Didn't manage to see the New York Times today. No big loss for me,
but I'm reminded that I've been packing parts of the April 20 issue,
figuring I'd quote some and comment on others. The big article two
weeks ago was "Behind Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand: Courting
Ex-Officers Tied to Military Contractors." I didn't actually read
the piece. I realized five years ago that the networks' parade of
generals were team players, retired from active service but grateful
recipients of lavish pensions and lucrative second careers in the
Defense racket, and that their "inside sources" were mere propaganda
ministries. Moreover, I was hardly alone in noticing this. Still,
when Laura started reading me quotes, I asked her to mark a few for
a blog post. Here goes.
At the Pentagon, members of Ms. Clarke's staff marveled at the way
the analysts seamlessly incorporated material from talking points and
briefings as if it was their own.
"You could see that they were messaging," Mr. Krueger said. "You
could see they were taking verbatim what the secretary was saying or
what the technical specialists were saying. And they were saying it
over and over and over." Some days, he added, "We were able to click
on every single station and every one of our folks were up there
delivering our message. You'd look at them and say, 'This is
[ . . . ]
One trip participant, General Nash of ABC, said some briefings were
so clearly "artificial" that he joked to another group member that they
were on "the George Romney memorial trip to Iraq," a reference to
Mr. Romney's infamous claim that American officials had "brainwashed"
him into supporting the Vietnam War during a tour there in 1965, while
he was governor of Michigan.
[ . . . ]
Back in Washington, Pentagon officials kept a nervous eye on how
the trip translated on the airwaves. Uncomfortable facts had bubbled
up during the trip. One briefer, for example, mentioned that the Army
was resorting to packing inadequately armored Humvees with sandbags
and Kevlar blankets. Descriptions of the Iraqi security forces were
withering. "They can't shoot, but then again, they don't," one officer
told them, according to one participant's notes.
"I saw immediately in 2003 that things were going south," General
Vallely, one of the Fox analysts on the trip, recalled in an interview
with The Times.
The Pentagon, though, need not have worried.
"You can't believe the progress," General Vallely told Alan Colmes of
Fox News upon his return. He predicted the insurgency would be "down to
a few numbers" within months.
"We could not be more excited, more pleased," Mr. Cowan told Greta
Van Susteren of Fox News. There was barely a word about armor
shortages or corrupt Iraqi security forces.
[ . . . ]
Inside the Pentagon and at the White House, the trip was viewed as
a masterpiece in the management of perceptions, not least because it
gave fuel to complaints that "mainstream" journalists were ignoring
the good news in Iraq.
[ . . . ]
They also understood the financial relationship between the
networks and their analysts. Many analysts were being paid by the
"hit," the number of times they appeared on TV. The more an analyst
could boast of fresh inside information from high-level Pentagon
"sources," the more hits he could expect. The more hits, the greater
his potential influence in the military marketplace, where several
analysts prominently advertised their network roles.
"They have taken lobbying and the search for contracts to a far
higher level," Mr. Krueger said. "This has been highly honed."
Mr. Di Rita, though, said it never occurred to him that analysts
might use their access to curry favor. Nor, he said, did the Pentagon
try to exploit this dynamic. "That's not something that ever crossed
my mind," he said. In any event, he argued, the analysts and the
networks were the ones responsible for any ethical complications. "We
assume they know where the lines are," he said.
[ . . . ]
Like several other analysts, Mr. Eads said he had at times held his
tongue on television for fear that "some four-star could call up and
say, 'Kill that contract.'" For example, he believed Pentagon
officials misled the analysts about the progress of Iraq's security
forces. "I know a snow job when I see one," he said. He did not share
this on TV.
[ . . . ]
Mr. Bevelacqua, then a Fox analyst, was among those invited to a
briefing in early 2003 about Iraq's purported stockpiles of illicit
weapons. He recalled asking the briefer whether the United States had
"smoking gun" proof.
"We don't have any hard evidence," Mr. Bevelacqua recalled the
briefer replying. He said he and other analysts were alarmed by this
concession. "We are looking at ourselves saying, 'What are we
[ . . . ]
Mr. Maginnis said he concluded that the analysts were being
"manipulated" to convey a false sense of certainty about the evidence
of the weapons. Yet he and Mr. Bevelacqua and the other analysts who
attended the briefing did not share any misgivings with the American
[ . . . ]
Some e-email messages between the Pentagon and the analysts reveal
an implicit trade of privileged access for favorable coverage. Robert
H. Scales Jr., a retired Army general and analyst for Fox News and
National Public Radio whose consulting company advises several
military firms on weapons and tactics used in Iraq, wanted the
Pentagon to approve high-level briefings for him inside Iraq in
"Recall the stuff I did after my last visit," he wrote. "I will do
the same this time."
[ . . . ]
In interviews, several analysts reacted with dismay when told they
were described as reliable "surrogates" in Pentagon documents.
[ . . . ]
On Aug. 3, 2005, 14 marines died in Iraq. That day, Mr. Cowan, who
said he had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the "twisted version
of reality" being pushed on analysts in briefings, called the Pentagon
to give "a heads-up" that some of his comments on Fox "may not all be
friendly." Pentagon records show, Mr. Rumsfeld's senior aides quickly
arranged a private briefing for him, yet when he told Bill O'Reilly
that the United States was "not on a good glide path right now" in
Iraq, the repercussions were swift.
Mr. Cowan said he was "precipitously fired from the analysts group"
for this appearance. The Pentagon, he wrote in an e-mail message,
"simply didn't like the fact that I wasn't carrying their water." The
next day James T. Conway, then director of operations for the Joint
Chiefs, presided over another conference call with analysts. He urged
them, a transcript shows, not to let the marines' deaths further erode
support for the war.
"The strategic target remains our population," General Conway
said. "We can lose people day in and day out, but they're never going
to beat our military. What they can and will do if they can is strip
away our support. And you guys can help us not let that happen."
[ . . . ]
On Friday, April 14, with what came to be called the "Generals'
Revolt" dominating headlines, Mr. Rumsfeld instructed aides to summon
military analysts to a meeting with him early the next week, records
show. [ . . . ]
On Tuesday, April 18, some 17 analysts assembled at the Pentagon
with Mr. Rumsfeld and General Pace, then the chairman of the Joint
A transcript of that session, never before disclosed, shows a
shared determination to marginalize war critics and revive public
support for the war.
"I'm an old intel guy," said one analyst. (The transcript omits
speakers' names.) "And I can sum all of this up, unfortunately, with
one word. That is Psyops. Now most people may hear that and they
think, 'Oh my God, they're trying to brainwash.'"
"What are you, some kind of a nut?" Mr. Rumsfeld cut in, drawing
laughter. "You don't believe in the Constitution?"
There was little discussion about the actual criticism pouring
forth from Mr. Rumsfeld's former generals. Analysts argued that
opposition to the war was rooted in perceptions fed by the news media,
not reality. The administration's overall war strategy, they counseled,
was "brilliant" and "very successful."
"Frankly," one participant said, "from a military point of view,
the penalty, 2,400 brave Americans whom we lost, 3,000 in an hour and
15 minutes, is relative."
An analyst said at another point: "This is a wider war. And whether
we have democracy in Iraq or not, it doesn't mean a tinker's damn if
we end up with the result we want, which is a regime over there that's
not a threat to us."
[ . . . ]
Much of the session was devoted to ways that Mr. Rumsfeld could
reverse the "political tide." One analyst urged Mr. Rumsfeld to "just
crush these people," and assured him that "most of the gentlemen at
the table" would enthusiastically support him if he did.
"You are the leader," the analyst told Mr. Rumsfeld. "You are our
At another point, an analyst made a suggestion: "In one of your
speeches you ought to say, 'Everybody stop for a minute and imagine an
Iraq ruled by Zarqawi,' And then you just go down the list and say,
'All right, we've got oil money, sovereignty, access to the geographic
center of gravity of the Middle East, blah, blah, blah.' If you can
just paint a mental picture for Joe America to say, 'Oh my God, I
can't imagine a world like that."
[ . . . ]
The meeting ended and Mr. Rumsfeld, appearing pleased and relaxed,
took the entire group into a small study and showed off treasured
keepsakes from his life, several analysts
recalled. [ . . . ]
Days later, Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a memorandum distilling their
collective guidance into bullet points. Two were underlined.
"Focus on the Global War on Terror -- not simply Iraq. The wider
war -- the long war."
"Link Iraq to Iran. Iran is the concern. If we fail in Iraq or
Afghanistan, it will help Iran."
But if Mr. Rumsfeld found the session instructive, at least one
participant, General Nash, the ABC analyst, was repulsed.
"I walked away from that session having total disrespect for my
fellow commentators, with perhaps one or two exceptions," he said.
[ . . . ]
Some networks publish biographies on their Web sites that describe
their analysts' military backgrounds and, in some cases, give at least
limited information about their business ties. But many analysts also
said the networks asked few questions about their outside business
interests, the nature of their work or the potential for that work to
create conflicts of interest. "None of that ever happened," said
Mr. Allard, an NBC analyst until 2006.
"The worst conflict of interest was no interest."
Plenty of things to note here, but I was especially struck by the
scapegoating of Iran -- a card the military, Bush, and everyone in
between have replayed whenever the need for a scapegoat arose, which
is to say repeatedly.
Same issue has a Jad Mouawad piece on oil called "The Big Thirst."
A couple of quotes here show big problems that could be recognized
with only a tiny bit of intelligence.
"This is the market signaling there is a problem," said Jan Stuart,
global oil economist at UBS, "that there is a growing difficulty to
meet demand with new supplies."
Today's tensions are only likely to get worse in coming
years. Consider a few numbers: The planet's population is expected to
grow by 50 percent to nine billion by sometime in the middle of the
century. The number of cars and trucks is projected to double in 30
years -- to more than two billion -- as developing nations rapidly
modernize. And twice as many passenger jetliners, more than 36,000,
will in all likelihood be crisscrossing the skies in 20 years.
All of that will require a lot more oil -- enough that global oil
consumption will jump by some 35 percent by the year 2030, according
to the International Energy Agency, a leading global energy forecaster
for the United Statews and other developed nations. For producers it
will mean somehow finding and pumping an additional 11 billion barrels
of oil every year.
And that's only 22 years away, a heartbeat for the petroleum
industry, where the pace of finding and tapping new supplies is
measured in decades. [ . . . ]
The problem is that no one can say for sure where all this oil is
going to come from.
Let alone draw the obvious inference, which is that if the oil
isn't forthcoming, the demand for it -- all those extra people, cars,
and development -- is also thrown into question.
But the quote that first tripped my alarm was further down:
A small band of skeptics view today's record prices as evidence
that oil supplies have peaked -- that half the globe's oil supply has
already been used up. But most experts believe that there are still
enough oil reserves, both discovered and undiscovered, to last at least
through the middle of the century.
The problem is that in many corners of the world, geopolitics, more
than geology, has removed much of those reserves from the reach of
independent oil companies.
"There are plenty of resources in the globe," Rex Tillerson, the
chairman of Exxon, recently told an investor conference. The
difficulty, he said, was "just continuing to have access to all of the
Over the past century, the world burned through a trillion barrels
of oil. Another 1.2 trillion barrels of known conventional oil
reserves wait to be tapped, according to BP, one of the world's
biggest oil companies. It sounds like a lot. But given the current
rate of growth in demand, a trillion of those barrels will be used up
in less than 30 years.
First thing here is that even the concessions -- from BP at least,
if not necessarily from diehard Exxon -- sound like rousing confirmation
of the Peak Oil model. One trillion down, 1.2 trillion to go, that's
pretty close to half pumped, especially given that it gets progressively
harder -- more expensive, most critically in terms of energy -- to get
at the last barrels in every oil field. Nor does it really matter if
the time frame for getting down to this last 10% of unpumped oil is 30,
40, or 60 years. Within the natural lifetimes of people already born
our world is going to change substantially.
In fairness, Mouawad adds the following escape clause:
What then? Many analysts estimate another trillion barrels of
yet-to-be-found oil remains, but in remote places like the Arctic
Ocean where it will be expensive to extract, or in countries that
might restrict access.
Note that the analysts have dropped from "most" to "many," and
the costs are hopping. There have been some deep sea finds recently,
but they are paltry compared to the discoveries that were common in
the 1960s-1970s, and they are expensive and risky. The political
cases are hardly any cheaper, especially if Bush's efforts to open
up Iraq to western oil exploration are any indication.
What about the United States? The country has shown little
willingness to address its energy needs in a rational way. James
Schlesinger, the nation' first energy secretary in the 1970s, once said
the United States was capable of only two approaches to its energy
policy: "complacency or crsis."
The United States is the only major industrialized nation to see its
oil consumption surge since the oil shocks of the 1970s and
1980s. This can partly be explained by the fact that the United
States has some of the lowest gasoline prices in the world, the least
fuel-efficient cars on the roads, the lowest energy taxes, and the
longest daily commutes of any industrialized nation. The result: about
a quarter of the world's oil goes to the United States every day, and
of that, more than half goes to its cars and trucks.
[ . . . ]
"The country has been living beyond its means," said Vaclav Smil, a
prominent energy expert at the University of Manitoba. "The situation
is dire. We need to do relative sacrifices. But people don't realize
how dire the situation is."
Of course they don't. Americans survived the scares of 1973 and 1979
and came out thinking they're immune. They bought into Reagan's "morning
in America" flattery, and now they think it can never be otherwise. This
is a nation built on cheap land and cheap oil, so happy go lucky even
WWII was just a party. We're so conceited we still refer to ourselves
as the world's sole superpower -- a hyperpower even. How can such a run
of dumb luck ever run out?
Then, same issue, there's an op-ed by Clinton economist Martin Neil
Baily (currently at Brookings) called "Don't Blame the War for the
Economy." Several people have said this recently, including Dean Baker,
who argues that the numbers from the subprime mortgage crisis simply
swamp out the nominal Iraq war expenses. That's true as far as it goes,
but only if you assume there are no hidden connections. One of those
connections is George W. Bush, whose 2004 election depended on putting
up some plausible indication of economic growth to counter his fiasco
in Iraq -- itself intimately connected to Bush's quest for power, and
failed by the same ideological blinders and reckless disregard that
drove the housing bubble through the subprime jungle.
Baily, on the other hand, doesn't even understand that the critical
economic problem now is financial, not the relatively simple (albeit
intractable) problem of oil prices. He writes:
I am no fan of the war in Iraq, but it simply has not been a major
contributor to the financial crisis and the impending recession. The
high price of oil is largely the result of strong demand, notably from
China and India, pressing against a limited supply. The global oil
supply is growing more slowly than it could because of politics and
policies in many places -- Russia, Mexico, Nigeria and Venezuela as
well as the Middle East. [ . . . ] Absent the war,
Iraqi oil production under Saddam Hussein might have been somewhat
higher, but not by enough to affect the American economy. Iraqi oil
production has been very volatile and has experienced a downward trend
since the late 1970s, despite its vast potential.
Get that? High oil prices are the result of politics, but not of
American politics, even though the strapped suppliers have complex
and mostly unsavory experience with US policies, and the voracious
consumers are precisely the developing nations with the poorest
record of following the dictates of the Washington Consensus on
how developing nations should be governed -- nations which also
benefit from US offshoring, and which in turn prop up US deficits.
Before you let war off the hook for the economy, take a good look
at how America's penchant for war and empire affects everything.
Here's another example of Baily's confusion:
Is government borrowing to blame? Chronic budget deficits are
harmful because they increase interest rates, crowd out domestic
investment, and increase the trade deficit. So, in principle, budget
deficits should actually have curbed the housing boom, not fueled
In practice, budget deficits did not result in high interest rates
because of the huge flows of foreign capital into the American
economy. The lack of discipline in the federal budget in recent years
is deplorable and we will pay for that,especially as we face the costs
of an aging population. The failure to pay for the war is part of this
policy mistake, but only a part and not a big cause of today's
Economics is a science? Sounds like we're being scammed by the world,
willingly so. Mostly because it makes Bush look less worse than he's
actually been -- a delusion we'll pay dearly for.
One good op-ed for a change, Alexandra Fuller on "Recovering From
Wyoming's Energy Bender":
For example, oil and gas companies are exempt from provisions of
the Clean Water Act that require construction activities to reduce
polluted runoff as well as from provisions of the Safe Drinking Water
Act that regulate underground injection of chemicals. The industry is
also generously permitted to drill on critical wildlife winter range
(close to 90 percent of all their requests to drill on winter range
have been granted). Oil rigs are drilling for natural gas on the banks
of the New Fork River (the headwaters of the Colorado) and in the
foothills of the Wyoming Range. Well sites in many parts of the
southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are so closely spaced that,
with roads, gas pipelines and compressor stations, the development is