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.