Democrats & Liberals Archives

Conflict of Interest: Contractors and Lobbyists Sent to Sell the War to the Public.

This, friends and neighbors, is truly disgusting. But what’s more disgusting, the former generals making money off the war they’re selling to the public, or the American government executing an psyops campaign to sell a war to the public? The breathtaking cynicism of this speaks for itself.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2008 6:17 PM
Comment #250996


is that it. a new york times story, with links that lead to other new york times stories. sorry that left wing rag has no credibility in my book. doesn’t show much effort on your part either. while i rarely agree with you, most of your other pieces at least have variety of sources. the NYT has a reputation of being probably the most left wing bias paper in the country. i’de suggest some more reliable sources, that at least could be considered some what neutral. i expect better from you.

Posted by: dbs at April 19, 2008 7:12 PM
Comment #250999

So what?

Not even that op-ed disguised as a news piece could hide that the media is free to interview or not interview anyone they want. There are pro-war military analysts out there as well as anti-war ones. Big deal.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at April 19, 2008 7:19 PM
Comment #251000

Okay, you’ve got your obligatory ad hominem fallacy out of the way. Would you care to refute the story on the facts, rather than on what negative reputation you assign to the New York Times?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2008 7:20 PM
Comment #251001

Op-ed disguised as a news piece? Seemed to be a lot of sources, facts, dates and names given out for an op-ed. But I guess you, like dbs, had to get in that ad hominem fallacy while you were at it. It’s obligated when the NYT’s is involved.

The big deal is that The big deal is that the Pentagon deliberately launched a psy-ops operation against their own country in order to create and maintain support for a war in the media, and that these people were and are making money off of the war. Access, of course, dependent on them being good little cheerleaders. This is an absolute trainwreck of conflicts of interest. a Casey Jones level trainwreck.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2008 7:26 PM
Comment #251003


thank you for sharing this insightful article. Once again-this adminstration has proven just how amoral it is. It is disgusting but not surprising. I no longer expect the media in this country to investigate or adequately cover our government. I no longer expect those serving in congress or in other governmental agencies to stand up and do whats right -they all seem to be for sell if the price is right.

Posted by: Carolina at April 19, 2008 7:32 PM
Comment #251004

Let’s have a look at this thing here. The U.S. Military is hijacked for a stong armed robbery as a cover for a money laundering operation involving T-bills going to China, Et al in exchange for cash going into the pockets of the already super rich. Add to that the notion that I keep having this weird dream that somebdy named Smedley Butler wrote a book called “War Is A Racket.” I didn’t want to tell my psychiatrist about this dream for fear that I would be institutionalized.

Posted by: Stephen Hines at April 19, 2008 7:52 PM
Comment #251005


“Would you care to refute the story on the facts, rather than on what negative reputation you assign to the New York Times?”

nope. the paper i take sometimes prints NYT by lines. i gave up wasting my time reading them long ago. they have no credibility except with those on the left, might as well be the huffington post, just about as credible. the fact that every link in that story i clicked on led to another NYT story tells me all i need to know. most importantly it isn’t worth my time.

Posted by: dbs at April 19, 2008 8:32 PM
Comment #251006

The article is ON the New York Times site. The link is direct to the original story.

The conflation you have here is The New York Times with Liberal, and Liberal with lacking credibility. You decided to show up to this debate, didn’t you? And all you can show up with is “The New York Times always lies”?

Give me a break. Were I in your shoes, I would go through the article, fact check the major claims, and see if there was anything to it. There’s a great deal of difference between confronting somebody with a partisan claim that’s just going to have the non-partisans rolling their eyes, and being able to refute the claims point by point with evidence that puts the ball in their court.

All this claim of media bias amounts to is sticking your fingers in your ears and singing nonsense at the top of your voice. So far, it’s worked wonders for the Republicans.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2008 8:52 PM
Comment #251007


it’s your piece. funny how you make the accusation, barely a paragraph ( very unlike you i might add )and then hand it off to the NYT. write a complete article, make your case, and provide links backing up your accusations. why should we do your work for you ?

Posted by: dbs at April 19, 2008 9:10 PM
Comment #251009

What was my final line? The breathtaking cynicism of it speaks for itself. I don’t know what I could add to the facts in that article that could drive the point home any stronger. So I just wrote one paragraph and handed it off to article linked.

I knew that some conservatives would balk precisely the way that you have. I’m still standing by the New York Times Article. The case has been made there. If you’ve got any substantive answer to what’s in that article, you’re welcome to give it. Otherwise, why should I do your work for you? Why should I do the Reporters work all over again for them? I typically composite different sources when the point I’m making is a larger philosophical one. Here, I’m just passing on what might be a serious controversy for your party, and trying to generate a conversation about it. Your response is a denial that has nothing whatsoever to do with the facts or their falsity.

At the very least you could offer the response of some of the online blogs that you know, the Republicans. They were quick to jump on the story about McCain and the Lobbyist, how about this one? I’m waiting to see what your move is first.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2008 9:41 PM
Comment #251010

From the linked article
““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.””

dbs are you saying this quote from the NYT link is not true because its in the NYT? Or are you saying that its true but I choose to ignore it because it is in the NYT?

Posted by: j2t2 at April 19, 2008 9:43 PM
Comment #251011

J2t2, the problem with the quote is not whether it’s real or not but the ridiculous spin that’s being put on it to suggest impropriety where none exists.

If this analyst decides to use information provided to him by the Pentagon—so what?

Is the Pentagon not allowed to distribute information or interpretations of that information if it supports the job they’re doing? There’s nothing untoward about these so called “talking points” (which is itself a very biased phrase).

Do anti-war military analysts not use talking points?

This is just another shake-and-bake non-scandal manufactured by the far left wing. And a particularly silly and pointless one at that.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at April 19, 2008 9:56 PM
Comment #251013

Take the case of ret. Gen James “Spider” Marks, who served as a CNN consultant and was part of this group of well-“informed” conveyors of talking points. He was also, at the same time, acting as a contractor, and even eventually becoming president of an outfit contracting for the US Government.

CNN, for example, said it was unaware for nearly three years that one of its main military analysts, General Marks, was deeply involved in the business of seeking government contracts, including contracts related to Iraq.

General Marks was hired by CNN in 2004, about the time he took a management position at McNeil Technologies, where his job was to pursue military and intelligence contracts. As required, General Marks disclosed that he received income from McNeil Technologies. But the disclosure form did not require him to describe what his job entailed, and CNN acknowledges it failed to do additional vetting.

“We did not ask Mr. Marks the follow-up questions we should have,” CNN said in a written statement.

In an interview, General Marks said it was no secret at CNN that his job at McNeil Technologies was about winning contracts. “I mean, that’s what McNeil does,” he said.

CNN, however, said it did not know the nature of McNeil’s military business or what General Marks did for the company. If he was bidding on Pentagon contracts, CNN said, that should have disqualified him from being a military analyst for the network. But in the summer and fall of 2006, even as he was regularly asked to comment on conditions in Iraq, General Marks was working intensively on bidding for a $4.6 billion contract to provide thousands of translators to United States forces in Iraq. In fact, General Marks was made president of the McNeil spin-off that won the huge contract in December 2006.

Who’s going to shoot down their meal ticket?

The Times also told the story of Former Marine Colonel William V. Cowan. Cowan, even while he served as an analyst for FOX News, was also “the chief executive of a new military firm, the wvc3 Group.”:

At the time, the company was seeking contracts worth tens of millions to supply body armor and counterintelligence services in Iraq. In addition, wvc3 Group had a written agreement to use its influence and connections to help tribal leaders in Al Anbar Province win reconstruction contracts from the coalition.

Make no mistake, this wasn’t a free ride, and these analysts were not simply free to speak their minds. They had to toe the Administration line.

…even the mildest of criticism could draw a challenge. Several analysts told of fielding telephone calls from displeased defense officials only minutes after being on the air.

On Aug. 3, 2005, 14 marines died in Iraq. That day, Mr. Cowan, who said he had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the “twisted version of reality” being pushed on analysts in briefings, called the Pentagon to give “a heads-up” that some of his comments on Fox “may not all be friendly,” Pentagon records show. Mr. Rumsfeld’s senior aides quickly arranged a private briefing for him, yet when he told Bill O’Reilly that the United States was “not on a good glide path right now” in Iraq, the repercussions were swift.

Mr. Cowan said he was “precipitously fired from the analysts group” for this appearance. The Pentagon, he wrote in an e-mail message, “simply didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t carrying their water.” The next day James T. Conway, then director of operations for the Joint Chiefs, presided over another conference call with analysts. He urged them, a transcript shows, not to let the marines’ deaths further erode support for the war.

This was a conflict of interest running in all kinds of different directions.

For the News Organizations, it compromises their material, their objectivity in fact and appearance.

For the Generals, they cannot be honest about what they see on the ground, not only because they will be fired by the Pentagon for departing from the administration line, but also because they have something to lose if they don’t remain part of the team, that being the access and approval of the Pentagon for their projects. Going another direction for them is the conflict of interest between their sustained income from the war, and their advocacy of it on air as supposedly objective observers.

That supposed objectivity is what sells these talking points from the administration. You point to the analyst and say: See? The Analyst agrees!

But you don’t tell the audience that they’re being fed this line from the top, that they’ve got a business interest in the war they’re advocating for. It’s a false flag operation, a set-up whose entire purpose is deceptive by design. Propaganda disguised as individual expertise.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2008 10:24 PM
Comment #251014

This article illustrates why, in response to polls, Americans rate the President low, the Congress lower, and journalism lower still. We don’t trust our politicians and we don’t trust our news media…for good reason!
Politicians have been spinning the news for decades (and probably longer). They have “favorite” journalists, who get “inside” stories, just as these military analysts did. Journalists have been playing at this game for as long as the pols have been.
Watch the evening news on public TV. Every segment includes two “analysts,” each with a somewhat different point of view. We are rarely given anything more than the name of the analysts’ employers…usually some think tank or advocacy group. The analysts spin, and the interviewer tries to probe, but usually gets nowhere. We, the public, are to assume that we are getting two independent points of view on a complex issue. What we are really getting are the views of advocacy groups, think tanks, politicians, and political parties. Each and every analyst has been primed by his or her supporters, through processes similar to the ones described in the NYT article.
The pols and the media are in this together, which is why there is little scrutiny by the media and little dislosure to the public.
Of late, it seems, each media outlet is abondoning independent journalism, in favor of niche journalism. Fox takes a clearly conservative/republican slant. The NYT takes a clearly liberal/democratic slant. Their journalists and analysts get preferred treatment from their niche.
It is not surprising, or even shocking, that the Defense Department was giving its former generals access to inside information and disinformation. It is not surprising, either, that the news media was then using these generals as expert analysts. And, it is not at all surprising that most of the American public recognized it for what it was and still is.
I disagree with Stephen on one point, though. The Defense Department didn’t use “psy-ops against their own country to create and maintain support for a war…” The administration had and has a responsibility for informing the American public about its activities, its goals, and its observations. This administration believed then that its handling of the war on terror and the conflict in Iraq were proper and necessary. They informed the public, spinning here and there, as they are supposed to do. It was the job of the press to analyze that information, gather additional information, and help the public decide whether or not to agree with the administration. Given the overwhelming public dissatisfaction with the administration’s handling of these issues, I guess the press succeded in letting us all see more than just the administration’s point of view.

Posted by: Steve at April 19, 2008 10:34 PM
Comment #251018


I’ll have to agree with LO here. The Pentagon can distribute information as it wishes. The failure I see here is on the part of the major news organizations. They should have protocol in place to check for conflicts of interest because as you said “it compromises their material, their objectivity in fact and appearance.” I was under the impression that it was part of their journalistic responsibility to check their sources. Is a quick conflict of interest survey is too much to ask when you get paid several hundred bucks per appearance? Is it difficult for the networks to implement? I don’t think so.

Conflict of interests should be expected by analysts on both side of any issue. News organizations not knowing or not disclosing conflicts is not an excuse. Journalists are supposed to ask the tough questions, and this story makes the every news organization that used one of these analysts look foolish and lazy for not asking. What is unbelievable to me is the NYT points the finger at the Pentagon like its the government’s fault that journalists abdicated their responsibility. Hopefully, the news organizations will learn their lesson, but I won’t hold my breath.

Posted by: Mr. Haney at April 19, 2008 11:21 PM
Comment #251021

“Is the Pentagon not allowed to distribute information or interpretations of that information if it supports the job they’re doing? There’s nothing untoward about these so called “talking points” (which is itself a very biased phrase).”

LO you should become the disinformation minister of this administration with this line “allowed to distribute information or interpretations of that information”. Are you asking if it is OK that they slant the information coming out of the pentagon to mislead the American people? Of course the pentagon can distribute information, but why not do it above board.Why not present truthful and useful facts by holding a press conference to disclose information to one and all news sources equally and without prejudice. If the information is bad report the bad information if the information is good report the good information. The governement doesnt need to spin the information. To spin something such as the armored vehicle story instead of being truthful with the American public and correcting the problem causes the public to lose trust and to consider all information coming out of the pentagon to be misinformation.
Its all pretty much corporate media and contractors and government entangled to such a degree as to be a corporacy not a democracy. How can you think this method of spreading disinformation is good for the country LO?
The larger problem is its made to look like news not “information”. The corporate media is to blame as much as the government IMHO LO. Why would you support this type of media manipulation and lack of transperancy in the administration and its handling of Iraq? Its our tax dollars thats paying for this LO. Seems like a bad way to spend the military budget to me.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 19, 2008 11:38 PM
Comment #251022

Clearly? The NYTs admits that some of its reporting was affected by this set-up. We also have to remember the whole Judith Miller episode, and the Iraq war reporting that went with that, and the NSA story that it sat on during the course of the election year.

The NYT is not a niche news outlet, but a major paper of record. They did not go through the pains that FOXNews went through in order to slant everything in their newscasts.

And this was a psyops operation:

This was a major theme, for example, with Paul E. Vallely, a Fox News analyst from 2001 to 2007. A retired Army general who had specialized in psychological warfare, Mr. Vallely co-authored a paper in 1980 that accused American news organizations of failing to defend the nation from “enemy” propaganda during Vietnam.

“We lost the war — not because we were outfought, but because we were out Psyoped,” he wrote. He urged a radically new approach to psychological operations in future wars — taking aim at not just foreign adversaries but domestic audiences, too. He called his approach “MindWar” — using network TV and radio to “strengthen our national will to victory.”

In the fall and winter leading up to the invasion, the Pentagon armed its analysts with talking points portraying Iraq as an urgent threat. The basic case became a familiar mantra: Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, was developing nuclear weapons, and might one day slip some to Al Qaeda; an invasion would be a relatively quick and inexpensive “war of liberation.”

At the Pentagon, members of Ms. Clarke’s staff marveled at the way the analysts seamlessly incorporated material from talking points and briefings as if it was their own.

“You could see that they were messaging,” Mr. Krueger said. “You could see they were taking verbatim what the secretary was saying or what the technical specialists were saying. And they were saying it over and over and over.” Some days, he added, “We were able to click on every single station and every one of our folks were up there delivering our message. You’d look at them and say, ‘This is working.’ ”

On April 12, 2003, with major combat almost over, Mr. Rumsfeld drafted a memorandum to Ms. Clarke. “Let’s think about having some of the folks who did such a good job as talking heads in after this thing is over,” he wrote.

They kept tabs on these people, and it was an organized operation. The real thing to keep in mind was that deception and shaping of media response was the aim here. This wasn’t an effort to keep us informed, this was an effort to keep us thinking what the Adminstration wanted us to think, before, after, and during the invasion of Iraq. Without this operation, the media response to start might not have been so powerful, and the staying power of the Administration’s media position would have been less.

There’s something to keep in mind here: the administration’s aim was to keep a certain space to do things their way. Had they been held accountable sooner, certain mistakes might not have been made, the invasion being one of them.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2008 11:40 PM
Comment #251024

Mr. Haney-
Three problems:
1) The relationships were concealed, depriving the audience of critical context of who was speaking, and for whom.

2) The Military analysts enabled the government to incestously amplify a message, making it seem like a consensus or at least large faction of experts backing the administration’s play on their own, when in reality they were part of a coordinated media operation.

3) The information they passed on was often at partial or complete variance with the truth, and both the Pentagon and the Military Analysts often knew this and kept their mouths shut about the truth.

I would say that the News organizations should have checked things better. However, blaming the media’s laziness for most of this is silly. The media outlets should have vetted better, but the Pentagon should not have been subjecting America to a concerted, coordinated campaign of deception.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2008 11:57 PM
Comment #251025

I agree with Mr. Haney’s suggestion that this is really about the media and their responsibilities. However, I don’t think that the media (or the Pentagon, or the analysts here) actually have anything to apologize for. People are just trying to manufacture a scandal over nothing where no scandal exists.

When somebody comes on the news and offers their opinion as a military analyst or pundit on the war, raise your hand if you assume that this person—no matter what side he takes—is approaching the issue completely objectively with no personal or ideological/political considerations whatsoever. Is it even possible to be that naive? Do you think that NYT piece is itself objective?

In short, a talking head is NOT even ASSUMED to be an objective source, which is why they so often appear in pairs on both sides of issue and debate the question under discussion. When I see an “education expert,” “medical expert” or any kind of expert on television as a talking head giving their view on something, I don’t assume that that person has no personal or ideological stake in education or medicine. Should we discount a schoolteacher’s views on education because they make their living as educators? A doctor’s because they make their living in medicine? No. We’re free to regard them skeptically, just as we are free to regard these military experts skeptically, but it’s not a scandal just because they’re talking about something they have a personal stake in and may be using as sources those who share the same views and goals.

Are you asking if it is OK that they slant the information coming out of the pentagon to mislead the American people?

Pundits on television can slant the information however they wish. It’s our responsibility to listen critically. That the Pentagon wishes to “mislead” the American people rather than provide them with information is just your own partisan, anti-military opinion.

Of course the pentagon can distribute information, but why not do it above board.Why not present truthful and useful facts by holding a press conference to disclose information to one and all news sources equally and without prejudice.

And the Pentagon does just that. Routinely and daily in their press conferences. Not to mention the congressional hearings where generals like Petraius and other officials frequently appear. A pundit on television speaks for themselves. Not for the Pentagon.

Somehow I don’t expect to see the same allegations of “scandal” over anti-war military analysts who appear on tv and elsewhere who are tied financially to people like George Soros and outfits like, as many of them are. Apparently, the Pentagon trying to get its views out is a scandal, while everybody else’s is just free speech. This is all really quite absurd.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at April 20, 2008 12:11 AM
Comment #251026
Three problems: 1) The relationships were concealed, depriving the audience of critical context of who was speaking, and for whom.

Concealed? Really? Do they appear on tv with masks over their faces? When Wes Clark appears on tv to talk about Iraq, do we first get a disclaimer that the guy is a Democrat who gets speaking fees to peddle these same views at anti-war rallies? Whenever Chris Matthews, Tim Russert, or George Stephanopoulos appear on television, are we treated to a disclaimer stating that they’ve all worked as staffers and political advisers to Democrats? No, we do not. The content of what’s being said speaks for itself—and we’re all free to accept or reject it. Or is it just that you want a different standard for those who don’t share your opinions?

2) The Military analysts enabled the government to incestously amplify a message, making it seem like a consensus or at least large faction of experts backing the administration’s play on their own, when in reality they were part of a coordinated media operation.

Right. And I suppose we’ve never heard any views from any military experts that contradict the Pentagon over the past six years. The Pentagon is perfectly free to conduct “a coordinated media operation.” And any private citizen, which these analysts in question are, is perfectly free to support or not support that message. If a large number support that message, then (now this may shock you) it’s because a lot of ex-military types—just like a lot of current military types—wholeheartedly support the Iraq mission. It is their RIGHT to say whatever they wish, just as its your right to disagree.

3) The information they passed on was often at partial or complete variance with the truth, and both the Pentagon and the Military Analysts often knew this and kept their mouths shut about the truth.

Of course, the “truth” to you will never be anything that supports the war or casts it in anything but a completely negative light. But if a private citizen knowingly lies, then shame on them. That speaks to their personal character, and perhaps the news shows where they appear and whatever businesses they’re involved with should exclude them in the future.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at April 20, 2008 12:34 AM
Comment #251028

” I don’t expect to see the same allegations of “scandal” over anti-war military analysts who appear on tv and elsewhere who are tied financially to people like George Soros and outfits like, as many of them are.”

From the NYT link :
“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.”

Why would you not expect to see the same allegations LO? Name a couple of these anti war guys and lets find out. Were they part of the group mentioned in the quote above? By not seeing them involved with the pentagon would you then assume that the pentagon was one sided and it was misinformation and planned as such? Name someone and lets find out if this is just the NYT manufacturing a scandel where none exists.

I fail to understand why you would make a statement such as this “The Pentagon can distribute information as it wishes.” Are you suggesting that the pentagon is not part of the government of this country and answerable to the people of this country? Are you suggesting it is morally and ethically proper for the government to intentional disseminate mis information to the people of this country? You guys scare me sometimes. This is the conservative logic for the way government should operate? No transperancy, no responsibility, blame the american people for not listening critically. Just how the hell does listening critically help to identify the complexities of the issues the analysts, that are under no obligation to analyze factually, are discussing? Goebbels comes to mind on this guys.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 20, 2008 1:05 AM
Comment #251029

J2t2, it’s entirely your own assumption that briefings from government agencies, access to classified intelligence, tours of Iraq and the rest of it equals an attempt to disseminate “misinformation.” This actually seems to involve an extremely high degree of transparency. Any of these people can say whatever they want to and are not subject to the chain of military command.

And even if they were—so what? They’re hardly the only source of news we get about Iraq.

Free speech. Think about it. You have it and so do those who disagree with you. The “truth” is not defined by the latest liberal opinion, and good news from Iraq is not all “misinformation.”

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at April 20, 2008 1:25 AM
Comment #251030

So viewers are supposed to guess that these military analysts are shills for the Pentagon, and that they’re making money off the war?

We’re not looking for objectivity here. We’re looking for the meat and potatoes of their experience. We’re not looking for somebody who might favor the war or even disfavor it because of a business interest.

A person currently in the military will naturally have certain concerns when speaking candidly for themselves, since saying the wrong things can get you busted for insubordination. So we rely on retired officers. When we do, we hope we’re getting what they think, and not what a secret operation in the pentagon is telling them what to say.

It’s deceptive to say the least, and what’s more, it’s a vicious circle to get into, because the lines between the interests of the government, the interests of the media, and the interests of the Analysts themselves get blurred and obliterated. The Administration sends a coordinated wave of talking-point inculcated retired officers to sell the need for the war, which sells the need for their other services, which in turn helps motivate them to keep the war going along with the administration, which itself has more room to get its way.

When we tune into a discussion with such experts on, we have a right to expect people who are not merely supporting a war to pad their own pockets. That’s called a con game, and it should be beneath our societies dignity to see it achieved by our government, these analysts, and the media.

What we want out of these analysts is THEIR honest opinion. I don’t mind what that is, whether I even like it. If a retired general wants to say they support the Administration all the way, okay. If they want to show up on the news as a person making a profit off the war, and take the all-too-fair knock on their crediblity for that, they should feel free. But if they’re hiding this, but showing up as independent military analysts with great access, It’s appalling unethical.

Worse yet, it undermines the trust of the American people in any retired military officer they see on TV. Instant argument: “You just know the Pentagons buttering them up with contracts and such to push their line.”

It also passed bad information onto the public, forestalling what might have been crucial changes in policy and getting plenty of our soldiers killed in the process.

As for my listed objections?

1) People actually did make quite a bit of noise about Stephanopoulos’s connection to Clinton, and for good reason. They are pundits, though, and are seen as pundits. Meanwhile, your Analysts present themselves as just military personnel taking time out of their retirement to talk about issues, rather than the well-compensated spokesmen for the Pentagon they actually are.

2) There are coordinated media operations, like embedding reporters among the soldiers, and then there’s embedding shills among real military analysts to astroturf a better picture of the war than the facts support.

3) The truth is the truth. Do you forget that I spent my first two and half years on the blog supporting reform of the war?

I know you want to make this about my stances against the continuation of the war, but the truth is simple: I think this administration has violated the trust and the interests of the soldiers on almost every level. That’s what motivated me to speak out against the war: however much these people say they want support for the troop, their decisions, their deceptions and their bureaucracy have harmed them.

Quit rationalizing. this is pretty serious, and no throwaway reference to the free-market, open society, democracy supporting George Soros is going to yeild much of anything.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 20, 2008 1:31 AM
Comment #251031

“Free speech. Think about it.” So this is a free speech issue for the pentagon, thats your rationalization for this? They can yell fire in the crowed theatre. Goebbels, Goebbels Goebbels.

What about this blurb from the NYT link LO is it a 1st amendment issue as intended in the constitution? Im sure as a conservative you can appreciate the GD piece of paper (as our leader refers to it)and I guess what you are telling me is that the founding fathers wanted the military and the press to work closely together to ensure that the public would have the “information” as the Pentagon intended it. A free society works better when the media and the government team up to put the best possible spin on the information coming out of the pentagon. This is what you are telling me?

“On Aug. 3, 2005, 14 marines died in Iraq. That day, Mr. Cowan, who said he had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the “twisted version of reality” being pushed on analysts in briefings, called the Pentagon to give “a heads-up” that some of his comments on Fox “may not all be friendly,” Pentagon records show. Mr. Rumsfeld’s senior aides quickly arranged a private briefing for him, yet when he told Bill O’Reilly that the United States was “not on a good glide path right now” in Iraq, the repercussions were swift.

Mr. Cowan said he was “precipitously fired from the analysts group” for this appearance. The Pentagon, he wrote in an e-mail message, “simply didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t carrying their water.” The next day James T. Conway, then director of operations for the Joint Chiefs, presided over another conference call with analysts. He urged them, a transcript shows, not to let the marines’ deaths further erode support for the war.

“The strategic target remains our population,” General Conway said. “We can lose people day in and day out, but they’re never going to beat our military. What they can and will do if they can is strip away our support. And you guys can help us not let that happen.”

“General, I just made that point on the air,” an analyst replied.

“Let’s work it together, guys,” General Conway urged.”

If this isnt propaganda LO I just dont know what is. Im disappointed that you would stoop so low to try and spin this as a non issue. So much for fair and accurate huh. Conservatives have truely drank to much kool aid if they think this alleigence between the media and the military is acceptable. Shame on both the media that allowed this and the military for their part in this chicanery.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 20, 2008 2:44 AM
Comment #251032

“I fail to understand why you would make a statement such as this “The Pentagon can distribute information as it wishes.” Are you suggesting that the pentagon is not part of the government of this country and answerable to the people of this country? Are you suggesting it is morally and ethically proper for the government to intentional disseminate mis information to the people of this country?”

No and No. I fully expect the facts coming out of the Pentagon to be interpreted towards supporting the mission and promoting its successes. These interpretations should be questioned. The article makes it clear that news professionals understand that former military personnel carry some bias. To suggest that the military analysts were concealing their associations and sources is disingenuous. Were they asked about them? Sometimes, but the standards aren’t as stringent as for full-time employees although they probably should be. Both parties are to blame. I simply place more responsibility on the media outlets because they are in the question asking business and the conflict of interest question is obvious. Once discovered, it’s not hard to make these interests transparent. CNBC does this consistently does with stock market analysts. Why not apply this to all these “expert” analysts?

To be clear, I’m not saying the government isn’t spinning the facts. It is. It always has. I just think a few well thought out questions would have been more expedient towards overcoming the Pentagon’s tactic of using military analysts. This article shows that the mainstream press was either blissfully ignorant of these activities or blatantly disregarding them for several years. Neither thought is comforting.

Posted by: Mr. Haney at April 20, 2008 4:03 AM
Comment #251034

So high a degree of transparency that the NYT had to sue to get the information. So high a degree of transparency that nobody told anybody in the news organizations, much less the average American, that many of their Military Analysts were contractors and lobbyists working in close coordination, complete with talking points and automated tracking of what they said, with the very institution they were supposed to commenting on as disinterested experts.

That disinterested part, of course, is important. It means to a viewer that they take these people at their word, the people who naturally we might turn to, to analyze the situation, to give an experience opinion about the matter. Viewers give expert opinions like this more credibility. Of course, on the flipside, they give less crediblity to those who do not have such independence. They know they’re going to get the administration line from a general, because the general really doesn’t have a choice, even if they wanted to take the initiative. They tell the public what they’re ordered to tell the public.

To get around that question, the Pentagon deliberately chose to set up an operation where the Administration’s talking points would be spread through those who had retired from the military, and at first glance had no real connections to that chain of command. They did this, rightly believing it would give their talking points crediblity that would not be there if people knew the real source.

The Bush Administration filtered their talking points, or as they referred to it, message force amplifiers, through the analysts to deceive people about who’s thoughts these were, to convince people that independent thinkers were coming to the same conclusion at the same time. That is the root of this deception, and its most insidious element. Whether they said lies or truths, these generals were being put up to what they said in a way that was meant to undermine people’s informed consent about the policies.

This same pattern of incestuous amplification, of putting out the same message, through many seemingly independent but actually coordinated sources, with the purpose of giving undeserved credibility to the information, is part of how the Bush administration gave higher value to the intelligence information in question. It was part of how they rigged the game on nearly every level against their critics and detractors, part of how they gained the consent of Americans who otherwise might have considered an invasion of Iraq unnecessary and distracting.

You’ve talked in recent days about Obama being an elitist, but let me tell you: this is what elitism actually looks like: somebody deciding that the rest of the masses are too stupid, too cowardly, too inferior on one lever or another to be honestly and fairly dealt with. The whole administration runs according to this sensibility.

Mr. Haney-
That’s funny. I expect them to tell us the truth, even if they tell us slant. I expect them to have the balls to deal with us on a fair basis, and not pull some psy-op BS on us like some enemy nation we’re trying to conquer or defeat. It’s not realism to say that they will do these things, it’s learned helplessness.

They should have vetted these people back and forth. You don’t want your news stories clouded by the suspicion or fact that your sources are manipulating the story for their own ends. So the news networks, who figure prominently in the story as well, need to be on their guard about preventing this. That said, the Pentagon cannot be excused for what it did on these grounds. It is not all right for these people to deceive us like this.

We have to stop treating these things as if they are or should be considered standard operating procedure.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 20, 2008 8:09 AM
Comment #251039

What a revelation. The first casualty of war is the truth. Somebody out to coin a phrase about it.

The reality was reported by many sources and was widely available. Caveat Emptor.

What was the first clue that TV was “in bedded” with the military? How about the dramatic drumbeat and blazing intro’s like the “March to War”

Posted by: googlumpugus at April 20, 2008 11:51 AM
Comment #251047
Free speech. Think about it.” So this is a free speech issue for the pentagon, thats your rationalization for this? They can yell fire in the crowed theatre. Goebbels, Goebbels Goebbels.

But it’s not even the Pentagon speaking, although to answer your question, yes, the Pentagon has every right to disseminate its point of view. This is about private citizens with military backgrounds expressing their opinions and private media outlets asking them questions—whatever questions they want—on television.

The language being used to describe this situation is not only over-the-top and inflammatory but sophomoric.

It’s truly sad that if the Pentagon tries to get out it’s point of view, we’re supposed to call that “psyops” and “propoganda.” I suppose that we also need to call those who disagree with the Pentagon of engaging in “treason” and participating in an “insurgency.” But why not? That’s the level you guys are dragging the issue down to—pure partisan bile.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at April 20, 2008 1:21 PM
Comment #251051

The Pentagon does have every right to disseminate its view. It’s the calculated misdirection that’s the problem. It’s the conflict of interest regarding these people doing business in the war while they stumped for the war that’s the problem.

The Pentagon might as well have been speaking. They handed this material to people. told them to make sure it sounded like they were the ones originating this material, and effectively managed them to make sure that they kept on message. In return, these people, lobbyists and contractors for the most part, got access to the people in charge.

The lack of full disclosure and the degree of organization by themselves would be bad, but the conflict of interest makes things worse.

These people were presented as something they were not, something that if people knew would have changed the nature of the message people got. Instead of “independent military experts” supporting Bush’s policies and the Pentagon’s line, it becomes “people speaking on behalf of the Pentagon” supporting that stuff. The ommission was deliberate, its effect on the message known by those making it.

This all came from an examination of actual communications by the Pentagon. You’re simply trying to poison the well here by declaring everything a fraud, by rationalizing it as well within their rights, by claiming that we are lowering the discourse.

This is the language the Republicans have used for the past generation to avoid accountability. You should hardly embrace it. It has let problems of all kinds fester for the Republicans, and fostered a sense of entitlement to good press coverage, which is part of what they were artificially and deceptively trying to generate here. People have a right to express themselves, but no one has the right to unearned respect and deference

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 20, 2008 3:01 PM
Comment #251052

Stephen, your entire argument rests on an enormous fallacy: this notion that pundits who appear on television are presented as (and assumed to be) objective, uninvolved, neutral arbiters of truth.

If that’s what you assume when you see the word “expert” or “analyst” under somebody’s name, whether they’re talking about war or anything else, then you very likely will be deceived about a great many things. But that’s just being naive. If you think that news interviews operate under the same standards as sworn testimony in a court of law, then that’s yet another level of naivete.

For some private person to have a personal stake or ideological interest in whatever topic they’re interviewed about on television is the norm—not the exception. As a viewer, you’re expected to regard what they say critically. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anybody put their hand on a bible and swear an oath before giving their OPINION about something in a news interview, or guarantee to us that they have no conflict of interest whatsoever. An interviewer is always free to ask about such conflicts of interest, but it’s still the substance of what’s being said that matters, and no one is forced to agree or even listen.

The Pentagon is perfectly free to try to sway public opinion and disseminate their own views and interpretations of facts. If someone decides to participate in this effort while not believing in what’s coming out of their own mouths, then that speaks to their personal character. But it doesn’t mean that the Pentagaon itself doesn’t believe in the veracity of what they’re saying, and it certainly doesn’t mean that information is “disinformation” just because it originates with the Pentagon. The number of unsupported assumptions that are necessary to buy into in order to believe that this is all some insidious plot is astounding.

For an excellent and complete demolition of the flimsy reasoning and lack of journalistic integrity beyond this NY Times story, I suggest you read this article.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at April 20, 2008 4:30 PM
Comment #251055

Read what I’ve actually written before you accuse me of saying that these experts are objective or whatever else.

The problem is not that they fail to be objective. They’re meant to have a point of view. The problem is not that they echo a party line. Many people do. The problem is not that the Pentagon is getting its talking points out. I’d be surprised if they weren’t doing it.

Trouble is, these people were sold as independent sources, not Pentagon spokesmen. Their purpose was to distance the talking points from their origin, to provide them the imprimatur of the independent expertise, so that people wouldn’t think so critically about them.

This was deliberate, people organized this project in order to achieve these ends. People like me, who were centrists and hawks, were some of the targets. But so were people like you, especially later on.

Which brings me to another point: they fed you this B.S. They fed you this so you could go out and confront people like me and try and knock our points down. But as is noted in the article, the truth of a matter did not really enter into whether these people were going to be sent out to say these things.

They would see personal evidence of how poorly the war was going, but they’d keep their mouths shut when they got before the cameras or wrote their op-eds. They were lying to us all, but to people like you in particular.

And why not? For their ethical flexibility, they got contracts and lobbying jobs, and they earned money off the initiation and continuation of the war, which they then continued to support, giving you folks your ammunition to keep on believing the things you did.

Of course you’re saying you can’t trust them now. Otherwise you’d have to more deeply rationalize their connection to the Pentagon. Of course you’re saying the Pentagon can say whatever it wants to, because if you thought about it critically, you’d know you were their prime mark for this con. They’ve been taking advantage of you.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 20, 2008 6:20 PM
Comment #251056

I have to disagree with Stephen and the Loyal Opposition. The problem with the “analysts” is “hybridity.” They are used to bolster official rhetoric with a supposed independent, ex-military, non-Bush perspective. If they turn out to be an unofficial tentacle of an official propaganda monster, then what you have is the insidious creation of an echo chamber where the White House/Pentagon sells something, the outsiders promote it with ostensible independence, and then the WH cites the outsiders as proof of the quality of their ideas. In reality, though, it is just ventriloquism. The puppet IS the puppetmaster.

It is OK, if disreputable, for the officials to spin. It is OK, if disreputable, for outsiders to shill for the WH. What is cause for concern is when the official/outsider distinction breaks down and open discourse becomes tainted by what ends up being an official domestic propaganda campaign.

And don’t act like it doesn’t matter —- the government has far more money and resources to facilitate junk free speech than you or I. And it seems to pop up at every news event lately that someone under the guise of private newsmaking is actually public funded and guided.

The fourth estate needs to be literally independent of the first three if you are to have an honest checks and balances system.

While people should be critical, that does not excuse unethical behavior. The people’s inability to uncover — or apathy towards — an abuse makes it no less abusive. You’re basically excusing misbehavior based on voter laziness. Shame on you.

Posted by: The Imperative Voice at April 20, 2008 6:38 PM
Comment #251059

Doesn’t the truth just bite you in the Butt!

Posted by: -DAVID- at April 20, 2008 7:31 PM
Comment #251062
Trouble is, these people were sold as independent sources, not Pentagon spokesmen.

Amazing. Sold how? I wasn’t aware that the Pentagon picks out the retired military officers who the cable news channels choose to put on the air to deliver opinions about the war. Any proof of this? Because there’s sure none in that article. And it’s astounding that if the Pentagon suggested any of these people, that the news divisions of these networks would themselves not only believe that they were independent sources but “sell” them as such. Have you ever seen a video grab with one of these guys over the label “unbiased independent-minded military analyst?” Have you ever even HEARD one of these analysts claim to be an unbiased, independent source with no personal interest in the subject? Did anybody even ask them if they were—and if not, why not? In an interview, whose responsibility is it to ask questions? If none of this applies, who is “selling” anything here? If you can’t think critically about what somebody is saying because they’re a former military officer, that’s just a problem with your own gullibility.

You were buying something that nobody was selling.

Their purpose was to distance the talking points from their origin, to provide them the imprimatur of the independent expertise, so that people wouldn’t think so critically about them.

Really? Supplying people with a large degree of access to inside information might, it seems, do a lot more than provide an imprimatur of independent expertise. It might actually facilitate GENUINE expertise more than any other means.

I have no doubt that you think traveling to Iraq, talking to soldiers, reading classified information about the war, and listening to the views of Pentagon officials is an illegitimate means of gathering information. And that any information thus gathered must all be lies, propaganda, and spin. Not everyone agrees, however, that Daily Kos, the New York Times,, and the cable news channels are purveyors of greater truths about Iraq and the military than the military themselves or those who have themselves been in Iraq.

But those are just secondary points. The larger one is that even if the Pentagon wants to use people to get out their own viewpoints, they have every right to do so. If a couple of these people participated in any media campaigns without believing what they were saying in order to enrich themselves or to advance their own ideological agenda, that is a problem with THEIR honesty and THEIR integrity. It doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t have known better than to believe everything you hear and assume that because a guy is talking about something on your television set that he must be unbiased, neutral, and independent.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at April 20, 2008 8:22 PM
Comment #251070

The Pentagon calls you in. They say “you know some guys we could count on?” Or maybe they’re acquainted with them already. They bring them in, tell them whatever they need to be told, butter them up, and they got their recruits.

On the flipside, when the metwork talks with these people and says, “we got some airtime to fill”, they might either be friendly with a Pentagon figure who suggests some people, or they might be already familiar with an analyst, and guess who the people the Analyst suggests are? You portray it as if everybody’s starting fresh, but that’s not how it works.

In this way, the Pentagon can define a pool of recruits from which the News Media will select much of the time. They don’t have to take over everything, just get enough butts in seats among the talking heads that their message dominates.

As for gullibility?

This difference in knowledge can be exploited, abused. That’s why we set ethical codes, regulations in place. That’s what makes this violation of such ethical safeguards so disturbing, so revolting.

I’d be the last person to defend remaining ignorant, not asking questions. But I’d be the first person to tell you that we do not live in the world of The Matrix, where somebody can download something into your head, and you can wake up saying “I know Kung Fu.” Learning takes time, and incomplete learning can often be worse than no learning at all.

That ignorance can be used against people. As a student of the media, I know the following: that as long as two pieces of film are composed properly, or the right piece of film is put between them, the order or location, or even real existence of the subject of the shot is irrelevant. It’ll look like it belongs in the same scene. My professor up at Baylor put it thusly: everybody works on partial information.

Another: The camera always lies. That shot with John Kerry sitting behind Jane Fonda is an example. The long focal lens compresses the distance back to front, the angle of the shot in relation to the crowd makes a man several rows away seem right next to her.

But does that excuse deception in documentaries? No. The camera is a communication tool. It creates vivid illusions that are very useful for sending vivid messages. A lie in film is just as much a violation of trust as a lie in print, if not more so for its strength.

These guys were rewriting the story, and doing that by using these military analysts to give an outsider’s crediblity to what was an insider’s propaganda. We will never know what honest communications on the part of the Pentagon would have given us, but the war would have been deprived of some of its more artificial support, and the need to keep those lies going.

The fact is, the Bush administration and the Pentagon did not trust the American people to come to their desired conclusion if they did not use these means. Instead, they created a bubble of propaganda, one they strictly enforced; if you dissented or departed from message, you would be talked to, if not tossed out altogether like Mr. Cowan.

It was a weak point in the strategy, especially as our government became so reliant upon it. The tragedy of the lie that got us into this war is that feeding that lie more propaganda to keep it alive became a distraction from fighting the war the way it needed to be fought to win.

When message affects action, dishonesty and distortion in the message, whether intended or unintended, can have adverse affects on the strategies and plans of action.

This is not about the bias. This is about the disasters that befall a country when propaganda feeds back into the system to become a basis for actions taken. You cannot base policy on a lie, and expect the policies to turn out well. The truth must give life to both action and message, as much as possible.

Posted by: The Imperative Voice at April 20, 2008 10:15 PM
Comment #251076

I think the issue this all comes down to is foreign policy elitism. If you read the article, the motivating factor for this operation seems to be the belief that failure of the Vietnam War’s support on the homefront was the cause of failure of the fight in Vietnam.

Because of that, some came up with the notion that you had to control the media to keep things going nice and smooth. Americans had to be informed in only just the way they were meant to be informed.

The Iraq war took that even further, the propaganda becoming an integral part of the lead up to the war. Even the Gulf War had a legitimate causative factor beyond what was talked about.

More than anything else, the Iraq war was a war we were talked into. There was no aggression against us or an ally that precipitated this, no invasion of another’s sovereign territory. We were told there was a threat, convinced that some evidence showed us there was a threat, and then browbeat from all sides about the war’s importance and purpose.

How we were talked into this war, and talked into continuing a bad strategy is important to how we deal with our future in and out of Iraq.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 20, 2008 11:33 PM
Comment #251099

Stephen Daugherty

Being talked into a War an being Lied into a war
are not quiet the same. Their must be perpetual
lies and evasion of true facts in order to prevail in
convincing others of the legitimacy of this illegal
The time has come to clean up our mess in Iraq an
get out, or believe the perpetuating “lies” that
others here an around this Country, would have us
believe! We will then be committed to this War for
many years, if we are to believe what the Liars
have to say, an the weak minded folks will have
won. I hope everyone Votes with their strengths an
not with their weaknesses this year.

Posted by: -DAVID- at April 21, 2008 1:57 PM
Comment #251103


I hope you don’t think the ‘lies’ are just coming from one side now, are you?

Posted by: Rhinehold at April 21, 2008 3:30 PM
Comment #251104

I hope you’re not defining lies in that broad sense of things that conservatives don’t agree. That might get inconvenient when people ask for facts to back that point up.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2008 3:52 PM
Comment #251105

I guess whether someone was “sold” something might be revaled in falsehoods believed after a bit of time reveals truth.

Often people who are conned don’t realize it until after they lose something. Some don’t even realize it then.

Posted by: googlumpugus at April 21, 2008 4:09 PM
Comment #251108

I also find it very funny that people claim that the American people were ‘sold’ on the war, suggesting that they weren’t for it to begin with…

Poll numbers show that in the spring of 2000 the majority of Americans thought that the US should invade Iraq, the number getting much higher after 9/11…

Is it selling something to someone when they come to you with money in hand and say ‘I want that one’?

Posted by: Rhinehold at April 21, 2008 4:44 PM
Comment #251110

“This same pattern of incestuous amplification, of putting out the same message” is the policy of the commissars of this administration. So-called “conservative” “think tanks” have been up to this for decades now. First come up with the conclusion and then you come up with the evidence and facts to suppport it. That this has penetrated into the military establishment is not surprising, any more than people being purged for having opinions in opposition to the politburo’s official position.

Posted by: ohrealy at April 21, 2008 5:08 PM
Comment #251112


Some people were just a bit slow on, Picking up
on the fact that they had been lied too.

Posted by: _DAVID_ at April 21, 2008 5:50 PM
Comment #251116

DAVID, how are you doing with your Tagalog??
Hope I have the right David…lol

Posted by: janedoe at April 21, 2008 6:34 PM
Comment #251124

To understand the sales job (and it was one, they treated as a marketing exercise), you must understand that those numbers only applied when you went through the UN. Without UN support, most Americans did not agree with going to war.

That is the essential argument. If it weren’t, why did the Bush administration go through all those motions? Trust me, they wouldn’t have bothered otherwise.

The trick is that they went about it in a very deceptive way, both behind the scenes of the news, and in front of the news cameras. They didn’t trust Americans to go for this unilateral approach without some serious appearance of unanimity in the community of experts. So that appearance was what the Bush administration generated, creating a false impression of wide agreement with their conclusions among the relevant professions.

That’s part of what turned me against the Bush Policy, and even as I fought it, it turns out that they were pulling the same trick to maintain support for their policies, policies many would argue, including myself, made it impossible to win this war, to prevent the debacle this became.

This is the fight they chose to fight: to support the optics on the war even to the exception of its real needs. That’s the real tragedy of the Bush administration: so busy trying to convince people everything was going fine they forgot to deal with the realities on the ground, here and abroad. You can’t run a country on Reagan-Style Photo-ops and spin alone.

My principle is this: the less spin you have to do to look good, the better. The best way to get people confident about the economy is to fix the economy. The best way to win a war is to meet strategical goals instead of moving the goalposts and spinning to redefine victory.

The Bush Administration has never been about that, though. It’s been based on a kind of elitism, which supposes that folks out in America are just too weak, co-opted by the left, or just contrary to be trusted with the truth about what’s going on.

Why did the Bush administration feel it so necessary to deceive people? Are people truly that far in their camp, if the Republicans have to pull all these tricks to gain consent for policy? Is their support even that good if they feel they have to deceive their own to sell the policy?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2008 7:41 PM
Comment #251133

I was encouraged to talk to the media about my Iraq experience while I was on R&R. They told me simply to tell the truth from my perspective. They never asked me what that perspective was. They asked me not to talk about things where I did not have personal experience. They gave me no special talking points and did not set up any restrictions other than the sensible one above - that I stick to things I had real knowledge about.

In the now rare cases when jounalists show up in western Anbar, I tell my staff exactly the same things. They can say anything that they think is true, with the caveat that they should actually speak from their own experience.

People speaking from personal experience in Iraq usually have a perspective that is different from those who stayed at home. It is a valuable addition to the debate in the U.S.

Not everybody reacts in the same way to the same experiences. I understand that some members of my team see things differently. That is why you need to hear lots of voices. It is not a propaganda campaign when you try to explore the truth. And it is churlish and childish to jump at each difference of opinion as some kind of flaw or any setback as a Tet offensive. Look at all the developments and do not block the path of inquiry.

Although I have been available for media interviews since I have been home, the only journalist who was interested (so far) in real experience was from my old university and he was interested mostly because of where I had graduated. Many others evidently have made up their minds and prefer not to get new data that might upset it. That is okay with me. I have other things to do with my leave time, but it does say something re journalists inquiring minds. The greater point is that there are lots of voices of experience out there but not many in the media asking for it.

I think it is a good thing if someone explains the nuances and the current situation in Iraq. The one journalist I talked to was surprised when I told him how often we got out and talked to Iraqis. He didn’t know that we were sent last year as part of the diplmatic surge. He was unaware that one of our goals was to help the Iraqis with budget execution (i.e. spend their own money on projects and not ours). In general, like most people, he had a picture of Iraq that was from 2006.

In a democracy, people make decisions that matter. They need to hear the truth and they need to understand that the conditions change. FDR used to carefully explain the issues of the war. Lincoln famously said that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. We have a duty to bring all the perspectives to bear, not just the PC ones spread by those who made up their minds based on 2006 data.

Posted by: Jack at April 21, 2008 10:08 PM
Comment #251134


Sorry janedoe, i am not same one. I have however
been involved in many discussions here on Watch Blog. I was just MIA for almost a year. I went on
a much longer photo shoot then planned an I am
very glad to be back from the rigours of some
bad weather.

Posted by: _DAVID_ at April 21, 2008 10:11 PM
Comment #251135


Sorry janedoe, i am not same one. I have however
been involved in many discussions here on Watch Blog. I was just MIA for almost a year. I went on
a much longer photo shoot then planned an I am
very glad to be back from the rigours of some
bad weather.

Posted by: _DAVID_ at April 21, 2008 10:17 PM
Comment #251136

Very sorry for the double post’

Posted by: _DAVID_ at April 21, 2008 10:20 PM
Comment #251142
Without UN support, most Americans did not agree with going to war.

Sorry, that is not what the polls taken in 2000 and 2001 showed. Or 1998. etc.

You somehow ignore that the majority of people did not and still do not think the UN is capable of solving these issues at all.

The people do not care about UN approval, ask Clinton who bombed all kinds of people without UN approval without the people revolting…

Posted by: Rhinehold at April 21, 2008 11:17 PM
Comment #251144

Stephen, thanks for posting this article here. People need to know about this, but I doubt they’ll hear of it through the same television media sources that furthered the cause for the Iraq War and all the lying that has gone on.

I read this article on Saturday, and have been blogging about it elsewhere. It completely turned my stomach to read this expose as I’m sure it did many of you. Not that I didn’t already know that these “retired experts” were lying (during the course of Bush’s tenure I’ve understood that to get the truth I must rely almost exclusively on news coming out of the UK, and from some of our own independent journalists and bloggers) but the extent to which they went to orchestrate this disinformation campaign is very big news indeed.

It seems a real shame that most of America isn’t likely to learn about this story, because the majority of Americans still watch their news, rather than read their news. Might be a good idea to keep spreading this story by word of mouth, until practically everybody has heard about it.

Posted by: Veritas Vincit at April 21, 2008 11:48 PM
Comment #251149

My theory is that Bush is like Lindsey Lohan and Britney. They get surrounded by hangers on and get notoriously bad and selfish advice.

I personnally think Babs and HW should have done an intervention long ago.

Posted by: googlumpugus at April 22, 2008 12:44 AM
Comment #251155

In September of 2003, Americans trusted the UN to take the lead on forming Iraq’s new government by margins of more than 64%, according to a Newsweek Poll.

Even on the eve of the invasion, according to a CBS Poll just before the war, Americans were split as to whether to give the UN more time to inspect. The strongest opposition to that was from the Republicans. Even a few weeks before, continued inspections had more than 60% approval

Even a month before the war, a slim majority was unwilling to countenance a war without strong international/UN support, according to a Zogby Poll at the time. Go back to September 2002 and it’s 52-40. January 2003, and it’s 59/37 Against going to war without UN or international help.

With full UN support, Newsweeks polls on that page give over 80% approval for an invasion before the war. With America going in alone, the invasion loses consistently in the months of 2003 leading up to the war.

Go back further, and even as Americans become frustrated in February 2003 about the UN, they still, by a significant majority, want the UN on their side.

As we make this regression back into February 2003, we should note something important here: this is where Colin Powell’s presentation comes in, a critical point for many Americans in their support for going to war.

A Los Angeles Time poll taken before this presentation registers 65% agreement with a statement saying that America should only go to war with UN agreement. Majorities of around 60% wanted Bush to prove his case better before we went to war in an ABC/Washington Post poll taken at about the same time.

Go back further to September of 2002, and you find a 52/37 percent mandate for following the lead of the UN, rather than going our own way.

People cared a great deal about UN and international approval, and were not prepared to go to war without at least some allies. As much as they would want to go to war, when the catch came up of UN involvement, it would flip approval the other way.

This was what had to be dealt with, for Bush and his people to get the war they wanted. Therefore, the Coalition of the Willing, a fig-leaf to cover our nakedness on leaving the UN behind. Therefore, going through the motions of going to the UN and making the critical presentation of evidence before them. Therefore, the yellowcake, and other aspects of the case for war.

Clinton did bypass the UN on certain occasions, but turned to NATO for help there, and always brought the UN back to manage things afterwards. So the comparison is not apt. Bush’s manuevers are in an entirely different class altogether.

The dynamics of going to war in Iraq were complicated, with a number of deal-breakers. Also in looking at the results, some things should be brought to mind.

First, the Bush Administration’s erroneous, and from the beginning questionable connections of Iraq to al-Qaeda. Second, the very deliberate drumbeat began on the war. Third, the subject this thread is discussing right now, in that critical build-up to the war.

If people had known that the Bush administration really didn’t have any evidence to back up its claims, would they have supported going to Iraq? If they had known he was never planning to seriously give the UN a role, there might have been trouble.

And if they had learned that the Pentagon was coordinating military analysts who had a financial interest in starting a war? This deception was catastrophic in its consequences. The campaign as a whole has had a terrible cost for American foreign policy, for America’s military, for its prestige.

This is not about the political correctness of the coverage, It’s about the multiple roles these analysts took: They were Pentagon talking points distributors, tightly coordinated from the top. They were media analysts, supposedly outsiders detached from the BS of the official line, therefore free to give less institutionally slanted information, but still know what they were talking about. And they were businessmen and women, who used their connections to gain business.

All these roles would be in conflict with the others, properly defined, professionally carried out. That is the scandal here: the government deceptively blurred the lines between these analysts and the administration. They turned what were supposed to be independent voices in our discourse into sockpuppets

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 22, 2008 1:01 AM
Comment #251158


My experience as an actual government employee is that this kind of strict discipline does not exist. As I said, I am encouraged to share my Iraq experience, as long as I stick to MY experience. Nobody has told me what to say and there is no censorship beyond common sense and OPSEC. I encourage my team members to talk about their experiences. I do not censor or control them.

We often say some of the same things because we have similar experiences. I think all of us think that the situation in Iraq has improved because we have all seen the same improvements. I think you also might have that same convergence of opinion in other situations.

The Federal government usually is not well enough organized to manipulate that many outside actors. I wish that it would take a more active role in countering the misinformation that comes out of Iraq, BTW, but it doesn’t.

And nobody is detached. Everybody has a point of view, a bias. We all see the world through our own mental model. That does not imply dishonesty. We all naturally think that the ideas we hold are right. Otherwise we would hold different ones. You do not agree with the point of view these guys expressed, but it does not mean they were dishonest.

You also have an additional permutation. Experts of military matters often have a particular expertise that allows them to understand their subject. This same expertise tends to influence their world views. This is a bias, but it is not dishonest. Just as a surgeon tends to think problems are solved by surgery. He is an expert and he is often right, but not always.

Your point of view, as expressed often on these pages, is a peace activist perspective. Sometimes this is valid; othertimes not. You recall the passage, “for everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Just as you have trouble stepping out of your perspective, these guys have trouble stepping out of theirs. It is not dishonesty and it does not make you a sockpuppet.

Posted by: Jack at April 22, 2008 1:21 AM
Comment #251164

If you read the article, you would know they cut off a guy pretty quick for departing from the script, and monitored these people pretty intensely to find out what they were saying. Your actions, while admirable, have little to do with the actions of the Pentagon.

Convergences of opinion do occur naturally. This was what this was supposed to look like. However, the evidence here (they have internal e-mails from the Pentagon) was that these analysts were getting piped a common set of talking points. As for manipulation? What the leadership puts its mind to, it can do, and manipulating the public to get into Iraq was something it put its mind to. Unfortunately, it never put its mind well enough to how to get out with victory in hand.

Everybody has a point of view, but this story is not based on an analysis of points of view, but instead on internal Pentagon communication. It is also based on what they are on record as saying now, and before. The divergence of their opinions from fact is factually demonstrable.

There was no coincidence of views here. These people were handed their views and expected to give them out as handed.

Given the level of organization and control dedicated to making sure they got out this message and no other, given the reality underlying what was claimed, and what actually at work, there’s no other appropriate label: They were sockpuppets. They weren’t spontaneously all saying the same thing.

Now, they might have said similar things, if left to their own devices. Then the only scandal would be that some of these people were in fact contractors on the war. But aside from that, here’s what might have happened: talking to their sources, they might have been given a notion of what was going on, and with less control over their movements, they might have stumbled on the truth about the problems, and this would have come out to the media faster. Also, there wouldn’t be so much domination of what these guys were feeding us by the talking points. Again, there would have been more random filtering of the bad news down.

All organizations nowadays move with a degree of self-protection. Reporters wanting to get through that self-interested talking points to the truth often bypass the PR folks and try to get at inside sources. This thing moved in exactly the opposite direction that it needed to in order to have the truth come out. The Pentagon took people who were presented out there as being outside the Pentagon Organization, and effectively made them spokesmen for it, and did nothing to disclose the compromising of their status as outsiders.

That is the scandal. We’re not complaining about their bias, we’re complaining about the deception aimed at undermining people’s critical thought on the war, on the administration’s movements. They went beyond trying to be persuasive, they rigged the media game in a con game that lead to America venturing in unprepared and ill-informed into what’s turned out to be a terrible mistake.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 22, 2008 7:50 AM
Comment #251169


We have come to the same place we often end up. You read in the article where it says that something is happening. I SEE and live the situation and do not experience anything like it.

It is like the old Groucho Marx joke. You are saying, “What are you gonna believe, me or you own eyes?”

Every organization produces its form of “talking points”. These are the messages that they think are true and/or they want others to understand and believe. This is not the same as major manipulation. People w/o experience in these things too often jump to conclusions.

Things look a lot more nefarious to the non-participants. I have been near history making things on several occassions. After the fact, people think up stories and explanations that sound a lot more plausible than what really happened, usually a lot more interesting too. My experience is that there is very often NOT a master plan, at least not one that is working. And it is nearly impossible for government, or any large organization, to carry out a successful manipluation plan in relative secret. Our society is too open. Propaganda works a little in a controlled environment, and even there it doesn’t work long.

That does not mean we always find the truth, but it does mean that we have to keep on seeking it.

Posted by: Jack at April 22, 2008 8:49 AM
Comment #251184

Why do Republicans assume I’m stupid? I’m fully cognizant of the fact that talking points exist, and that organizations put out PR with those talking points. I understand that. I also understand that these things are typically slanted.

So lets be clear on something: I’m not unfamiliar with this stuff, nor the cynicism that accompanies it. I’m not the naive liberal with multiple sparkly highlights in his eyes and a vacant smile, asking pathetically “why doesn’t everybody here share love and puppies?”

I believe everybody works on partial information, that experience is inherently subjective and that objectivity is something we work towards in an effort to clear out as much of the BS as possible, and try to establish what the non-subjective reality of things is.

All too often, big organizations try and shift people away from inconvenient truths about that reality. People, not being stupid, tend to catch on to these disparities. As such we often ignore or maintain skepticism about the talking points, because there’s a legitimate argument to be had that the known messengers of these organizations are typically on message and rarely let slip meaningful information that doesn’t suit their purposes.

Secrecy and misdirection has been a known quality of the administration. Preceding presidencies have eroded American’s trust of the official line. To get around that distrust, the Administration has resorted to using these Military analysts as cutouts. they used people’s trust of outsider experts, deserved or undeserved, in order to amplify these talking points, to make it appear that something was happening that wasn’t: a shift towards the Bush administration’s line in the public among those who knew the subject.

This wasn’t merely the distribution of Talking points, of which some might be lies, some might be truth, and all may simply be selective; it was a con game, a defrauding of the American people concerning the consensus of both the need for war, and the need to go the administrations way on it. It doesn’t get much better that the people doing this materially benefited from the war they were organized to push.

You talk as if your experience in Iraq outweighs this, but I think your experience is irrelevant to this case.

First, there is documentary evidence of the organization and the regulation of this operation; it’s not simply a difference of opinion about the same facts.

Second, this was a Pentagon operation, and as I understand it, at the time this operation was ramping up, y’all weren’t exactly cooperating. It also puts into question whether you were actually around to witness this.

With a system this large, we can get a Blind Men Around An Elephant effect. If you read the Tom Clancy/ Anthony Zinni book Battle Ready, he describes how soldiers in Vietnam all had different ideas of how the war was going according to where they were stationed. Some would think that the war was going better than others. For some it would be more of a horror show, for others it would be relatively untraumatic. Taking one soldier or one diplomat’s view of things for granted is dangerous, because all experience is limited, and local to the person in question.

I don’t think you’re being dishonest with us. I don’t think you saw any of this go on. That doesn’t mean these things never happened. I don’t think the State Department, which you work for, was much involved with this. That doesn’t mean that the Defense Department didn’t organize or execute this strategy upon the American people.

This is documented. This wasn’t some insinuation about McCain’s love life, or some quoted gossip about what he said to his wife in front of a bunch of reporters. The New York Times sued and got access to a bunch of e-mails surrounding this program, and went out and checked out who these people worked for, what companies many of them lead. Your question should not be whether this happened, it should be how this happened, and how such abuses of trust can be ended.

You should understand by now that these tactics do not lend credibility to your kind of people. It only goes further to convince people that anything goes in their quest to fulfill their agenda, and that scares people into putting your people further and further away from power. This cannot remain the modus operandi of a party that wants to stay in power.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 22, 2008 12:10 PM
Comment #251240
and always brought the UN back to manage things afterwards

THIS was Bush’s biggest blunder, IMO. Had he invaded and then handed control over to the UN, he would have a >50% approval rating and still have control over the senate, possibly the house. Especially if they had gotten their act together on spending, his 2nd biggest blunder.

Seriously, consider it, had those two things have happened, and Rumsfeld been told to take a hike when he pushed for the UN to be kept out of Iraq and the spending had been under control by 2004…

Posted by: Rhinehold at April 23, 2008 1:24 AM
Comment #251260

Doesn’t work like that. His support on going to war without going through the UN was incredibly soft, just a little over a third. With the UN, he had 80%+ approval ratings for the war. It’s not difficult math.

But even then, he would have still suffered the political damage for the mistakes that came afterwards, mistakes that they were prepared to make from the beginning.

It would have compounded things even worse with the surrounding Arab Countries. The UN, even with the way Bush just went through the motions, gave cover to his allies.

From my perspective, these mistakes form part of an organic whole of error. The secrecy and manipulation were all meant to guard their ability to do things their way, to get public approval on their side for things that, had they been better informed, they might have balked at.

It was part of this attitude that the Bush folks had, especially Rumsfeld, that they knew better than everybody what to do, and that they were within their rights to lie and cheat their way to getting what kind of policy they wanted.

As for spending? The problem with modern politics is that people are expected to take certain positions on dogmatic grounds, rather than taking stock and making a thought out judgment on the matter. Bush raised spending without raising taxes or cutting spending elsewhere. I think it says something they they knew they were doing these things. They just considered what they told people about spending to be campaign rhetoric they didn’t have to follow through on.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 23, 2008 11:45 AM
Comment #251361

The News Hour is doing a piece on the NY Times story tonight, with John Stauber discussing the business ties to defense contractors of the beltway bandits, delivering Rumsfelds talking points to the media.
This is John Stauber’s blog:

Posted by: ohrealy at April 24, 2008 7:44 PM
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