Colman McCarthy Wrote Prophetic 2003 Column on Military ‘Embeds’ on TV

By: Greg Mitchell

Everyone is talking about David Barstow’s bombshell New York Times story today on the military/media propaganda machine run out of the Pentagon and direct to you via TV and, to a lesser extent, newspapers. But five years ago this weekend Colman McCarthy, the former Washington Post columnist, wrote an op-ed for that paper that raised a kind of prophetic protest.

He started by listing a group of military officers, and many of them showed up in Barstow’s article today as puppets of the Pentagon: Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor, Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, Lt. Gen. Don Edwards, Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, Col. Tony Koren, Lt. Col. Rick Francona, Maj. Jack Stradley and Capt. Chris Lohman.

“Did I miss anyone?” McCarthy asked (he sure did). “All have been offering analysis and commentary on the war in Iraq.

“That the news divisions of NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox sanctioned this domination by military types was a further assault on what the public deserves: independent, balanced and impartial journalism. The tube turned into a parade ground for military men — all well-groomed white males — saluting the ethic that war is rational, that bombing and shooting are the way to win peace, and that their uniformed pals in Iraq were there to free people, not slaughter them. Perspective vanished, as if caught in a sandstorm of hype and war-whooping. If the U.S. military embedded journalists to report the war from Iraq, journalists back in network studios embedded militarists to explain it. Either way, it was one-version news.

“Why no dissenting voices to say what millions of people around the world proclaimed in the streets: that this U.S. invasion was illegal, unjust and unnecessary? Why were pacifists from such groups as the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi USA, Peace Action and the American Friends Service Committee not given airtime to counter the generals?

“Why were leaders from Veterans for Common Sense or Veterans Against the War in Iraq not brought in to offer their analysis and view: that what the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Powell-Wolfowitz war machine has been doing to the people of Iraq is brutal and criminal and that political, legal and moral alternatives to violence exist? Why have no social workers or teachers from America’s inner cities been invited to sit across from the generals and give their views on military spending — more than $11,000 a second? In wartime, presumably, the message to peace activists is shut up or shut down. …

“In their cordial hosting of military men, the corporate networks provide still one more revolving door for the ex-brass to stride through. Viewers are not told of possible conflicts of interest — that this general or that one is on the payroll of this or that military contractor. Nor are they given information on whether the retired generals are paid for their appearances …

George W. Bush lectured the world that you’re either with us or against us. America’s networks got the message: They’re with. They could have said that they’re neither with nor against, because no side has all the truth or all the lies and no side all the good or evil. But a declaration such as that would have required boldness and independence of mind, two traits not much linked to America’s television news.”

Greg Mitchell’s new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Failed on Iraq.

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