Not in the Pentagon's Pocket
The row over the New York Times's story exposing military pundits' cozy relationships with the Pentagon continues to simmer at a low temperature, thanks in part to continuing reporting by Glenn Greenwald and others. Today, I read on Glenn's site about a response from veteran combat correspondent Joe Galloway to the assertion by Donald Rumsfeld's former flak that he was part of the Pentagon's pundit team.
Never one to mince words, Joe pretty clearly refutes the allegation in his column this week. And in doing so, he recounts several anecdotes that illustrate the absurdity of the Pentagon's program:
Let the record show that Rumsfelds' folks reached out to me on these few occasions:
In early summer of 2003, half a dozen of us were invited to an off-the-record lunch with Rumsfeld in the Pentagon. The defense secretary seemed to have a poor grasp of the reality on the ground in Iraq and was still declaring that we'd do no nation-building there. He saw no insurgency, only a handful of "dead-enders".
In October 2005, DiRita called to invite me to travel with Rumsfeld to the Middle East and Australia. I declined because it conflicted with a long-booked graduation speech I was to give at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. to a class of new Air Force F-16 fighter pilots that included my nephew. DiRita was stunned that I wouldn't drop a bunch of fighter pilots to be schmoozed by his boss.
In November 2005, DiRita invited me to a "one-on-one" lunch with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. This one I accepted. I arrived to find across the table Rumsfeld, the then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace; Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Dick Cody; Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Walter Sharp and DiRita. We went at it hammer and tongs for an hour and a half over their conduct of the war and the errors that were costing the lives of American soldiers. As I left, I told Rumsfeld that I'd continue to point out those mistakes every week in my column.
In April 2006, DiRita sent me an e-mail telling me that my most recent column was "silly". That column had discussed an expensive war game the Pentagon conducted about a U.S. attack on a thinly disguised country that obviously was Iran.
A retired Marine general, Paul Van Riper, had been the commander of the "enemy" forces, and he used unconventional tactics to destroy the U.S. Navy flotilla in the Persian Gulf, leaving thousands of sailors and Marines dead. At that point, the commanders stopped the war game, reset everything and imposed new rules forbidding Van Riper from employing those tactics.
Van Riper walked out, furious, and requested an investigation. DiRita complained in his e-mail that I was silly to blame Rumsfeld for this and for covering up the investigators' report. After all, he wrote, Rumsfeld couldn't be expected to know retired generals several levels below him or to bear responsibility for such matters. His complaint sparked an escalating e-mail war that most reckon DiRita lost. The entire exchange was posted on the Internet and can still be found there.
So much for the Rumsfeld/DiRita outreach to their critics. They were much too busy hand-feeding horse manure to their TV generals, who in turn were feeding the same product to the American public by the cubic yard.
There's little doubt that this program violated the laws against covert propaganda operations mounted against the American public by their own government. But in this administration, there's no one left to enforce that law or any of the other laws the Bush operatives have been busy violating.
The real crime is that the scheme worked. The television network bosses swallowed the bait, the hook, the line and the sinker, and they have yet to answer for it.
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