Networks Still Hosting Military Analysts Without Identifying Massive Conflicts Of Interest
television networks continue to host retired generals as military
analysts without alerting viewers to their extensive ties to defense
contractors and the Pentagon.
Military strategy is a frequent topic on TV in the wake of President
Obama's announcement that he will send more troops to Afghanistan now
-- and start bringing them out by mid-2011. But few television viewers
have any idea that some of what they're hearing originates from men who
are literally profiting from the war.
One of these men in particular -- NBC News military analyst and
retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey -- has appeared on MSNBC at least 10 times
in the past month to criticize Obama's proposed troop-withdrawal
deadline, to lavish praise upon Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head
of U.S. Central Command, and to underscore the importance of training
Afghan security forces.
But neither McCaffrey nor the MSNBC anchors ever mentioned the fact that McCaffrey sits on the board of directors of DynCorp International,
a company with a lucrative government contract to train the Afghan
National Security Forces. Nor did they mention that McCaffrey recently
completed a report about Afghanistan that was commissioned by Petraeus
and funded by the Pentagon.
On December 4, McCaffrey appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews,
where he was introduced only as "retired General Barry McCaffrey." Upon
being asked whether we are creating our own enemy in Afghanistan,
McCaffrey said: "The key is, can we create an Afghan security force
that in a couple or three years will replace us? That is the real
question on the table."
He added, "I think there's some belief, strong belief on the part of
General [Stanley] McChrystal and others, to include me, that yes, you
can create an Afghan security force. I don't believe it's possible in a
year. I see this as a 3- to 10-year effort, at the front end of which
we're going to take casualties and spend a lot of money."
According to Forbes magazine,
this 3- to 10-year effort in Afghanistan will generate about 53% of
DynCorp's $3.1 billion in annual revenue, a fact that McCaffrey failed
McCaffrey describes the report he authored last week
assessing security operations in Afghanistan as an "independent
civilian academic contribution to the national security debate." In the
report, McCaffrey effusively praises Petraeus and the top military
officials in Afghanistan, calling them "brilliant" and the "absolute
best leaders in uniform."
McCaffrey continues to be presented as an objective expert despite
widespread, public evidence to the contrary. In late 2008, as part of a
Pulitzer-Prize winning series about the relationship between retired generals, the Pentagon, and defense contractors, New York Times reporter David Barstow wrote an article
that exposed McCaffrey for "consistently advocat[ing] wartime policies
and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests."
According to Barstow's article, McCaffrey used his close
relationship with Gen. Petraeus and his contacts at the Pentagon to
secure lucrative, mutually beneficial defense contracts at corporations
such as Defense Solutions and Veritas Capital. Armed with extensive
ties to both the government and the private sector, McCaffrey exercises
a third sphere of influence through his media exposure. He did not
respond to repeated messages from the Huffington Post, requesting an
McCaffrey is only one of several on-air military analysts with
extensive, interconnected Pentagon and corporate relationships. Retired
Gen. Richard Myers, who appeared on NBC's Meet the Press on October 11 to discuss Afghanistan strategy, sits on the board of directors of Northrop Grumman,
the third largest arms manufacturer in the world. But David Gregory
simply introduced him as the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff. Gregory asked Myers whether it was necessary to escalate the
Afghanistan war, Myers replied: "I think you probably do [have to
escalate]," and later added that he thinks U.S. allies "should pony up
Retired Gen. Robert H. Scales, Jr., an analyst for both Fox News and National Public Radio, is the president of Colgen, Inc.,
a consulting company specializing in issues relating to land power, war
gaming and strategic leadership. Colgen's clients include the U.S.
Military, the CIA and Special Operations Command. On December 1, Scales
appeared on Fox News with host Bret Baier and disparaged Obama's plan to start troop withdrawals in 2010.
"Well, there's an old saying in the Army, Bret, that an operation
must conform to the actions of the enemy and not to the clock or the
calendar," Scales said. "My concern is we need to focus on the enemy,
defeat the enemy in this region before we start talking about a
Not surprisingly, these "military analysts" on the boards of defense
contractors with large potential for financial gain have consistently
used their media appearances to make the case for escalation.
Last year, the Society of Professional Journalists called on NBC to sever ties with military analysts that could personally profit from the shaping of public opinion.
"By failing to be forthright and transparent, these networks --
which are owned by General Electric, a leading defense contractor --
are giving the public powerful reasons to be skeptical about their
neutrality and credibility," said Andy Schotz, the chairman of the
Society of Professional Journalists' Ethics Committee.
NBC has ignored the SPJ's call. A spokesperson from NBC said that McCaffrey's biography
on the MSNBC website details his involvement with DynCorp and other
corporations, but she declined to comment about why anchors do not
identify McCaffrey as a Pentagon contractor or defense contracting
consultant when he appears on their shows.
"The media are not legally obligated to disclose their connections,"
said Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility
and Ethics in Washington. "It's obviously a little misleading, though."