Sunday, May 11, 2008

NYT Pentagon Piece in Play

The New York Times recently revealed the Pentagon employed bullying tactics to motivate retired military generals to spout the party line in their role as media commenter's. One benefit for playing along was business for various firms affiliated with those same generals. Many retired military big wigs sit on the Board of Directors or serve as high paid consultants for defense and intelligence firms.

Last week, two retired generals, Peter Pace and Barry McCaffrey, spoke at the Leon Panetta Lecture in Monterey, California. Let's start with the more recently retired Peter, who landed numerous corporate positions with defense and government contractors. Consider some of his statements:

On military preparedness, Pace said the armed forces are stretched thin by Iraq and "it would be ugly" if called upon to respond to another crisis. (Hold onto your shorts this coming hurricane season.)

As for Iraq, Pace said the mission today is to keep the number of terrorist acts below the level at which an Iraqi government can function. (Ever heard the term mission creep?)

Iraq's many problems will not be solved, Pace said, without economic development and a political system that can instill hope in Iraqis that they have a future. (What model for economic development is Peter recommending? Flooding the country with billions in cash provided the means to buy and make weapons. Might he want a Disney like skateboard park? Is there any chance SM&A Advisers could help businesses get in on government sponsored commerce? I don't recall which U.S. firm owns the patent on hope, but I'm sure they can be motivated to spread it in Iraq for the right price.)

Pace defended the original military planning for the Iraq invasion based on the intelligence available at the time, but admitted "I was wrong" on the threat of chemical weapons, and about whether Saddam's military would stay and help rebuild the country. "Instead, they disintegrated," Pace said. (Laughable, the Iraqi army was dismissed by Paul L. Bremer, head of the U.S. led Coalition Provisional Authority)

Arquilla and Pace cited the threat of cyberterrorism as one that could unhinge our computer-dependent defense information systems as well as much of this country's infrastructure and economic systems. (Thus, Uncle Sam will need to spend cajillions of dollars to secure our vulnerable information systems and Peter has the right firm to consult with both sides!)

While Peter's comments took up most of the piece, General Barry McCaffery got a few remarks on newsprint. They include:

McCaffrey said today's military is the best prepared and trained in the nation's history, but "completely overstressed," with too many combat tours for too many people.

McCaffrey said the Bush administration's "surge" strategy has worked, and he praised Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who he said has wisdom, experience and is a team player -- in contrast to his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, who, said McCaffrey, had "terrible judgment." McCaffrey also said Iraq is "not a lost cause" but it will be at least three years before significant U.S. troop withdrawals can begin. "Our troops have put a lot of blood" into Iraq, McCaffrey said. "They don't want to fail." (Whoa, earlier Peter said the problems were economic and political? How can the military provide an economic and political system replete with hope?)

Regarding Iran, McCaffrey said not much can be done to militarily seek and destroy nuclear devices in that country, but that Iran needs to know the U.S. will launch a massive pre-emptive first strike if our military is convinced of an imminent nuclear threat to our armed forces or national security. (Barry, hello! Israel's Mossad cites Iran's ability to have a nuclear weapon by the end of 2008, middle of 2009. Can you say imminent?)

McCaffrey said, however, much of the world hates our current administration and our foreign policy and that the next president needs to move in the direction of collaboration, both globally and within our own government. (President Bush is a uniter, not a divider.)

The best warfare tools we have, he said, are our values and our Constitution. (I don't believe our military is equipped with these. And where does waterboarding fit in our values and Constitution?)

It takes a strong constitution to stomach all this "expert commentary". How is a citizen to know whether the Pentagon is still pulling the strings on these marionettes?