Thursday, April 24, 2008

When The Generals Lied - "The Nation" Was On to Them In April, 2003

I don't know how many more of these I will end up doing--maybe a couple more in the next few weeks, as time allows. There really is no end to what you'll find when you go digging in this mess.

The New York Times article by David Barstow has a kindred spirit in this article, from April 2003, that appeared in The Nation:

Perhaps Americans can be excused for imagining that "regime change" in Iraq would be a cakewalk. So did Don Rumsfeld, who lashed back at critics accusing him of approving a too-optimistic war plan. Like Rumsfeld, a veritable army of ex-generals playing military analysts on TV seem to have gotten the story wrong, too, and are only now, very belatedly, changing their tune.

One might have expected a pro-military slant in any former general's initial estimation of the US invasion. But some of these ex-generals also have ideological or financial stakes in the war. Many hold paid advisory board and executive positions at defense companies and serve as advisers for groups that promoted an invasion of Iraq. Their offscreen commitments raise questions about whether they are influenced by more than just "a lifetime of experience and objectivity"--in the words of Lieut. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a military analyst for NBC News--as they explain the risks of this war to the American people.

McCaffrey and his NBC colleague Col. Wayne Downing, who reports nightly from Kuwait, are both on the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a Washington-based lobbying group formed last October to bolster public support for a war. Its stated mission is to "engage in educational advocacy efforts to mobilize US and international support for policies aimed at ending the aggression of Saddam Hussein," and among its targets are the US and European media. The group is chaired by Bruce Jackson, former vice president of defense giant Lockheed Martin (manufacturer of the F-117 Nighthawk, the F-16 Fighting Falcon and other aircraft in use in Iraq), and includes such neocon luminaries as former Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle. Downing has also served as an unpaid lobbyist and adviser to the Iraqi National Congress, an Administration-backed (and bankrolled) opposition group that stands to profit from regime change in Iraq.

NBC News has yet to disclose those or other involvements that give McCaffrey a vested interest in Operation Iraqi Freedom. McCaffrey, who commanded an infantry division in the Gulf War, is now on the board of Mitretek, Veritas Capital and two Veritas companies, Raytheon Aerospace and Integrated Defense Technologies--all of which have multimillion-dollar government defense contracts. Despite that, IDT is floundering--its stock price has fallen by half since March 2002--a situation that one stock analyst says war could remedy. Since IDT is a specialist in tank upgrades, the company stands to benefit significantly from a massive ground war. McCaffrey has recently emerged as the most outspoken military critic of Rumsfeld's approach to the war, but his primary complaint is that "armor and artillery don't count" enough. In McCaffrey's recent MSNBC commentary, he exclaimed enthusiastically, "Thank God for the Abrams tank and... the Bradley fighting vehicle," and added for good measure that the "war isn't over until we've got a tank sitting on top of Saddam's bunker." In March alone, IDT received more than $14 million worth of contracts relating to Abrams and Bradley machinery parts and support hardware.

Downing has his own entanglements. The colonel serves on the board of directors at Metal Storm Ltd., a ballistics-technology company that has contracts with US and Australian defense departments. The company's executive director told the New York Times on March 31 that Metal Storm technologies would "provide some significant advantage" in the type of urban warfare being fought in Iraq.

So much for predictions. Everything in the article from 2003 appears largely confirmed as fact in Barstow's article, and that just shows everyone that not only was The Nation solidly in front of this story but that Barstow was dead-on in his collating of everything that has been going on since April 2003. There's a book here, between these two articles, and someone could probably do it justice. Would it sell? That's the part that breaks your heart. No one gives a shit.

How else can you explain the fact that many of these officers will continue to appear on Television every night, speaking in hushed tones about how wonderful everything is? It's clear that McCaffery's early opposition was tempered by 2006--why the reversal? Could it be all of that procurement money was speaking louder than the truth? At what point did they get to him? Did someone walk into his office and tell him to "knock this shit off" and get behind the war or the gravy train was going to end?

When it comes to procurement, there seems to be a gaggle of former military officers who were willing to say anything publicly in order to ensure that their business interests weren't threatened by a Pentagon that might award a contract to another company. The procurement boondoggle has been around forever. It was there in 1775 when the chaotic and disorganized elements of the Continental Army were trying to find blankets and shoes, and the people in Boston and New York were only too happy to oblige with whatever rotting stock they could sell at a markup to an agent who was supposed to be acting on behalf of the soldiers. By the end of the war, these agents were rich men, at least the ones who weren't caned and beaten for being corrupt.

“We knew we had extraordinary access,” said Timur J. Eads, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Fox analyst who is vice president of government relations for Blackbird Technologies, a fast-growing military contractor.

Like several other analysts, Mr. Eads said he had at times held his tongue on television for fear that “some four-star could call up and say, ‘Kill that contract.’ ” For example, he believed Pentagon officials misled the analysts about the progress of Iraq’s security forces. “I know a snow job when I see one,” he said. He did not share this on TV.

“Human nature,” he explained, though he noted other instances when he was critical.

When I read things like that, my first reaction is to yell "bullshit." I personally don't think Mr. Eads was paying attention. He was probably more interested in lining his own pockets than he was in looking at Iraqi police officers and their gear. Anyone who has seen the dog-and-pony show knows one thing--the participants don't give two shits about anything that doesn't directly affect them. As in, where are the drinks, where's the food, where's the goodie bag, where do I go shopping, when do we get to fly fast in the Blackhawk.

To say, well after the fact, that he thought it was a "snow job" is to expect him to have a level of sophistication that hasn't yet been demonstrated. General Petraeus was writing, in 2004, of how great the Iraqi police were. I'm supposed to assume retired LTC Eads was "smarter" and more "knowledgeable" than the new CENTCOM Commander? Was he just spreading the same lies? Or did he think he had more insight? If so, why didn't he call Petraeus on it publicly in the early years of the war, when Petraeus was busy failing to achieve his mission and train the Iraqi police? Well, the proof of that would be if Eads actually said, at the time, what he thought was the "snow job" part of the whole matter.

Whoops! He didn't tell anyone. We have to take his word for it. Pardon me if I do not.

You see, when these men are caught lying, they have to try to justify and explain themselves. They have been caught lying about something they know nothing about, and that's war. How sad is it that we have a generation of military men that had their careers slotted between Vietnam and the start of the Iraq War in 2003 and, by and large, to a man, they know absolutely nothing about war? A full scale reform of the service academies, the schools and the courses, and the very organization of the military itself should be front and center. Sadly, it's glossed over.

If an analyst who was always wrong about everything gets caught in that lie, the first thing they are going to do is to try to dodge accountability by claiming "private" views that were correct all along, thereby mitigating the fact that their "public" statements were consistently wrong. That's called covering your ass, because who's going to hire someone who's paid to be right but has a track record of being wrong about everything? That wingnut welfare only extends to the civilians, you know. Retired military officers do get that pension, you know. That's more than Bill Kristol and Michael O'Hanlon get.

Procurement seems to be the part that keeps surfacing when I look into the details of this article. Yeah, it's been out for a while, and no, the media isn't running with this ball. They're running AWAY from the story, simply because it makes the corporate ownership uncomfortable.

But if the trip pounded the message of progress, it also represented a business opportunity: direct access to the most senior civilian and military leaders in Iraq and Kuwait, including many with a say in how the president’s $87 billion would be spent. It also was a chance to gather inside information about the most pressing needs confronting the American mission: the acute shortages of “up-armored” Humvees; the billions to be spent building military bases; the urgent need for interpreters; and the ambitious plans to train Iraq’s security forces.

Information and access of this nature had undeniable value for trip participants like William V. Cowan and Carlton A. Sherwood.

Mr. Cowan, a Fox analyst and retired Marine colonel, was the chief executive of a new military firm, the wvc3 Group. Mr. Sherwood was its executive vice president. At the time, the company was seeking contracts worth tens of millions to supply body armor and counterintelligence services in Iraq. In addition, wvc3 Group had a written agreement to use its influence and connections to help tribal leaders in Al Anbar Province win reconstruction contracts from the coalition.

In 2003, in the same article above, The Nation wrote:

At Fox News, military analysts Lieut. Col. Bill Cowan and Maj. Robert Bevelacqua are CEO and vice president, respectively, of wvc3 Group, a defense consulting firm that helps arms companies sell their wares to the government. It recently inked an exclusive deal with New Zealand's TGR Helicorp and will help the company hawk its military aviation equipment to the United States. The firm trades on its inside contacts with the US military, and a message on its website reads, "We use our credibility to promote your technology" (accompanied by the sound of loud gunfire).

The networks don't seem too concerned about what the analysts do on their own time. "We are employing them for their military expertise, not their political views," Elena Nachmanoff, vice president of talent development at NBC News, told The Nation. She says that NBC's military experts play an influential role behind the scenes, briefing executive producers and holding seminars for staffers that provide "texture for both on-air pieces and background." Defense contracts, she adds, are "not our interest."

I don't know about you, but that last bit speaks volumes as to why the networks don't care to have this story continue to be talked about. Everyone "seems" to have understood that the war was a boondoggle--if you spoke favorably, you got to ride on the gravy train. If you didn't the train ride was over and you were tossed off the side with nothing.

How did any of that serve the best interests of the American people or the soldiers we sent to fight?

Really, I don't know how much more obvious it has to be. Why can't anyone see that that was what was going on? Doesn't anyone in this country, aside from those of us who hang out here, even care?

No comments: