Military Commentators Betray Public

The U.S. government has unleashed a propaganda campaign to support the military conquest and occupation of Iraq. Unfortunately, the current effort to control public opinion represents a secret war against the American people.

If the story hasn’t yet reached your newspaper, Op Ed section or TV station, there’s a good reason; media outlets were duped or turned a blind eye on Bush propaganda, and most highly respected military commentators are implicated.

Called “sycophants” by the Pentagon, these expert, sober news voices merely mouthed Bush “talking points” on Fox News, NBC, CNN, CBS and ABC, on radio programs, or were read or quoted in news articles and op-eds. These military experts, such as Lt. Col. Tim Eads, Major Bob Bevelacqua, Lt. Col. Bill Cowan, Capt. Chuck Nash, Brig. Gen. James Marks, Generals William Nash, Wayne Downing and Joe Rayleton, and dozens of others, appeared in the media hundreds of times to gain public support of Bush’s war, without admitting they are profiting from the death of American troops.

In a blockbuster investigative article on April 20, the New York Times revealed that the Pentagon recruited over 75 retired military officers, many of them working for and profiting from more than 150 military contractors, in what a Fox News analyst called a “Mind War” to “strengthen our national will to victory.” The report is based on over 8,000 pages of email messages, transcripts and records released to the public after a successful lawsuit against the Defense Department.

Polls show that Americans trust the military three times more than the president and five times more than Congress, so it’s no wonder that the Pentagon rounded up military “experts” to orchestrate a propaganda campaign to twist the facts to meet the Bush Administration’s demands: Anyone who disagreed was banned from the group.

Operating through a special Pentagon office of public affairs with the goal of achieving “information dominance,” the Pentagon groomed the group of military commentators to sell its plans for invading Iraq, even though Iraq had no connection with 9/11. These carefully selected and vetted experts that the Times calls a “media Trojan horse,” were spoon-fed information through special briefings, orchestrated interviews, talking points, and VIP tours. Bush insiders participated, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, General Petraeus, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and national security advisors.

Operating under the condition that they not reveal their special relationship with these new propaganda committees, the military contractors fanned out to the news media to convince the American people that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons to attack the U.S. and had a stockpile of secret chemical and biological weapons. The attempt was so successful–with military commentators reproducing “talking points” often verbatim–that they were employed again when Bush pushed for $87 billion in extra-budget financing for the occupation of Iraq. Every time a critical news story came out on Iraq, the commentators were rallied to convince the American public, through the media and their supposedly unbiased views, that the opposite was true.

After distorting the facts, the Pentagon brags that it has become a master at “the management of perceptions” by using psychological warfare. The Iraqi rebellion against the occupation was attributed to Al-Queda, as was the civil war in Iraq. After revelations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, military commentators were flown to Cuba, the first of six times, and given what the Times calls “a carefully orchestrated tour.” Immediately afterwards, these experts filled the airwaves with the Pentagon’s transcript, claiming the story of prisoner abuse was false. Extrapolating from the Times report, there are no military commentators that can be trusted: they all have backdoor deals.

Such sweetheart deals are lucrative. In addition to $500 to $1,000 for each media appearance, military commentators work for over 150 military contractors and personally benefit from their promotion of Bush’s “War on Terror,” which distributes hundreds of billions of dollars to loyal war interests. These military experts are even given access to military contracting officers in the Pentagon as a reward for their faithful service to Bush’s policies.

Will this report result in a public outrage? How will those who should be the most outraged, the manipulated Fox News viewers, respond? Or can anyone be surprised by revelations that Bush pays Iraqi news for favorable stories, releases staged propaganda shows to TV stations, appoints propaganda ministers to control government agencies, and secretly hires propagandists to support his policies?

On the other hand, one must wonder if the word, traitor, applies. Supposedly in synch with Bush’s military occupation of Iraq, these military men lie about their secret access to the Pentagon and their personal profit from U.S. military operations. They play a vital role in duping the American public into supporting a deadly and costly military misadventure. When does subterfuge, withholding of information and lying about personal profit from public policies become criminal?

One would hope that Americans still have ideals and value honesty and that every one of these military commentators will be imprisoned or at a minimum, hounded off the networks, out of their jobs and forced into hiding.

Don Monkerud is an California-based writer who follows cultural, social and political issues. He is the author of America Unhinged: Politics and Pandemic in the 2020 Election (2021). He can be reached at: Read other articles by Don.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 24th, 2008 at 5:27am #


  2. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 24th, 2008 at 5:35am #

    No, Don, the story hadn’t quite reached my computer yet either. Here are AT&T-Yahoo’s current headlines, west-coast style:

    IN THE NEWS World
    As of 5:20 a.m. PDT • Petraeus promotion to CENTCOM keeps U.S. on its war course
    • Abbas to appeal for more U.S. help in Mideast peace process
    • Democrats may add unemployment benefits to war funding bill
    • Ford swings to $100 million profit on strong foreign earnings
    • New York police begin toting submachine guns on subways
    • Radio telescopes capture first images of black hole mid-belch
    • 4-carat gem fished out of toilet – Good Morning Yahoo!
    • NBA • NHL • MLB • NFL • NASCAR • Soccer • Golf • UFC

    At least SOMEone is trying to change “All the News That Fits” to “Woodward and Bernstein Are Alive”.

  3. Rich Griffin said on April 24th, 2008 at 6:00am #

    Real media reform starts with us. Boycott mainstream media and support alternative media. We have to put our money into changing our culture by supporting OUR culture, which includes investigative journalism, and getting the censored news out to joe q. public.

  4. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 24th, 2008 at 6:35am #

    Re your comment at Gary Corseri’s “Hello, Dalai” article yesterday, Rich, characterizing its thread as the most mean-spirited thread you’ve read …. May be so.

    It’s all relative. Tell,me, Grif. Where do you draw the line between anger and being mean-spirited? Or have you ever read, or participated in, a thread at Black Agenda Report? Why not visit:

    Take a trip to anger, pal. Read Glen Ford and post your advice about who “real media reform starts” with there. Then “support” alternative black media.

    Or find out the names of the reporter(s) at the NYT which Don omitted in his excellent report, above. Names which journalistic ethics, or whatever, prevented him from including in the report. And post them at Glen’s site. Better yet. See if you might be able to write — or make radio broadcasts – for Glen.

    There’s quite a bit of mean-spirited abroad old bud.

  5. evie said on April 24th, 2008 at 7:44am #

    Ben Franklin, “media mogul” of his time used his newspapers to publish propaganda to garner support for the French Indian war – the English colonies must unite or they were in danger – publishing stories of girls raped before their parents’ eyes, children scalped, torn to pieces by the savage enemies (the French and their Indian allies) who would subject ye whole American continent to the French yoke.

    If around today General Washington would be an analyst explaining how the colonists must break the yoke of the British Empire (and build their own, winky wink.).

    Thankfully MSM like NYT, WaPo, CNN, Fox — give the “alternative” media the themes to write about a.k.a. toss the dissidents a bone to chew on.

    I mean, my god where would we be if guys like Franklin hadn’t exposed the savage French and Indians, or Woodward and Bernstein hadn’t uncovered Watergate, or Ellsberg the Pentagon Papers, or Hersh Mi Lie or Abu Ghraib. Without mainstream truthsayers – we would all be duped and yoked to empire (winky wink).

  6. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 24th, 2008 at 7:48am #

    This post is about election strategy and should be skipped over by posters commenting on the Pentagon’s perfidy or the NYT’s drowsy awakening.


    Players, Not Cheerleaders
    By Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill – March 26th, 2008

    So said Dick Cheney when asked last week about public opinion being overwhelming against the war in Iraq. “You can’t be blown off course by polls.”

    His attitude about the the fact that the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq has reached 4,000 displayed similar levels of sympathy. They “voluntarily put on the uniform,” the Vice-President told ABC news. This brick wall of indifference helps explain the paradox in which we in the anti-war camp find ourselves five years into the occupation of Iraq: anti-war sentiment is as strong as ever, but our movement seems to be dwindling.

    Sixty-four per cent of Americans tell pollsters they oppose the war, but you’d never know it from the thin turnout at recent anniversary rallies and vigils.

    When asked why they aren’t expressing their anti-war opinions through the anti-war movement, many say they have simply lost faith in the power of protest. They marched against the war before it began, marched on the first, second and third anniversaries. And yet five years on, U.S. leaders are still shrugging: “So?”

    There is no question that the Bush administration has proven impervious to public pressure. That’s why it’s time for the anti-war movement to change tactics. We should direct our energy where it can still have an impact: the leading Democratic contenders.

    Many argue otherwise. They say that if we want to end the war, we should simply pick a candidate who is not John McCain and help them win: We’ll sort out the details after the Republicans are evicted from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Some of the most prominent anti-war voices–from to the magazine we write for, The Nation–have gone this route, throwing their weight behind the Obama campaign.

    This is a serious strategic mistake. It is during a hotly contested campaign that anti-war forces have the power to actually sway U. S. policy. As soon as we pick sides, we relegate ourselves to mere cheerleaders.

    And when it comes to Iraq, there is little to cheer. Look past the rhetoric and it becomes clear that neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton has a real plan to end the occupation. They could, however, be forced to change their positions — thanks to the unique dynamics of the prolonged primary battle.

    Despite the calls for Clinton to withdraw in the name of “unity,” it is the very fact that Clinton and Obama are still fighting it out, fiercely vying for votes, that presents the anti-war movement with its best pressure point. And our pressure is badly needed.

    For the first time in 14 years, weapons manufacturers are donating more to Democrats than to Republicans. The Dems have received 52 percent of the defense industry’s political donations in this election cycle – up from a low of 32 per cent in 1996. That money is about shaping foreign policy, and so far, it appears to be well spent.

    While Clinton and Obama denounce the war with great passion, they both have detailed plans to continue it. Both say they intend to maintain the massive Green Zone, including the monstrous U.S. embassy, and to retain U.S. control of the Baghdad Airport.

    They will have a “strike force” to engage in counterterrorism, as well as trainers for the Iraqi military. Beyond these U.S. forces, the army of Green Zone diplomats will require heavily armed security details, which are currently provided by Blackwater and other private security companies. At present there are as many private contractors supporting the occupation as there are soldiers so these plans could mean tens of thousands of U. S. personnel entrenched for the future.

    In sharp contrast to this downsized occupation is the unequivocal message coming from hundreds of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq Veterans Against the War, who held the historic “Winter Soldier” hearings in Silver Spring, Md. earlier this month, are not supporting any candidate or party. Instead they are calling for immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. soldiers and contractors. Coming from peace activists, the “out now” position has been dismissed as naive. It is distinctly harder to ignore coming from hundreds who have served–and continue to serve–on the frontlines.

    The candidates know that much of the passion fueling their campaigns flows from the desire among so many rank-and-file Democrats to end this disastrous war. It is this desire for change that has filled stadiums and campaign coffers.

    Crucially, the candidates have already shown that they are vulnerable to pressure from the peace camp: When The Nation revealed that neither candidate was supporting legislation that would ban the use of Blackwater and other private security companies in Iraq, Clinton abruptly changed course. She became the most important U. S. political leader to endorse the ban, scoring a point on Obama, who opposed the invasion from the start.

    This is exactly where we want the candidates: outdoing each other to prove how serious they are about ending the war. That kind of issue-based battle has the power to energize voters and break the cynicism that is threatening both campaigns.

    Let’s remember: unlike the outgoing Bush Administration, these candidates need the support of the two-thirds of Americans who oppose the war in Iraq. If opinion transforms into action, they won’t be able to afford to say, “So?”

  7. hp said on April 24th, 2008 at 9:07am #

    That 4,000 killed is more like 10,000.
    Remember the requirements for KIA are quite stringent and these highly misleading statistics do not include the mercenaries who actually outnumber the troops.

  8. Doug Brooks said on April 26th, 2008 at 6:18am #

    Hp – if you mean contractors, there are as many as 180,000 -certainly outnumbering the troops. 120,000 of the 180,000 are Iraqis, the folks who *should* be doing the reconstruction and security in Iraq. Less than 1500 are Americans doing security work.

    -doug brooks