Pentagon Payola Retired Generals' TV Grift

Pentagon Payola Retired Generals' TV Grift
April 22nd, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Pentagon Payola Retired Generals' TV Grift

Pentagon Payola Retired Generals' TV Grift
New York Post
April 22, 2008 By Ralph Peters
EVEN The New York Times gets it right once in a while. On Sunday, the Times published a lead article about a genuine military-related scandal: propagandizing on TV by retired military officers who take defense-contractor blood money or toe the Pentagon party line.
The sole fault I can find with the piece is that the rogues' gallery of faces on the front page failed to distinguish between the good, the bad and the ugly - between genuine men of conscience, and scoundrels who'd sell their underage daughters for three cents on the dollar.
The article described - accurately - how many retired-military talking heads conceal business ties to the defense industry, or are willing to parrot Pentagon agitprop in return for the illusion of privileged access.
(For the record, I take no defense-industry payola - I'd rather empty cesspools with a straw - and I'm proud to have been unwelcome in the Rumsfeld-era Pentagon.)
Officers who trade on their former service and knowingly deceive the American people to increase their chances of winning defense contracts for the firms they represent disgrace the uniforms they wore. Period.
Ken Allard, a retired Army colonel and a good man I'll vouch for, pointed out in the Times article that it was sometimes enough just for the Pentagon's cynical commissars to make retirees feel important, to give them a sense that they were still players. For other talking heads, pleasing the Pentagon is strictly mercenary.
Does a retired general or admiral with a pension of over $100k a year really need to sell himself as a huckster for the wares of Daddy Warbucks? Isn't that 5,500-square-foot house enough, General? Do you really need the 9,000-square-foot house?
As I've argued in past columns, whenever any military retiree appears as a TV talking head, the crawl at the bottom of the screen should list his corporate affiliations. Viewers need to know who's really paying the "expert's" bills, since a retired officer cashing checks from a corporation profiting from Iraq or Afghanistan is hardly an objective observer - even if he thinks he is.
And any talking head who relies on Pentagon talking points should have to disclose it. Besides, any analyst who needs Pentagon coaching is worthless - the way you get real information is by going out to see things first-hand (not on Pentagon-organized junkets, either), or through trusted friends and acquaintances in uniform.
One of my many eye-roller experiences went down in a cable-news green room: A retired general whined that his Air Force counterpart got his talking points hours before the Army could deliver. That show might as well have called in an official Pentagon spokesman - at least the viewers would've known what they were getting.
The rules are simple, folks: If you work for a defense contractor, run a defense "consulting" firm or collect a check for sitting on a defense-industry board, you're tainted. And if you pull your punches to preserve worthless access to stage-managed Pentagon briefings, you're a coward.
Many military-retiree talking heads - including some I consider friends - will disagree with me. But I just don't think you can serve two (or three or four) masters. You're either a serious analyst or a corporate slut. A chance to appear on TV or radio to share your views with the American public is a great privilege. If you lie for personal advantage, you're vermin.
Gullible retirees who mistake a quickie lunch in the SecDef's dining room for true love are the lesser issue here. The crucial problem lies in the ethically appalling relationships between retired senior officers, the Pentagon and the defense industry. That's what the Times - and other media outlets, right and left - really should go after.
I can't sum up the situation any better than I did in The Washington Monthly in 1999:
"Anyone who has served in the Pentagon has slipped on the slime trails that retired generals and admirals leave in their wake as they navigate the hallways bearing a defense contractor's business card with their name on it.
"The employment of retired senior officers by the nation's largest, increasingly monopolistic defense contractors is a scandal costing the taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars, and it may cost troops their lives. These men wear flags upon their lapels, but their minds are on the money. Their actions are not illegal because we have legalized corruption."
Contrary to defense-industry lies, retired generals aren't hired for their expertise. They're hired for their connections. It's Baghdad with Brooks Brothers suits.
Ever wonder why so few military pundits criticized Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, no matter what he screwed up? Or why they savaged honorable men, such as Maj.-Gen. John Batiste and Gen. Anthony Zinni, when they criticized the Iraq War's prosecution? Or why virtually none of those high-ranking talking heads would criticize Blackwater's thugs after they massacred Iraqi civilians in downtown Baghdad?
The answer is that the generals were for sale.
Ralph Peters is a retired US Army officer.

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