Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pentagon investigates itself: We are innocent

The US military message machine never sleeps, is everywhere, and spends $billions on being dominant in the category of conflict turn-to sources for members of the American mainstream media. Editors want experts and they want experts who have been on the ground and can offer informed analysis. Editors are also on a budget and don't much like forking over the travel funds to those experts. It's best when the experts are just on tap, free, funded by others, and who speak and write authoritatively.

So you pay for it, not CNN, not Fox, not ABC, NBC, or CBS. You pay for it out of your taxes, not The New York Times, not The Wall Street Journal, not The Washington Post. The Pentagon handles all these experts and they handle mainstream media. They do this in the name of a free press. Can you feel the smirk?

After some 2008 stories exposing some of this, Congress asked the Pentagon to investigate itself. More than three years later, the DoD inspector general says no problem. Like the torturers in Bahrain busily self-investigating and declaring that mistakes were made but we are a great government so shut up and stop your whining, the Pentagon finds that its propaganda machine may need some fine tuning, but it's working pretty well. DoD to taxpayers: Shut up and pay up and like it. From the NYT:

The inquiry found that from 2002 to 2008, Mr. Rumsfeld’s Pentagon organized 147 events for 74 military analysts. These included 22 meetings at the Pentagon, 114 conference calls with generals and senior Pentagon officials and 11 Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq and Guant├ínamo Bay, Cuba. Twenty of the events, according to a 35-page report of the inquiry’s findings, involved Mr. Rumsfeld or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or both.

What's not to like? When you see these uniformed experts saying "I've been to Iraq nine times" or "I was on the phone with the Secretary," you can feel like you've personally contributed--because you have. If you work for a living, you are paying for this propaganda. And the military message machine employs almost as many in their various activities as does the entire US State Department and more than most major media corporations. Sales are booming. Social norms are putty in their hands.

Meanwhile, we have more than 500 members of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, most of whom are peace academics, who are funded to travel to controversial conflict zones by zero tax dollars. When we go, we hustle our own funds or pay out of pocket. We study, research, analyze, and teach. We actually know far more about alternative methods to violent conflict management than do all the military experts, active or retired, but editors rarely contact us for that knowledge, and it's hard to blame them. When a source has access, had been there, and is a retired member of an organization that specializes in conflict (never mind that it specializes in lethal force and destroying infrastructure), why not rely on them?

As usual, we on the peace side have our work well and truly cut out for us. We have experts who could save the US taxpayers hundreds of $billions and save hundreds of thousands of lives. There are alternatives to the military methods. When the editors are interested, they should look us up.

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