Symbiotic Relationship of Bush Administration and Mainstream Media has No Boundary

by jhwygirl

A New York Times article released yesterday but dated today – much of which was the result of having to sue the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of email messages, transcripts and records – goes into gory, disgusting detail of the relationship between the Pentagon, the Bush Administration and most (yep, most) military analysts on mainstream media outlets like Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and NBC.

Some of these analysts were on the mission to Cuba on June 24, 2005 — the first of six such Guantánamo trips — which was designed to mobilize analysts against the growing perception of Guantánamo as an international symbol of inhumane treatment. On the flight to Cuba, for much of the day at Guantánamo and on the flight home that night, Pentagon officials briefed the 10 or so analysts on their key messages — how much had been spent improving the facility, the abuse endured by guards, the extensive rights afforded detainees.The results came quickly. The analysts went on TV and radio, decrying Amnesty International, criticizing calls to close the facility and asserting that all detainees were treated humanely.

“The impressions that you’re getting from the media and from the various pronouncements being made by people who have not been here in my opinion are totally false,” Donald W. Shepperd, a retired Air Force general, reported live on CNN by phone from Guantánamo that same afternoon.

The next morning, Montgomery Meigs, a retired Army general and NBC analyst, appeared on “Today.” “There’s been over $100 million of new construction,” he reported. “The place is very professionally run.”

Within days, transcripts of the analysts’ appearances were circulated to senior White House and Pentagon officials, cited as evidence of progress in the battle for hearts and minds at home.

Are you kidding me?!

Assistant secretary of defense for public affairs Torie Clark, a former public relations executive, cooked up the plan. Before 9/11, she had begun to build a system within the Pentagon to recruit key movers and shakers that could be counted on to generate support for Secretary of State Don Rumsfield’s priorities. She found them in military analysts who she saw as not only getting more airtime than network reporters, but were also viewed by the public as independent of the media – which we all know can be biased, right?

What the public got, instead, was a neoconservative brain trust which spoonfed Pentagon and Bush administration talking points to the public while raking in increasingly larger salaries from military contractors that supplemented their retirement incomes.

Neocons such as retired Army general Paul E. Vallely, a Fox News military analyst from 2001 to 2007. Vallely had specialized in psychological warfare and co-authored a paper in 1980 that blamed American’s loss in Vietnam on American news organizations failure to defend the nations from “enemy propaganda” during the war – a belief shared by many on Bush’s national security team.

Then there were defense profiteers such as retired Army general James Marks, a military analyst for CNN from 2004 to 2007, who worked as a senior executive for McNeil Technologies which pursued both military and intelligence contracts. Marks was also national security adviser for former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

There was also retired Army colonel John C. Garret, a military analyst for Fox News TV and radio & a lobbyist at Patton Boggs, which assists firms wishing to win Pentagon contracts. Or retired Air Force general Joseph W. Ralston, CBS military analyst and vice-chair of the Cohen Group, a consulting firm headed up by former defense secretary William Cohen, which represents agencies and firms wishing for entry into the aerospace and defense market.

The Times admits to having had at least nine of the Pentagon’s recruited minions writing op-ed articles for them.

Vallely is apparently having some crisis of conscience. In an interview with the Times, commenting on a September 2003 tour of Iraq with fellow military analysts, Vallely expresses remorse: “I saw immediately in 2003 that things were going south.”

Vallely had told Alan Colmes of Fox News, upon his return from that very same propaganda-filled tour, “You can’t believe the progress”

Fox news military analyst and retired Army lieutenant colonel Timur J. Eads had a crisis-of-conscience too – he told the times that he, too, had at times held his tongue on television for fear that “some four-star would call up and say, ‘Kill that contract.’ Eads believe Pentagon officials misled the analysts aboutthe progress of Iraq’s security forces. “I know a snow job when I see one,” he said.

Eads never mentioned that on Fox News.

You don’t say!

The Times story goes on to shine the light, in full disgusting brightness, on the self-serving criminal arrogance of the Bush Administration and Don Rumsfield and the Pentagon. In April 2006 the Bush Administration faced what is now known as the General’s Revolt – open criticism by Rumsfields’ former generals that his wartime performance was crap. His resignation was being called for and his days were beginning their downward spiral.

The day after that NY Times article, the Pentagon helped Fox analysts General McInerney and General Vallely write an opinion article for The Wall Street Journal defending Rumsfield. News of that meeting leaked, and was printed on the front page of the Times. By Tuesday, the Pentagon was in full defense mode, and had a larger group of analysts in its offices willing to propogate the spin necessary to help defend Rumsfield from his own Iraqi war generals:

“I’m an old intel guy,” said one analyst. (The transcript omits speakers’ names.) “And I can sum all of this up, unfortunately, with one word. That is Psyops. Now most people may hear that and they think, ‘Oh my God, they’re trying to brainwash.’ ”

“What are you, some kind of a nut?” Mr. Rumsfeld cut in, drawing laughter. “You don’t believe in the Constitution?”

There was little discussion about the actual criticism pouring forth from Mr. Rumsfeld’s former generals. Analysts argued that opposition to the war was rooted in perceptions fed by the news media, not reality. The administration’s overall war strategy, they counseled, was “brilliant” and “very successful.”

“Frankly,” one participant said, “from a military point of view, the penalty, 2,400 brave Americans whom we lost, 3,000 in an hour and 15 minutes, is relative.”

An analyst said at another point: “This is a wider war. And whether we have democracy in Iraq or not, it doesn’t mean a tinker’s damn if we end up with the result we want, which is a regime over there that’s not a threat to us.”

“Yeah,” Mr. Rumsfeld said, taking notes.

But winning or not, they bluntly warned, the administration was in grave political danger so long as most Americans viewed Iraq as a lost cause. “America hates a loser,” one analyst said.

Much of the session was devoted to ways that Mr. Rumsfeld could reverse the “political tide.” One analyst urged Mr. Rumsfeld to “just crush these people,” and assured him that “most of the gentlemen at the table” would enthusiastically support him if he did.

“You are the leader,” the analyst told Mr. Rumsfeld. “You are our guy.”

At another point, an analyst made a suggestion: “In one of your speeches you ought to say, ‘Everybody stop for a minute and imagine an Iraq ruled by Zarqawi.’ And then you just go down the list and say, ‘All right, we’ve got oil, money, sovereignty, access to the geographic center of gravity of the Middle East, blah, blah, blah.’ If you can just paint a mental picture for Joe America to say, ‘Oh my God, I can’t imagine a world like that.’ ”

Even as they assured Mr. Rumsfeld that they stood ready to help in this public relations offensive, the analysts sought guidance on what they should cite as the next “milestone” that would, as one analyst put it, “keep the American people focused on the idea that we’re moving forward to a positive end.” They placed particular emphasis on the growing confrontation with Iran.

“When you said ‘long war,’ you changed the psyche of the American people to expect this to be a generational event,” an analyst said. “And again, I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job…”

“Get in line,” Mr. Rumsfeld interjected.

The meeting ended and Mr. Rumsfeld, appearing pleased and relaxed, took the entire group into a small study and showed off treasured keepsakes from his life, several analysts recalled.

Read it if you dare. I’ll just leave you with the image above: Rumsfield, appearing pleased and relaxed, showing off his little trinkets.

  1. JC

    Thanks for the great writeup, jhwygirl! Nothing like some light reading on a wintery spring day. The NY Times article got me thinking about the Frontline documentary, Bush’s War, that I watched a few weeks ago.

    In the documentary, there is a part that talks about the run-up before the war, where the administration was trying to make its case about Iraq pursuing the materials to build nuclear weapons. The tactics here were similar to the ones reported by the Times, except that the efforts were coming out of the White House.

    Basically, the State Department and Dick Cheney’s office was releasing propaganda to the press, then when the stories hit the stands, they’d do interviews on TV, and reference the stories as independent sources, or confirmations. They called it the “echo effect.” Here’s a snippet of the transcript of part 1 of the film:

    NEWSCASTER: From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press.

    NEWSCASTER: Today on Face the Nation, Condoleezza Rice on Iraq and Iran and-

    NEWSCASTER: From Washington, This Week with ABC News chief-

    NARRATOR: The administration would also use the media to promote its case. September 8, 2002, was the kickoff. It began with a New York Times story.

    [“Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium.”]

    NARRATOR: The source of the story had been the administration itself.

    TOM ROSENSTIEL, Dir., Project for Excellence in Journalism: We now know that you had people on the vice president’s staff talking to key reporters doing these stories for The Times.

    NARRATOR: The same day the story broke in the newspaper, the vice president and others referenced it on television.

    CONDOLEEZA RICE, National Security Adviser: [CNN “Late Edition,” September 8, 2002] Iraq- for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only-

    TOM ROSENSTIEL: Those stories would appear, and then they would reference the very material that they’d given them and say, “See? This is coming from The New York Times, not just us.”

    Vice Pres. DICK CHENEY: [“Meet the Press,” September 8, 2002] -tubes. There’s a story in The New York Times this morning- this is- and I want to attribute The Times. I don’t want to talk about-

    TOM ROSENSTIEL: It had an echo effect. It had an echo effect that the administration was conscious of, and employed.

    NARRATOR: The allegation that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear program would become a part of the public debate.

    CONDOLEEZZA RICE: [CNN “Late Edition,” September 8, 2002] We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

  2. Thanks JC. I’ve yet to watch that – it is sitting in my TiVo. I first caught wind of it on talk radio – but then everyone was talking about it, the night after the first airing – conservatives and liberals alike, republicans and democrats. It obviously should not be missed.

    I better get after that one.

  3. niggling_jerk

    The Indy wrote a little something about Paul Vallely, who lives in Bigfork, and the analyst program, a few years back.

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