The aftermath of the 2020 Summit seemed to distract the Australian mass media and the blogosphere from yet another case of U.S. government manipulation of political coverage. It was the Iraq war again, of course.
Anthony Lowenstein's blog and Sarah at The Voice of Today's Apathetic Youth did alert us to the New York Times report which exposed the use by the Pentagon of retired military officers to sell the war. According to the NYT as well as attending special briefings:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his propaganda team courted as many as 75 retired military officers who could best market the Pentagon line, particularly on television. As detailed in The Times on Sunday, many of these officers used their access to Pentagon bigwigs to promote their private businesses.A PBS NewsHour report followed up these allegations but could not get any response from the major US networks who were the main beneficiaries of this deception. Perhaps they were just too embarrassed. Apparently they ignored the Times story just as they had been ignored their responsibilities to check their sources. PBS's take:
...the Pentagon targeted many of these analysts as part of an information apparatus to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance.The Australian media seem to have joined their American counterparts in not covering this story adequately.
Pentagon officials organized hundreds of private meetings with senior military leaders and the military analysts. They included talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
According to the Times, analysts were also taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated.
It was also disclosed that most of the analysts have ties to military contractors.
I often wondered what credence we could give to the independence and objectivity of the regular war experts used by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and other Australian media during the Iraq invasion. Former SAS commanding officer Jim Wallace was frequently used by the 7.30 Report.
His interview with Four Corners just before the invasion could have been scripted by Rumsfeld. Wallace is the Managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby. I wonder if he agreed with George W. Bush's initial metaphor for the war on terror as a "crusade". I do not recall any occasions on which Wallace's militant christianity was mentioned when explaining his credentials as an expert commentator on the war.