Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

27 Apr, 2008

NY Times Exposes Pentagon Mind-Bending to Promote Iraq War

Originally Published: 27 April 2008

A New York Times investigation exposing the spin doctors behind the Iraq war has further buttressed assertions that the American people, and the world at large, were lied to about the ongoing conflict.

Along with journalists like Greg Mitchell, the editor of Editor and Publisher” whose book about the role of the media in pushing what many call the “Lie of the Century” was the subject of this column last week, the NYT report is an encouraging indication that there is at least some life left in the U.S. media — which once doggedly demolished lying presidents and ended wars, but today does exactly the opposite.

The April 20 story, headlined “Message Machine: Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand”, exposed how “military analysts” with links to the Pentagon and/or defence contractors have been “presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio…to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.”

“Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance,” the NYT reported.

“The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.”

Says the report, “Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants.

“The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror.”

The paper said that records and interviews “show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.”

It says “members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.”

To those following developments in the Middle East, the report comes as no surprise.

Because they clearly succeed in hoodwinking and misleading a gullible Joe Public, identical tactics are being deployed in the wider campaign of disinformation and psychological operations against Iran and the Islamic world at large, disguised as the “war on terror”.

Dozens of academics, consultants and so-called experts claiming affiliations to various “think-tanks”, the vast majority of them non-Muslims who claim to have analysed, examined, researched and studied Islam, regularly appear on TV to offer shallow, one-sided and often grossly wrong perspectives.

These talking points and sound-bites, designed to smear the religion as violent and backward, are repeated consistently and persistently. Like the lies about Saddam Hussein and his non-existent weapons of mass destruction, lies told often enough become the truth in the public persona.

Negative news only about Islam enjoys saturation coverage worldwide, through the mainstream media, websites, internet chat rooms, movies, documentaries, cable TV — every imaginable form of communication.

Previously unheard of terms like “Islamist”, along with their bizarre, self-concocted definitions, have appeared from nowhere to become a part of mainstream lexicon.

Many in the Islamic world realise well that this campaign is designed to pit Muslims against each other, and non-Muslims against Muslims. It is also targetted primarily at young Muslims, to make them turn negative about their faith and create a new generation that will either abandon the faith entirely or be ripe for conversion into another.

Not all journalists are falling into the trap.

One of India’s best-known writers Khushwant Singh, wrote in a February 28 column in the Kolkata newspaper, The Telegraph, “The attacks (of September 11, 2001) provided fresh ammunition to vilifiers of Islam. Since then Islamophobia has been deliberately spread throughout the non-Muslim world.”

Dismantling the distortions and falsehoods of this disinformation campaign, Mr. Singh wrote: “You do not judge Hinduism of the Vedas and Upanishads by the doings of Hindus who, in the name of Hindutva, destroy mosques, murder missionaries and nuns, vandalize libraries and works of art.

“You do not judge the teachings of the Sikh gurus by the utterances of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and by the murder of innocents by his hooligans.”

To which I may add: You do not judge Christianity by the polygamist sect recently uncovered in Texas operating under the name of “Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS)” where men were having sex with under-age “wives”.

Nor do you judge Judaism by the actions of the Israeli government and its “security concerns” which sees Palestinians women giving birth at military checkpoints and innocent people blown up by missiles fired by F16s executing an “extra-judicial” killing.

Indeed, the NYT expose opens up four broader questions:

<> Although the front-line “military analysts” have been exposed, their handlers in the higher-up echelons of policy- and decision-making remain under wraps, and continue to operate with a complete lack of accountability. Why? Perhaps because, like Watergate, the trail might eventually lead all the way up to the top?

<> Where else are spin doctors being deployed in different guise — to flog nuclear power? Genetically modified food? Security equipment? Pharmaceuticals?

<> How can independent media assert itself in the new world order and an era of growing global corporate influence and ownership?

<> And finally, when are the American people going to wake up and decide they are not going to take it any more?