Military General Propaganda Story: Col. Allard Admits: 'Conflicts Of Interest'

Military General Propaganda story: Col. Allard admits: 'Conflicts of interest'

Howard Kurtz covered the Military General propaganda story that the NY Times story uncovered last Sunday morning and did a very good job with it. (I'm usually fairly critical of him) Colonel Ken Allard, a former military analyst for NBC, said that there certainly were conflicts of interest that these former Generals held when they went on TV as pundits selling the positive side of the Iraq war. Lawrence DiRita, the former Pentagon spokesman under Secretary Don Rumsfeld, was on to offer the "other side" of the issue. Sure thing, LDR. Kurtz did call him out:

icon Download icon Download

" It sounds like you were kind of manipulating these folks."

DiRita had a good laugh at our expense over the fact that the Times called the propaganda manipulation war machine a "sophisticated program." That's really hysterical. This is a horrible affair that has led to so much destruction and broken lives that I don't know how DiRita can even show up on the set of CNN and sit there and still peddle his destructive talking point garbage. But Allard levied the real charges against the Generals and the Pentagon when he admitted:

KURTZ: Do you think it was a conflict of interest of some of your fellow former officers to be in that kind of a...

ALLARD: I absolutely do, because the reason why you're there is to offer the public, for whatever the reason you have, however good you are, whatever your opinion matters, is an honest opinion. You offer that without any hope of remuneration, without any hope of reward. That's basically -- the reward you're getting is what CNN, Fox or NBC News pays you to be there. That's it.

KURTZ: Fox analyst Tim Eads was quoting as saying that when he talked about the war or terrorism on television, he held his tongue for fear that "... some four-star could call up and say, 'Kill that contract.'" He was involved in military contracts.

Glenn Greenwald has a great piece posted which typifies that MSM's non-response to this story on Salon called: Brian Williams' "response" to the military analyst story


↓ Story continues below ↓

After I wrote about Williams' blog item yesterday, his blog was deluged with commenters angrily demanding to know why he has failed to address the NYT expose. In response, Williams wrote a new blog item last night in which he purports -- finally -- to respond to the story, and I can't recommend highly enough that it be read by anyone wanting to understand how our establishment journalist class thinks and acts. The essence of Williams' response: he did absolutely nothing wrong. Nor did any of the military analysts used by NBC News. Nor did his network. These are all honest, patriotic men whose integrity is beyond reproach. Here's but a sampling of Williams' defense...read on

ALLARD: Look back at the election of 2004, what was not discussed. Things like manpower, things like, was the war a good idea? Should we continue to fight? If so, for how long?

Things which we're talking about now were not even talked about back then. We couldn't even get on -- we couldn't get on, on a bet (ph).

KURTZ: And wasn't the content of what you were saying, it was a lack of interest -- which we're seeing today. I mean, every survey shows the amount of time devoted to this war has gone way down.

ALLARD: Every single analyst felt the same thing, whether they worked for NBC, CNN or Fox. We simply were not getting on to talk about our story, good or bad.

DI RITA: Let me answer that just a little bit, too. During that same period we were also encouraging news organizations to keep reporters in theater...

KURTZ: Embedded.

DI RITA: ... and certainly embedded, so that they'd get a lot broader perspective than what they were getting -- for the most, receiving briefings in Baghdad. So it wasn't just analysts and third parties. We were also trying to get news organizations to do the same thing.

KURTZ: What these internal documents show is that this was a fairly sophisticated program.

DI RITA: Thank you.

KURTZ: You sent over talking points, you tracked the appearances of analysts on different news channels and networks. Fox's analyst John Garrett told me he always spoke his mind. But there was an email that he sent to the Pentagon where he said, please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay.

It sounds like you were kind of manipulating these folks.

DI RITA: No. Certainly what we were trying to do -- my colleague here is nodding vigorously -- we wanted to present aspects of this coverage that was not being presented elsewhere, and this was a group of people who were naturally more likely to understand some of these aspects -- the military operations that were taking place, the kinds of things that were occurring on the ground.

It wasn't so much our interest in these people that mattered, it was the news organizations' interest. They were hired by news organizations, and that made them interesting to us by definition.

ALLARD: And to be fair, the Pentagon did not group the war heads. The war heads were created by the networks, not the Pentagon.

Now, that said, did they have their point of view? Yes, they did. Did we have among the war heads guys who were true believers? Yes, we did.

But we also had Barry McCaffrey, Wes Clark, a number of us, including myself, who said, you know what, Mr. Rumsfeld, the troop situation here is bad. We're light on the ground and that's going to hurt us. And over time we were proven right. Over time...

KURTZ: How early did you say that? When you look up to the run- up of the Iraq war, do you wish you had been more skeptical? ALLARD: I would remind you of how Vice President Cheney himself talked as the invasion was proceeding. He said, well, we have military officers embedded in TV studios. That was directly meant as a slam at all of us. So don't, you know...

KURTZ: He thought -- the vice president thought you were on the team. Did you ever feel like you were on the team?

ALLARD: I felt I was representing NBC News and myself. That was it. I was not paid to represent the administration. I was paid to say what I thought, not what they thought.

KURTZ: All right.

Part of the controversy stemming from this particular article has to do with military analysts, former military officers, who also either worked for defense contractors or were seeking military contracts themselves, thereby commenting on the very institutions that they also hoped to get some funding from.

Were you involved in that field?

ALLARD: Never once, ever. I'm poor but honest. Let's put it that way.

And none of the guys apparently who were in the room with me ever thought to offer me a job. If they had, I probably wouldn't have taken it. But they didn't.

KURTZ: Do you think it was a conflict of interest of some of your fellow former officers to be in that kind of a...

ALLARD: I absolutely do, because the reason why you're there is to offer the public, for whatever the reason you have, however good you are, whatever your opinion matters, is an honest opinion. You offer that without any hope of remuneration, without any hope of reward. That's basically -- the reward you're getting is what CNN, Fox or NBC News pays you to be there. That's it.

KURTZ: Fox analyst Tim Eads was quoting as saying that when he talked about the war or terrorism on television, he held his tongue for fear that "... some four-star could call up and say, 'Kill that contract.'" He was involved in military contracts.

Was that an unspoken threat?

DI RITA: I don't think so. I also don't think it's at all fair to most of these analysts, several of whom are retired three and four- star officers. These are people who were, in many cases, confirmed by the United States Senate, appointed by the president, who certainly understand where the lines are when it comes to individual ethics.

And I think to broadly characterize this as a class of people who were trying to do this out of self-interest is enormously unfair to people who were -- believed in what they were doing. And, you know, we often brought in former secretaries of state for the secretary and other leaders to talk with, former secretaries of defense, important, retired diplomats and general officers on other bases.

We didn't check what boards they sat on. We brought them in because they were important, influential people who deserved sort of some additional information.

KURTZ: I talked to retired Colonel Bill Cowan, who was a Fox military analyst. He said that three years ago, after he criticized the war effort on "The O'Reilly Factor," he was booted off the group, was never invited to another briefing, never got another telephone call, never got another e-mail.

About John Amato

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.