have been disappointingly silent on their role in the Pentagon's scheme since the story broke last week. On Thursday, PBS's News Hour did a lengthy segment on the scandal, but it could not convince the other networks to join in. "And for the record, we invited Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and NBC to participate," said senior correspondent Judy Woodruff, "but they declined our offer or did not respond." Since The New York Times report, Fox News has repeatedly used quotes from one of the military analysts named in the story, without mentioning his ties to the Pentagon. Several conservatives have also rushed to dismiss the expose. Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Max Boot said simply, "All this is part and parcel of the daily grind of Washington journalism." Neoconservative pundit John Podhoretz added that the revelations showed "nothing more than that the Pentagon treated former military personnel like VIPs."

PATTERN OF PROPAGANDA: While The New York Times's revelation was galling, it was hardly the first instance of abuse of public information by the Bush administration. In 2005, the Los Angeles Times revealed that the U.S. military was "secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the US mission in Iraq." However, most of those stories were presented as "unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists." Officials said the stories were "basically factual" but would often "present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the US or Iraqi governments." Even at this time, conservatives were backing the Bush administration's propaganda. The National Review's Stephen Spruiell said, "We need more operations like this in Iraq, and more respect for their classified nature." Also in 2005, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers touted poll results of Iraqis that supposedly demonstrated the insurgency was losing political steam, without revealing that the poll surveyed only Iraqis who had actively worked against the insurgents. More recently, in October 2007, it was revealed that the U.S. military was attempting to use funds from the independent military newspaper Stars and Stripes to bolster a PR campaign, which some Pentagon officials described as "tax-payer-funded propaganda."