By: Greg Mitchell
The New York Times today published a massive piece by David Barstow on how the Pentagon for years has secretly deployed a large crew of retired military officers to flood the airwaves ? network and cable ? to offer pro-war talking points to the unsuspecting viewers (see other E&P articles on this site).
The focus is on TV, not print, but Barstow does reveal that the Times itself published ?at least? nine op-eds by members of the Pentagon?s military/media cabal, and the Pentagon helped two of them craft a Wall Street Journal piece. What may go overlooked, however, is that all of the leading newspapers also frequently quoted the same cabal members, always in support of the war and the administration.
This is not to place the papers in the same category as the TV outlets which used these people 1) regularly 2) gave them true prominence and never asked questions and 3) often paid them per appearance. However, it will be interesting to trace how these same ?analysts? got the talking points delivered via newspapers, as well.
What follows are just some examples that E&P has identified so far, which happen to emerge from the pages of The New York Times. Other papers widely quoted the retired military officers, but the Times’ archives is easier to search for this purpose. And, in fact, most of the “analysts” identified by name in the Barstow article today were never quoted much if at all by the paper previously.
But the search finds, for example, that Gen. James A. Marks (a CNN analyst with deep ties to a contractor) wrote an op-ed for the Times on November 10, 2004, offering an optimistic view of gains that might follow our attack on Fallujah. He was quoted in numerous other Times stories.
Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who has often been critical of the conduct of the war, was quoted often in 2002 and early 2003 when he was major advocate of the invasion. He has also written op-eds for The Washington Post.
One of the prominent cabal members in Barstow’s Times article is Thomas G. McInerney, a Fox News analyst with deep ties to contractors. He shows up in several Times articles since 2002 ? as late as 2006 he is quoted as still believing Saddam had WMD and simply hid them in Syria and elsewhere. He co-authored that Wall Street Journal op-ed mentioned above.
But most prominently at the Times he figured as the counter voice when three generals, including Gen. Wesley Clark, raised questions about attacking Iraq at a key moment in September 2002. Here is an excerpt from Eric Schmitt?s Times article on September 24, 2002.
Three retired four-star American generals said today that attacking Iraq without a United Nations resolution supporting military action could limit aid from allies, energize recruiting for Al Qaeda and undermine America’s long-term diplomatic and economic interests. ”We must continue to persuade the other members of the Security Council of the correctness of our position, and we must not be too quick to take no for an answer,” Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The officers’ testimony came on a day when both those who appear to be rushing toward a military confrontation with Saddam Hussein and those who advocate more caution were raising their voices in support of their positions.
At a campaign stop in New Jersey, President Bush prodded the United Nations to demonstrate its relevance by standing up to Mr. Hussein. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who plans to issue a 55-page intelligence dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction on Tuesday, joined Mr. Bush today in demanding tough action against Mr. Hussein.
Back in Washington some House Democrats prepared alternate resolutions to authorize the use of force with Iraq and others issued a detailed report on how much the war would cost. In California, former Vice President Al Gore, the man Mr. Bush defeated for president, harshly criticized the administration’s push for war against Iraq, saying it had hurt the United States’ standing and could dangerously undermine the rule of law around the world.
In their testimony before the Senate committee, the officers, including Gen. Wesley K. Clark, a former NATO military commander, and Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, a former chief of the United States Central Command, said the United States should retain the right to act unilaterally to defend its interests.
”It’s a question of what’s the sense of urgency here, and how soon would we need to act unilaterally?” said General Clark, an Army officer who commanded allied forces in the 1999 Kosovo air war. ”So far as any of the information has been presented, there is nothing that indicates that in the immediate, next hours, next days, that there’s going to be nuclear-tipped missiles put on launch pads to go against our forces or our allies in the region.”
A fourth military leader, Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, the former assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force, offered a different opinion, saying the United States should act quickly in Iraq. ”We should not wait to be attacked with weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
Greg Mitchell’s new book is “So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Failed on Iraq.” It features a foreword by famed war reporter Joe Galloway.