David Barstow wrote back in April, 2008 about retired U.S. generals appearing on the major cable networks as “independent” media analysts, while they were simultaneously working for defense contractors, and repeating talking points from the Pentagon (see Military Analysts for FGI coverage). In that piece, Barstow painted a nasty picture of conflicts of interest and journalistic ethical malpractice.
In today’s NY Times, Barstow has another devastating piece, this time directing his focus to Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general, prominent military analyst for NBC News, and highly-paid consultant to defense contractors. McCaffrey’s duplicitousness (and by extension, the other military analysts and the networks themselves) is truly shocking.
“One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex”. David Barstow. New York Times, November 30, 2008 (oddly the date is 11/29 in the online edition and 11/30 in paper!).
…On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests. But those interests are not described to NBC’s viewers. He is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television…
…General McCaffrey used his access to further business interests, as he did during the summer of 2005, when Americans were turning against the Iraq war in droves.
Veritas had been on a shopping spree, buying military contractors deeply enmeshed in the war. Its biggest acquisition was of DynCorp International, best known for training foreign security forces for the United States government. By 2005 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for 37 percent of DynCorp’s revenues.
… What is more, some of DynCorp’s Iraq contracts were in trouble, plagued by cost overruns, inept work by subcontractors and ineffective training programs. So when DynCorp executives learned that General McCaffrey was planning to travel to Iraq that June, they asked him to sound out American commanders and reassure them of DynCorp’s determination to make things right….
Back home, General McCaffrey undertook a one-man news media blitz in which he contradicted the dire assessments of many journalists in Iraq. He bore witness to progress on all fronts, but most of all he vouched for Iraq’s security forces. A year earlier, before joining DynCorp’s board, he had described these forces as “badly equipped, badly trained, politically unreliable.” Just months before, Gary E. Luck, a retired four-star Army general sent to assess progress in Iraq, had reported to Mr. Bush that security training was going poorly. Yet General McCaffrey now emphasized his “surprising” conclusion that the training was succeeding.
After Mr. Bush gave a speech praising Iraq’s new security forces, Brian Williams asked General McCaffrey for an independent assessment. “The Iraqi security forces are real,” General McCaffrey replied, without noting the concerns about DynCorp.
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