Silence is golden… as far as the media is concerned.

On April 20th, 2009, The New York Times’ David Barstow was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for three stories he published about a supposedly “independent voice”, a “dispassionate expert” on the war in Iraq who, it turns out, was very much in the pocket of military contractors, businesses seeking an edge on contracts with the Pentagon, and a Bush Administration horn-tooter.

Retired General Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, it turns out, was contracted by Defense Solutions, back in June 2007 to open doors for them at the Pentagon. Within days, McCaffrey had recommending Defense Solutions to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq. McCaffrey had given the pitch in a 15-page briefing package to Petraeus, who also happened to be “the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military”.

“Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military.

“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.”

McCaffrey didn’t mention to Petraeus that he was on contract with Defense Solutions, nor did he disclose this, or his lobbying to the Pentagon when he testified before Congress, criticizing a proposal by a competitor of Defense Solutions and suggesting that Congress needed to supply 5,000 armoured vehicles to Iraq, coincidentally, the same number pitched to Petraeus at the Pentagon.

Over the years since the 9/11, McCaffrey, who was an active promoter of the invasion of Iraq  has never disclosed his active involvement with the Bush Administration and Pentagon propaganda machines, or his ties to military suppliers as a lobbyist.

“BR McCaffrey Associates, promises to “build linkages” between government officials and contractors like Defense Solutions for up to $10,000 a month. He has also earned at least $500,000 from his work for Veritas Capital, a private equity firm in New York that has grown into a defense industry powerhouse by buying contractors whose profits soared from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, he is the chairman of HNTB Federal Services, an engineering and construction management company that often competes for national security contracts.”

Despite a long-standing and well publicized disagreement with Donald Rumsfeld, McCaffrey had been a very enthusiastic booster of the Bush policies, most especially those dealing with Iraq. His dispute with Rumsfeld, it appears also stemmed from his personal financial interests in promoting materials made by the companies he lobbied for. His chief complaint about Rumsfeld appears to have been that Rumsfeld didn’t want to overspend. Whereas, McCaffrey was urging the Bush government  and the Pentagon to spend.

As well as his lobbying, McCaffrey was also, it happens, involved in a surreptitious public relations campaign by the Pentagon to promote the Pentagon and the Bush Administration policies dealing with the war in Iraq. In other words, a propaganda campaign on behalf of the Bush Administration and the Pentagon.

However, McCaffrey, it seems was just one of many former military men who were involved with this campaign.

“In an article earlier this year, The New York Times identified General McCaffrey as one of some 75 military analysts who were the focus of a Pentagon public relations campaign that is now being examined by the Pentagon’s inspector general, the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Communications Commission. The campaign, begun in 2002 but suspended after the article’s publication, sought to transform the analysts into “surrogates” and “message force multipliers” for the Bush administration, records show. The analysts, many with military industry ties, were wooed in private briefings, showered with talking points and escorted on tours of Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.”

In order to promote the Bush/Pentagon slant on the war in Iraq, all these “independent analysts” were called upon by news organizations around the world to present their “independent opinions” as retired military personnel without ties to the military industry or the Bush Administration. They were, as we now know, anything BUT independent.

Since Barstow’s revelations, you would have thought that the media would be stepping up to strenuously assert that they knew nothing of “analysts'” ties to military suppliers or the Pentagon.

You would be wrong.

While the New York Times has run news stories on the issue, nearly every other major news organization, either print or broadcast has either under-reported or ignored the story completely.

Indeed, the announcement of the Pulitzer Prize awards in most new stories never made mention of Barstow or his win, at all.

NBC’s announcement was:

The Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and the arts were awarded today. The New York Times led the way with five, including awards for breaking news and international reporting.  Las Vegas Sun won for the public service category for its reporting on construction worker deaths in that city. Best commentary went to Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, who of course was an on-air commentator for us on MSNBC all through the election season and continues to be. And the award for best biography went to John Meacham, the editor of Newsweek magazine, for his book “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.”

And, of course, the very news organizations who are ignoring the story and failing to react in any way, are the same ones who allowed Pentagon and Bush Administration mouthpieces an open forum on the war in Iraq in their studios and in their pages.

Just when WILL the media pony up and accept their responsibility in either, at worst, willingly, or at best unknowingly allowed themselves to become part of the propaganda machine (if they DIDN’T know they should have done — they are in the business to find these things out!)?

Interestingly, if you Google News David Barstow, you will find few stories and none are from the major news organizations.

What is particularly shameful is that the very men who promoted a continued presence in Iraq and lied to the public about the actual state of affairs there did so for money and at the expense of young men and women who will never, ever come home from Iraq. Shameful and disgusting.

Read the Glenn Greenwald (Salon.com) piece on this story.

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