One of many questions that Chris Wallace failed to ask Barack Obama during his 45-minute interview on Foxaganda Sunday was what the Senator thought about David Barstow’s devastating exposé in The New York Times the previous weekend.
No surprise. What would be the percentage in replacing one of the plethora of Jeremiah Wright questions with an inquiry about the megamedia’s hiring of retired military officers who sexed up the case for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and then exaggerated, distorted and lied about what was happening when the war and subsequent occupation got underway? Would that help the bottom line? Nah. Hence, none of Wallace’s pals at Foxaganda are talking about this. Indeed, mum’s been the word on Barstow’s bombshell throughout the megamedia. The talking point – or perhaps the memo from on high – seems to be: Don’t talk.
Don’t tell viewers that retired generals and colonels and majors engaged in a war-drumming, flag-waving perversion of patriotism. Or that those in the Pentagon who ordered special briefings for these analysts as part of a domestic propaganda campaign ought to get their mail deliveries slipped between the bars at Leavenworth for the next few years. Avoid the subject and maybe it will go away like so many other stories which have been disappeared as if they were dissidents in some backwater military dictatorship.
No news coverage, no commentary, no questions for any candidates. No abject apologies to viewers from station CEOs who paid double-dippers and triple-dippers to give an official patina to fabrications that have caused the killing and maiming of tens of thousands of Americans and other coalition soldiers. Plus millions of Iraqis. Business as usual. Even two days after the Pentagon suspended the briefings last Friday, Foxaganda was still employing retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney without disclosure.
You want to know more about the story, you go to Barstow’s follow-ups, to those of Glenn Greenwald at Salon, to the folks at Media Matters, and to excellent work of Ari Melber at The Nation. As a matter of fact, if you’d like to see Senator Obama’s answer to that question Wallace should have asked, you can find it (and Senator Clinton’s answer, too) at Melber’s blog here.
We’ve arrived at this situation because of three sets of cowards.
First among these are the military analysts themselves, supposedly men of courage who donned the uniform of the United States and swore an oath to uphold its Constitution. As Barstow wrote:
Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.Tell the truth on the teevee and say poof! to that lucrative retainer, that seat on the board of some major player in the military-industrial complex, that ability to get the Pentagon to assign a favorable contract to the guys who are filling your bank account. What would retirement be like with a lowered cash flow? Yikes! Can't have that. So, instead of calling government policy into question, instead of acting like an officer and a gentleman, sell the country out and keep the moolah flowing. Spit on the men and women sent to fight. Spit on the Constitution. Spit on the truth. Once, they painted a yellow stripe down the back of cowardly soldiers.
In turn, 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.
Not merely cowards. As Daily Kos Contributing Editor BarbinMD wrote when this story was new: "These men willingly deceived the American public to protect their access to power and more importantly, their profits. Perhaps traitor doesn't even begin to describe them." Indeed.
The second set of cowards are all those well-coifed news-readers and commentators and interviewers at CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, CNN and Foxaganda who’ve not seen fit to discuss The New York Times story except to briefly note that the Pentagon has stopped giving the briefings.
We know why Bill O’Reilly hasn’t stepped up with a mea culpa. On April 14, less than a week before Barstow’s piece appeared, according to Media Matters:
During the April 14 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly declared: "I can't base my opinion" about the Iraq war "on anything" other than "what my military analysts, people paid by Fox News, say to me." O'Reilly added that he could trust only Fox military analysts because "[t]he newspapers ... all have an agenda" and "only give you a snapshot of the war." Later in the broadcast, O'Reilly reiterated his position, saying, "I have to base my analysis on what our Fox News military analysts, who I think are the best and always [have] been the best, are saying." Further, O'Reilly described as "ridiculous" a caller's efforts to base his view of the war by "reading the Internet and the newspapers and forming a definitive opinion [based] upon what they say."
No retraction since. No mention at all. Silence from him and his colleagues throughout the industry – how appropriate that word. They didn’t vet the analysts or check out their possible agendas the way any good journalist would do. They ignored sources that might have called into question the claims of Lt. General Disinformation. Couldn’t find the wherewithal to let viewers know that Major Mendacious worked for a military contractor with a stake in the occupation of Iraq. Just broadcast his lies and cut his checks.
Of course, pointing out the cowardice of the megamedia’s on-camera crowd is thoroughly redundant. As Greenwald wrote Monday after a little praise for the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz – one of the few print journalists of note to say anything about Barstow’s revelations:
Kurtz's specific criticism of the media's behavior regarding this story highlights a broader and even more important point. In general, the establishment media almost completely excludes critiques of their own behavior, and discussions of the role the media plays in bolstering deceitful narratives is missing almost entirely from media-controlled discourse.
One of the most significant political stories of this decade, if not this generation -- the media's full-scale complicity with the Government in the run-up to the Iraq war -- has never been meaningfully discussed or examined on any establishment television network, including cable shows. While piecemeal quibbles of media coverage can be heard (of the type Kurtz typically spouts, or the Limbaugh-driven complaint about the "liberal media"), no fundamental critique of the role the media plays, the influence of its corporate ownership, its incestuous relationship with and dependence on government power -- among the most influential factors driving our political life -- are ever heard.
And we’re not likely to because of the third group of cowards. The guys who actually own and run the channels who paid the military shills to present the Cheney-Bush administration’s Iraq case for the past six years. Indeed, as Media Matters noted, they refused to appear on PBS last Thursday when the public channel took its look into the role of the military analysts.
In the old days in Japan, so the story goes, bosses who engaged in illegal, destructive or merely shameful behavior made a deep bow to those they had offended and headed off to a private room for a date with the blade of a tanto.
Even for those who’ve betrayed their fellow citizens and helped deliver thousands to their deaths for profit, seppuku’s admittedly a bit harsh. But if the craven news chiefs and channel owners were the least bit honest and upstanding, they’d be setting aside 15 or 20 minutes of broadcast time to apologize to the American people for acting as propagandists, for their malicious, intentional, long-running disinformation campaign. And they’d end with an on-the-air resignation and a vow never again to head up a media operation.
But then, if they were honest and upstanding, they wouldn’t be who they are. And we wouldn’t be where we are, mired in Iraq with no end in sight.
A hundred years of scrubbing will not remove the blood from their hands.