Tuesday, February 03, 2009

War and Piece of the Action

Parts I and II of the "Ministry of Truth and Peace" series described the Pentagon propaganda program that the Department of Defense inspector general didn't judge to be a propaganda program because he couldn't find a definition of "propaganda." Part III examines how one retired military media analyst made a killing from our woebegone war on terror.

Retired military media analysts aided the Pentagon's propaganda campaign in support of the Bush administration's wars for a variety of reasons. The analyst with the broadest motivations was undoubtedly retired Army four-star Barry McCaffrey, who exemplified the confluence of Big War, Big Bucks, Big Message, Big Brother and the Big Schmooze in the new American century.

In a November 2009 New York Times profile of McCaffrey, reporter David Barstow described him as "a force in Washington’s power elite." That's putting it politely: it's understatement to call McCaffrey a great white military-industrial-media shark. His use of access and influence to pursue personal profit from war was singularly predatory.

McCaffrey was an early advocate of the Iraq invasion. He was board member of the now-defunct Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a group of influential neoconservative tank thinkers with ties to the George W. Bush administration and the now infamous Project for the New American Century. He started BR McCaffrey Associates in 2001 to "build linkages" between government officials and contractors. McCaffrey was also one of more than 75 media military "experts" recruited into the Pentagon's Retired Military Analyst program, initiated in 2002 to help sell the public on the Iraq War. One of the analysts, retired Army colonel Ken Allard, called the program "PSYOPS [psychological operations] on steroids."

McCaffrey began his career as a media analyst for NBC shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Just prior to that, he had become a key member of the advisory council of Veritas Capital, a small player looking to grow in the defense sector. Veritas gave advisers like McCaffrey board membership in its military companies, along with profit sharing and revenue stakes. McCaffrey, like so many of the power elite, had much to gain from what the Pentagon would later refer to as the "long war."

In his first months on the air, McCaffrey called for increases in defense spending to fight the war on terrorism. He specifically touted the virtue of high tech weapons like precision munitions and unmanned aircraft supported by defense companies in the Veritas portfolio. He called the C-17 military cargo aircraft—also a source of Veritas contracts—a "national treasure."

McCaffrey had early doubts about the Iraq war plan; he was one of many observers who thought the invasion force was too small. But on NBC, he assured viewers that the war would be brief, telling Brian Williams “These people are going to come apart in 21 days or less.” Years afterward, McCaffrey claimed he knew the post invasion planning was a disaster. “They were warned very categorically and directly by many of us prior to that war,” he said. But before the invasion, he waxed ecstatic on NBC with Pentagon talking points about the “astonishing amount” of postwar planning.

Days before the invasion, when Tom Brokaw asked “What are your concerns if we were to go to war by the end of this week?” McCaffrey answered, “Well, I don’t think I have any real serious ones.”

In March 2003, shortly after the war began, McCaffrey shouted on MSNBC, "Thank God for the Abrams tank and…the Bradley fighting vehicle." That same month, Integrated Defense Technologies, a Veritas company, received more than $14 million in contracts relating to the Abrams and the Bradley.

In spring of 2007, a small defense company called Defense Solutions hired McCaffrey as a consultant. Four days later, McCaffrey wrote a letter to then commander of U.S. forces in Iraq General David Petraeus recommending the bid by Defense Solutions to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles. McCaffrey didn't his connection with Defense Solutions or his letter to Petraeus the next month when he told Congress that it should immediately buy a large number of armored vehicles for Iraq and criticized a Pentagon plan to use armored vehicles provided by a Defense Solutions competitor.

These incidents were not lapses of judgment; they were emblematic of McCaffrey's standard operating procedure, a behavior that any sane, intelligent adult can see is both unethical and immoral. Yet McCaffrey's apologists, under his employ or otherwise, are quick to defend his honor. "His motive is pure," says his publicist Robert Weiner. “It is national interest.” In this regard, McCaffrey is like every other megalomaniac; what's good for him is good for his country, the world, the solar system, the universe and whatever awaits us in the afterlife.

Other McCaffrey supporters excuse his mendacity by pointing to his criticism of the way former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld conducted the war, but that's like forgiving all mortal transgressions because the sinner condemns the way Satan runs hell.

One Pentagon correspondent, an "old friend" of the former general, admonishes us to "remember that McCaffrey is one of the most highly decorated combat Soldiers ever to wear general’s stars, with two awards of the Distinguished Service Cross and three Purple Hearts for wounds he suffered in the Vietnam War."

How sad it is to see heroism become, like patriotism, the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. Anonymous9:36 PM

    "..heroism..., the last refuge of a scoundrel...". That is so true and yet sad. That a former general officer would lend his honor (if such exists) to the war mongers. Damn, of all of the people who should be against war, the survivors should be the front runners. One might question why none of the enlisted men were called upon to do this duty. It seems as if only flag-rank officers are considered creditable in the media. Or maybe it is the time honored tradition of the military to guarantee that these officers get lucrative positions in the defense industry upon retirement.

  2. Anonymous12:14 AM

    McCaffrey is in good company. His spiritual mentor, Dugout Doug MacArthur, bought Philippine mining stocks while Manila was under siege by the Japanese and then shook down the Quezon government for $500,000 forhis "distinguished service" before fleeing to Australia.

    Pathetic bastards.

    Buzz Meeks

    MacArthur source: bigpond.com

  3. It's that last thing you said, Anonymous.

    Yeah, Buzz, MacA left a proud legacy, didn't he?


  4. "but that's like forgiving all mortal transgressions because the sinner condemns the way Satan runs hell" Brilliant line, worthy of Tacitus or Sun Tzu.
    "How sad it is to see heroism become, like patriotism, the last refuge of a scoundrel." John McCain wrote the book on that....

  5. Yeah, McCain sure did.


  6. Anonymous5:54 PM

    Excellent series of posts.
    I stumbled across the following link in a comment at "Ornery Bastard" today that is a fitting comment on all the government bull shit. It's a song by Jim Hinde. You should put it up on your site. Very much worth the listen:

  7. I remember seeing McCaffrey as a talking head on TV many years ago, discussing the dangers of illegal drug use (presumably his time as the nation's "drug czar" made him an "expert"). His rationale for keeping narcotics illegal? They changed people's "brain states." Yep.

    Since this is also the intended function of televised media propaganda (and TV does it better than any drug I've ever heard of), then perhaps we should propose prohibiting FOX, CNN, MSNBC et al. under the Controlled Substances Act, right next to the Schedule 1 "big three."

    And Barry, you can just turn yourself in at DEA headquarters, there's a good fellow.

  8. General Quarters1:08 PM

    GEN McCaffrey's trip report after his recent journey to Mexico here:

    It is important to note that McCaffrey pimps both sides of the war on drugs. He advocates aggressive military/police intervention from which he profits through his defense contractor connections. He also advocates harsh judicial penalties against drug offenders from which he profits through his connections to the private prison contractor "industry." Savory fellow.


  9. Savory, yes. I say he could use a few more turns on the spit, though.


  10. In the commercial for (somebody,) Alec Baldwin talks about "the teevee" turning our brains to cottage cheese, which can then be scooped out and made into those little ball thingys, and manipulated just any old way.

    How true it is.

    I'm watching in amazement what's going on inside the beltway.

    The Democrats won the House, The Senate, and the White House, in 2008,..... and 40+ Republicans are still running the government.

    And, we haven't even got to trying to end the war in Iraq.

    Young Mr. Obama has his work cut out for him -- for at least four years.

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