Saturday, April 19, 2008

Right when I thought it couldn't get worse

In a few hours, the rest of you are going to wake up to this article by David Barstow (http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/04/20/america/20generals.php). This lengthy piece concerns the use of media "military analysts" to further the administration and Pentagon's propaganda efforts to paint a favorable picture to the population. Retired senior officers, many of whom had significant financial stake in pleasing the decision makers and Rummy, were given access, the party line info and then sent out to speak on the media as if they were totally independent "analysts".

This practice, and all who supported it, are truly below contempt. And, it is sickening that they were so easily able to enlist a large number of our former comrades in arms in this despicable domestic psyops effort.

During the Eisenhower administration, in an effort to differentiate America from the "Godless Communists", the Pledge of Allegiance was modified to say:

"One nation, under God"

In the spirit of current American culture, perhaps, this administration should amend it to read:

"One nation, on message"

Have you no shame, gentlemen? Have you no shame?

Addendum: As I mull this over in my geriatric mind, all sorts of questions arise.
- Does this point to the dangers of excessive for-profit (contractor) interests in military operations and/or public policy?
- Is it time to prohibit retired senior officials from doing business with the government?
- Will the public be outraged over this blatant domestic propaganda effort, or is it a bit too subtle for them to grasp?
- Is our military leadership so corrupt, morally bankrupt or inept that no questions about this were raised from the inside?

Or, am I over-reacting?

22 comments:

Publius said...

Al, youve obviously got too much time on your hands. I'm still mulling over how I'm going to respond to your excellent "existential threat" post(I've been way busy the past few days). Now you come up with this one, which I read in this morning's paper. Still not over my disgust.

Two excellent and timely posts. Wow, where does one begin?

pluto said...

Thank you for posting this article. I'd been suspecting something like this for quite a while but hadn't realized the scope until now. I read it in a state of disbelief which slowly turned into fear and loathing.

Think about this for a minute. We all realize that Bush made a horrible mistake when he chose to invade Iraq, that's water under the bridge. But making psychological war on your own country to keep the mistake from being fixed? That is a crime against the nation of such magnitude that I now officially join JD in calling for impeachment. There is no other reasonable course for healing this nation.

No country that considers itself to be democratic can be considered to be truly democratic if it maintains a well-organized continual disinformation campaign AGAINST ITS OWN PEOPLE! According to Bush, we the people are in charge of this nation. Are we really when the government is feeding us a steady stream of propaganda specifically designed to keep us in the dark?

FDC had a good post on his blog on the history of the late Roman Republic as a predictor of future US history. With this article, I can only conclude that George Bush = Julius Caeser. The only real differences are that George has found a less bloody way to repress dissent and will probably not be stabbed in the back by a man named Brutus.

We might as well regretfully write off the constitution unless this fraudulent behavior is IMMEDIATELY corrected.

Aviator47 said...

Publius-

Today is Palm Sunday in the Orthodox Church, so we are entering Holy Week, when we will have very little free time on our hands, and a time when many of us Orthodox try hard to avoid those things which are spiritually harmful, such as anger. This article did not get me off to a good start, but I will work on it.

You guys have the con. Will not be on line a lot, but will peek in on occasion, as I am but a frail mortal.

Thanks for the compliment.

Warmest to all

Al

Andy said...

I don't have time for an extensive comment, but wanted to pass this interesting post along that leaves the impression, in me at least, that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Dave is a blogger I have a lot of respect for.

Charles Gittings said...

Ya, I've heard about Greek Easter Al.... And ouzo too. Actually, I've done more than hear about ouzo, though not recently, thank god. (Had a Greek roommate once upon a time.)

Glad to see you as a contributor too.

But what happened with FDC and Publius J.D.??

And can you set up an RSS feed, please?

Meanwhile, off topic, a friend of mine asked me a couple of questions that I thought I'd pass on to the usual suspects here for the sake of any insights they might care to share. Said friend inquires:

1) "Do you know if anyone has tried to track down who was the brain behind the bounty program and bounty flyers being used in Afghanistan/ Pakistan etc and/or was this kind of campaign used either by our country or any other country as a way of trying to round up unknown individuals during a war or conflict?"


2) "Do you know if we are using this campaign in Iraq? (note I am not talking about rewards or bounties for specific individuals…)"

J.D. said...

Bastards.

As far as "Is our military leadership so corrupt, morally bankrupt or inept that no questions about this were raised from the inside?" - my take is that our military leadership were not selected based not on ability, but rather malleability. If they could be relied upon to tell their bosses what the bosses wanted to hear, then they would be promoted. The average army officer is not corrupt, morally bankrupt, or inept. However, our current political leadership is all of those things, and of course it had an impact - not just on the DOD, not just on the government as a whole, not just on our nation, but on the entire planet.

There were warnings from withing the military - and they were ignored. Don't believe me? Just watch now the public ignores this domestic propaganda campaign, watching a HUGE scandal just drop away like all the others....

WASF.

Charles Gittings said...

OOPS. You already have a feed. Maybe I should try adding it to my list. :O

Charles Gittings said...

On topic, this is real old news for these people. It's all message all the time -- the only thing they are really good at is lying.

Chris said...

This really bugs me, but I suspect the reaction from most folks - if they even hear about it at all - will be to shrug and say "so what?", never bothering to contemplate the either the ethics or the problems with a government propagandizing people into supporting a war (or an economic policy for that matter).

I see a huge problem, though, that these folks were not disclosing their connections to the media organizations they were providing commentary for. It also seems that those same media organizations (th so-called liberal media) has blindly abdicated their duty to inform the electorate of the nation. I'm not sure if that says more about laziness, cost-cutting, corporatization, or what, but it isn't good. Without good investigative media we can't really have a functioning republic.

BTW, I wish the Roman Catholic Church would go back to keying Easter to Passover. It just makes so much more sense to me than divorcing the two given the historical context of Passover and Good Friday.

Chris
http://www.historicus.us

Publius said...

Well, I approach this as an analytical exercise, i.e., "why has this problem presented itself?" I see the following factors, some normal human reactions, some pretty bad, IMO, bearing on the problem:

1) These officers are products of a closed hierarchical system that values institutional loyalty and stresses personal loyalty and obedience to the orders of those above one in the hierarchy. These officers thrived within what is essentially a feudal system and ascended to levels where they were the individuals who were accorded—and who demanded—that same personal loyalty and obeisance. But there was always someone above them, someone to whom they had to bow. The career path reminds one of those old cartoons about the monkeys ascending the ladder: the higher one rose, the less shit dropped down, but everybody gets SOME shit. See where I'm going? The default position for these officers is to always going to honor and obey the bigger guy. Fact is, even the most senior general is never, ever the real big guy.

2) Whenever one leaves positions within the government where one exercised great power and/or had access to the highly classified "goodies," there is a process of deflation. Even with all of the money and the perks, being a corporate bigwig is not the same as being a "big guy" insider. Nobody likes being an "outsider," yet that's where you are once you leave. Where they were once insiders, these officers were now on the outside. The DoD then played them like a violin, inviting them back in. They were once again insiders; they were flattered that their opinions and "insight" were valued and it revitalized their commitment to the institution. When a "big guy" told them something was truth, they unhesitatingly accepted it as so, just as they'd been programmed to do.

3) These officers grew up professionally in a system that values truth above all else. See: West Point honor code. It’s a wrenching change to move into a world where the truth is not so important.

4) 9/11 was a body blow to the nation and it caused much fear in the land. Think it was any different for military officers? 9/11 engendered a strong “get-even” attitude in the nation, and even more so in the military. Cooperating with those who were “doing something” without really asking many questions about how or why they were doing what they were seems kind of inevitable.

And then there are the less savory factors:

5) Monetary considerations. These officers found themselves in a tangled web of personal enrichment and institutional loyalty. Inasmuch as they were total creatures of the system and accepted what the system told them, reconciling their actions in support of the system with monetary gains was easily rationalized. After all, somebody had to get rich; why not me, the person who is carrying the truth forward?

6) Politics. Military officers have always been conservatives. No surprise there; the military is a conservative business. However, in a departure from precedent, over the past generation, most officers have become overt supporters of the Republican Party. Why? Inasmuch as most officers are politically naive, and because of their institutional "programming," this was an easy transition: after all, the Republicans supported a strong national defense. What was not to like about Republicans? Actually, there was a lot, but because officers don't get down and dirty on politics, they accepted the sloganeering. And there were the Clinton years: the drawdown, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” etc., etc. They knee-jerked against the Democratic Party as a result.

7) Stupidity, mixed in with war-loving. As graduates of the “most awesome military machine ever,” or whatever one wants to term it, these officers welcomed war as a solution to amazingly complex geopolitical issues. They actually LIKE war, they LIKE this warrior shit. They think the military can actually change the world. That’s why they’re stupid.

8) Jingoism. These officers are rah-rah America-firsters and flag-wavers. Harkening back to their inability to believe their institutions are fallible, they cannot conceive of a situation where anything the U.S. might choose to do is wrong.

9) Ignorance of domestic realities. Products of an insular system as they are, military officers tend to ignore what’s happening in their own country. They are slow to understand the moods of the American people and are therefore unable to recognize when support for endless war wanes. In this, they are true Republicans. They are obtuse.

10) Finally, they lie to themselves. It is gospel among senior officer ranks that Vietnam was lost because of the press and the consequent loss of support on the home front. They are therefore resolved that they won’t let this happen again, even if they have to shade the truth. Wrong. The politicians and the generals lost Vietnam. It was not the press and it was not the American people. The press reported honestly—far more honestly than they have in Iraq—and the American people were very generous with their treasure and their sons’ lives. This ties into domestic realities.

On balance, I’d say these officers behaved execrably. They managed to rationalize their money-grubbing and glory-seeking with their so-called love of country. That, their knee-jerking obeisance to authority, their political views and the big lie to themselves about who really lost Vietnam, caused them to be “useful idiots” in the selling of the big lie to the American people. They are nothing, they are beneath contempt. They do not love their country; they love authority. They’re good Germans.

The true pity of all of this is that we really do need a a strong military. One wonders how the junior officers of today view their generals. Is there any awe left? I know we didn’t have any after Vietnam. But then, I’ll be damned, it all came back around again, didn’t it? I know that 30-35 years ago, when they were junior officers, many of these generals vowed that they wouldn’t turn out the same way. There is something about the institution, I guess. I remember seeing something years ago how about a hundred or so years ago, when the War Department was radically changed through the Root reforms, they’d screwed up. They adopted the German general staff system and the British logistic system, whereas it should have gone the other way. Or something like that.

bg said...

"And, it is sickening that they were so easily able to enlist a large number of our former comrades in arms in this despicable domestic psyops effort....Have you no shame, gentlemen? Have you no shame?"

From my experience, dealing with active duty leaders at all levels on a daily basis, here is my take. There are a great many people who are true believers. While I agree that any attempt or conspiracy to wrongly portray themselves as impartial while following a very partisan agenda is a despicable practice, I don't know if this is what is going on with many of these "former comrades in arms."

It goes back a Publius argument from a previous thread. People are stupid. Just because someone makes it to higher ranks/positions, it doesn't take away their ability to be stupid.

And most importantly, many of these people are true believers. If you had a message you wanted to put out, and you had a choice between someone who would spread your message as a paid service, or someone who was a true, passionate believer of the message, who would you chose?

I see it everyday. Very senior, many very smart people, who don't see themselves as media puppets, or as leaders simply supporting the commander by spewing the party lines. They are true believers. They believe that we are fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here, and that our very existence as a nation is at stake.

There is of course a psychological aspect. Which is easy to want to believe when trying to justify writing a letter home to the parent of a dead soldier, or to justify why you put your ass outside the FOB everyday. Sometimes, we aren't really stupid, but instead allow our own psychological defense mechanisms overpower our abilities to reason. When surrounded by a bunch of like minded people, there is great security, especially in times of mental hardship.

So no. They have no shame, and don't feel as though they should have any reason to feel shame. In fact, quite the opposite, because they feel that what they are doing is right, they are encouraged to continue. For those who are pulling the strings, their Machavillian philosophy justifies their actions in their own head, thus, reducing the need for shame.

Corner Stone said...

Speaking of lame-ass psy-ops:
"“I know he’s sitting in Iran,” Rice said dismissively, when asked about al-Sadr’s latest threat to lift a self-imposed cease-fire with government and U.S. forces. “I guess it’s all-out war for anybody but him,” Rice said. “I guess that’s the message; his followers can go [to] their deaths and he’s in Iran.”

Hmmmm...yes, call Sadr a coward a few more times SecState. Now that's what I call diplomacy!

I've been meaning to respond to the China thread but my brain is just mush. Yes, more so than usual if possible.

Corner Stone said...

Sorry -
Call Sadr a running dog Iranian puppet coward a few more times Condi!
I'd pay good money to see MTV bring back celebrity death match with a few of these characters involved as primary.

Charles Gittings said...

So Publius, any thoughts on the questions I posted above?

I was thinking you might have some relevant knowledge of events in Vietnam or Latin America...

Roger Bigod said...

We're still paying for the failure to have an inquest about Nam and come up with an explanation for how the decision-making went so wrong. It was obvious in the early 70's that if we didn't do that, we'd have this Dolchstoss stuff forever. Halberstam gave it a try, and the Pentagon Papers was a start, but the job was never done right.

The Times piece was no surprise. It's hard to put your finger on any one item, just as it was with Nixon's paranoid use of power. Presidents certainly have an idea who their enemies are, but the list was a little over the line. It wouldn't be surprising if LBJ had a wire tap or two, or a chat with the IRS director. But the massive, organized use of the Executive as a big time mob operation was egregious. The clearest offense was the guy who was proud to be conducting PsyOps (his term) on the American public. That boy didn't pay attention in school.

basilbeast said...

Anecdotal Story

http://firedoglake.com/2008/04/21/things-overheard/

Al, a joyous and blessed Pascha for you and yours next weekend.
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Publius said...

"I was thinking you might have some relevant knowledge of events in Vietnam or Latin America..."

Charly, I don't know what you're talking about here.

Charles Gittings said...

Publius,

I posted these two questions...

1) "Do you know if anyone has tried to track down who was the brain behind the bounty program and bounty flyers being used in Afghanistan/ Pakistan etc and/or was this kind of campaign used either by our country or any other country as a way of trying to round up unknown individuals during a war or conflict?"


2) "Do you know if we are using this campaign in Iraq? (note I am not talking about rewards or bounties for specific individuals…)"

They are referring to the leaflets that were distributed by CIA in Afghanistan during the initial invasion, offering bounties of @ $25K ("You can be rich! etc") for information on Al Qaeda or Taleban -- which had the locals turning in anyone who was foreign born, a personal enemy, or otherwise convenient (mental defectives etc).

In short, they were trolling for generic suspects, not specific individuals (as distinct from the famous deck of cards in Iraq).

So the question is -- was this practice resorted to in the past, say Vietnam or Latin America?

And also (though this would more likely be a Q for BG, Andy, or Phil), is this being done in Iraq?

seydlitz89 said...

Nice comments from Al and Publius. Notice how I have been trying to get the whole domestic psyops subject dealt with openlyon Phil's new blog. . .

The race to be the "most docile" as I commented on Phil's old blog . . . Jesus it's like living in the USSR.

pluto said...

Sorry to say, things can ALWAYS get worse.

What do you guys think about the following article? I'm suspicious to say the least.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/04/23/organized.crime.threats/index.html

FDChief said...

Back in Imperial Russia there was a saying for this:

"The Cossacks work for the Czar."

This sort of thing is the heart of the reason that so many of the Founders were dead set against a professional military. When fighting becomes your profession it becomes difficult to seperate the tactical imperatives of combat from the geopolitical objectives of the nation. And, inevitably, the professional officers become tightly bonded to those politicians espousing the policies that support their particular military visions or needs. So you forget that you're supposed to support and defend the Constitution and get mesmerized by the idea that you're defending your Army, or your policy or your own personal insight. You find yourself saluting Authority and moving out smartly, just like you did when you were in uniform. And Authority, in the 21st Century U.S., comes dressed up as the "Commander in Chief".

The Cossacks work for the Czar, remember?

We like to dress up our profession in the robes of honor and discipline, but the fact is that when fighting is your profession the daily mechanics of your business aren't that much different from any other tradesman. The bloody work of making living flesh into meat can obscure the reasons for doing so. Therefore the willingness of these uniformed tradesmen to sell themselves to whoever - in this case the GOP - lets them grind the hamburger.

Distasteful? Yes. Surprising? No.

So whenever you hear or see one of these talking heads pontificating, remember: the Cossacks work for the Czar.

basilbeast said...

to aviator47 in Greece . . .

Christos anesti!

8-D

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