By McCarthy, Coleman
National Catholic Reporter , Vol. 44, No. 19
Iraq War, 2003---Media coverage
Iraq War, 2003---Military aspects
Afghanistan Conflict, 2001---Media coverage
Afghanistan Conflict, 2001---Military aspects
Retired Military Personnel--Media Coverage
Military Journalism--Ethical Aspects
"Old soldiers never die," said Gen. Douglas MacArthur on retiring in 1951, "they just fade away." No more. Now they hustle from battlegrounds to the high grounds of TV news shows, there to supply NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, CNN, MSNBC and others with hawkish support of the U.S. war machine.
In a 5,000-word expose on April 20, The New York Times detailed the Pentagon-media buddy system. More than 70 retired generals, colonels and majors reincarnated themselves as "military analysts" in the past five years of the American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. They were briefed by the Rumsfeld Pentagon and, loyalists, many went on the air to spread the military line that they knew was often false or inflated.
The mouthpieces included retired generals Barry McCaffrey (NBC), Don Sheppard (CNN), Bob Scales (Fox), Montgomery Megs (MSNBC) and Col. Jeff McCausland (CBS).
By hosting the ex-brass, the networks assaulted whatever minor claim they might have had to be champions of independent, balanced and impartial reporting. With no dissenting voices--perhaps an occasional peace analyst to counter the hordes of military analysts?--perspective vanished. In 2002 the Pentagon embedded TV journalists to report from Iraq. To reciprocate, home-front news shows embedded militarists in network studios.
The corporate media provided one more revolving door for the medal-chested warriors to stride through. Viewers were not told that while this or that general was promoting the Bush-Cheney version of the war--we are liberating Iraq, democracy is around the corner--he was also on the payroll: of military contractors feasting on war profits. A general could go from being a double-dipper, earning money from his military pension and a network check, to being a triple-dipper raking it in from a pension, the network and a contractor. An articulate general could become a quadruple dipper pension, network check, contractor check and speaking fees at military trade association dinners.
As the Times' reporters dug deeper into the collusion between the corporate media and the generals, they found that only "a few expressed regret for participation in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis. …