Ethics aside, the Pentagon’s campaign to use retired military commanders — who became talking heads on network and cable TV — to spread its false message of hope/progress is slated for the PR Hall of Fame (PR Hall of Shame?).
A bronze bust of Rummy will be placed next to that of Nayirah, the PR heroine of Persian Gulf War I. [Nayirah claimed to see Kuwaiti babies tossed from incubators by Iraqi soldiers and placed on the cold floor and left to die.]
The NYT got the big scoop because it sued the Pentagon for access to 8,000 pages of email messages and transcripts describing years of private briefings for “military analysts,” trips to Iraq/Guantanamo and Pentagon talking points.
Those documents creepily referred to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or more directly as “surrogates” to deliver the Bush Administration’s line that everything was peachy in the global war on terrorism.
The TV toadies who faithfully mouthed the lines of the Pentagon were fawned upon the Team Rumsfeld. Some like retired Air Force General and Fox News analyst Thomas McInerney applauded the Pentagon for providing him with a script to deliver to viewers. “Good work,” he emailed DOD after receiving talking points. “We will use it.” Life is sweet indeed for the grateful McInerney and his gang who get up to $1,000 per-appearance to play Pentagon puppet.
The DOD recruited 75 former military officers. Each was approved by Rumsfeld. As major combat operations wound down in April 2003, Rumsfeld wrote an email to Torie Clark (a alumnus of Hill & Knowlton, the firm that repped Citizens for a Free Kuwait front group) to say: “Let’s think about having some of the folks who did such a good job, as talking heads after this thing is over.” Rumsfeld personally met with his analysts 18 times.
Fox News — surprise, surprise — had the most number of retired military men on the air mouthing the Administration’s line. Fox — no surprise, no surprise — refused to talk to the Times.
NYT correspondent David Barstow wrote that the ex-military men were chosen by the Pentagon because through they were not members of the news media, they were in the media and unlikely to turn on the Pentagon. Many lobby the DOD as their prime source of income, which opens another can of worms.
Rumsfeld used the analyst/media manipulation program to divert attention from the fact that his plan to invade Iraq (on the cheap) was the recipe for the disaster that still bedevils the U.S.
The ousted Defense Secretary apparently couldn’t handle that reality so he backed a psychological warfare scheme to deceive the American people. This country is still paying a very steep price for that deception in blood, treasure and reputation.