Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In the Rose Garden, Bush Bullshits Us Once Again


Looking out toward the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

In today's Rose Garden Press Conference, President Bush invoked The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) no less than NINE times, as he attempted to forge a link between our failure to exploit this national treasure and the high cost of gasoline.

He drew the same linkage in 2001 when the price of gasoline was roughly $1.45 per gallon. Today, the price of regular gasoline is $4.00 per gallon here in my home town and George is at it once again. "ANWR is the answer!" What absolute bullshit!

In fact, the Administration's tireless effort to open this hallowed ground to oil drilling is motivated merely by potential oil industry profits. In 1987, Canada and the United States signed a treaty to protect the last great North American caribou herd, the Porcupine Herd, and preserve its habitat and migration routes. To guarantee these protections in its portion of the range, Canada created national parks. The United States established the more ambiguous designation of "wildlife refuge". Despite repeated efforts to exploit the weaknesses of such a designation, Congress, in response to public outcry, has blocked attempts to open ANWR to development.

Perhaps it was assumed when the Alaska Pipeline was constructed in the 1970s that Prudhoe Bay's oilfields were much larger. But flow from Prudhoe Bay has now been declining for years. The quality of crude is diminished and requires extra processing. To justify the cost of maintaining the pipeline, the Haul Road, the facilities at Deadhorse, and to sustain profitability for the oil companies and services involved (ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP, Haliburton and others), new reserves must be tapped.

The plan was to develop new fields, east and west of Prudhoe, and build lateral feeder pipelines to transfer that oil to Prudhoe Bay and southward to Valdez via the Alaska Pipeline. ANWR's boundary is only about 50 miles east of Prudhoe Bay, and this of course limits eastward expansion. However, west of Prudhoe, development is proceeding with vigor.

(Curiously, President Bush neglected to mention the other massive oil development projects proceeding "at full steam" along the western half of the North Slope, including the February 6th auction of first-time oil leases in Alaska's pristine Chukchi Sea, which happens to be critical polar bear habitat. It is suspected that the debate over listing the polar bear as endangered has been delayed while these lease sales were allowed to proceed.)

Though time and again Americans have demanded the Wildlife Refuge be preserved in its pristine condition, and the intent of our treaty with Canada honored, the President now tells us that exploration and extraction technology is so advanced, the actual operations footprint on the tundra would be negligible. (The President today used the euphemism "exploration" rather than "drilling" or "exploitation". This is very intentional, and designed to elicit the most benign visualization of proposed activities in ANWR.)

I have been to Prudhoe Bay and have seen the oil field operations. Drills don't operate without a sprawling infrastructure of roads, heavy equipment, electrical generating stations, pipelines, collecting stations, pumping stations, maintenance and repair yards, aircraft landing pads, personnel and vehicles, housing, recreational facilities, stores, etc. The amount of activity on the North Slope also determines the number of big rigs hauling materials and supplies up the Dalton Highway ("The Haul Road") on a daily basis.

I've seen the industrialization of the Arctic, and the brown haze that hangs low over the sea up there. The uncertain impacts of further Arctic industrialization and pollution, upon a tundra and ocean ecosystem already threatened with collapse from climate change is pure insanity.

President Bush came into office demanding that ANWR be opened to drilling. Now frustrated for over seven years, he's making one last desperate attempt to break the barrier. On this important matter, Americans have repeatedly rebuffed attempts to circumvent their will. Today, he unashamedly invoked the rise in gasoline and food prices, and exploited our fears to advance his personal agenda.

The oilfields beneath ANWR will not substantially impact world oil supply (the primary price determinant) and will only incrementally increase the security of domestic supplies for a limited time (estimates range from 12 to 32 years.) According to Wikipedia, depending upon whether you use the most pessimistic or optimistic projections, the recoverable oil in ANWR would supply the American market for between 215 and 525 DAYS.

Why is the price of gasoline so high? President Bush is simply deceiving Americans. There are many factors that influence the price at the pump (none for which the President will acknowledge the slightest responsibility.) Chief among these:
  • Instability in key oil-producing countries. (Thanks to the Bush's "War of Opportunity in Iraq", the Gulf States region remain more volatile than ever. Threatening Iran only exacerbates the tensions. And we have continually attempted to undermine and destabilize Hugo Chavez's regime in Venezuela (even supporting a 2002 coup.) Venezuela is our fifth largest supplier after Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. So far we haven't declared war on Canada, but we're sure trying to piss off Mexico!
  • Weakening U.S. Dollar (the basis for international oil pricing.) Thanks to Bush's foreign policy, off-shoring of American jobs and industries and our government's failure to regulate the trading of mortgage-backed securities, the Dollar is increasingly regarded as an unstable investment.
  • Increased involvement of Hedge Funds and speculators in the oil market. (With the sub-prime debacle, speculators are now finding fuel and food much more rewarding commodities.)
  • Bush Administration opposition to increased fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards from Day 1
  • Bush Administration refusal to acknowledge Global Warming and fossil fuel impacts, until recently, thwarting the implementation of alternative fuel programs
  • Global and domestic petroleum production levels (adjusted according to demand. Currently adequate with excess capacity.)
  • Global and domestic petroleum inventory levels (currently high in the U.S.)
  • Global and domestic demand (rising globally, but showing slight decline in the U.S.)
  • Refining levels (currently increasing in the U.S., though Bush misleadingly stated today "It's been more than 30 years since America built its last new refinery.")
  • Oil company profits (across the board, at all-time record levels)
While the potential increase in supply from ANWR is hardly significant in the global market, where pricing is regulated by supply and demand, and there would be no significant downward pressure on pricing from this input alone (in the marketplace, oil from ANWR would be priced as any other equivalent grade oil), and, as long as the stress factors listed remain in effect, opening ANWR assures windfall profits down the road for the oil companies and oil field services involved.

Of course, development means jobs and increased revenues for the local Alaskan economy, but for Americans in general, the transfer of 5% of our oil consumption from foreign to domestic sources is meaningless. If market pricing and national security were a driving concern, Americans could exert a far greater impact simply through conservation. (I have conserved over 75% by simply not working! Not that I recommend such a radical approach.)

What we saw in the Rose Garden today was simply the same old stuff: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney taking care of business, taking care of friends and taking care of themselves. It has very little to do with concern for the average American.

But beyond this, I sense the attack on ANWR is somehow a personal face-saving matter for George W. Bush. It is one trophy he is determined to take, at any cost. As part of his legacy, this oil man intends to defeat the environmentalists and conquer ANWR.

Once again, America, it's time to tell George and Dick "go fuck yourselves!"

Sunday, April 27, 2008

World Trade Center



People ask me what I'm doing these days. My usual response is pretty much a blank. "Well...nothing, really."

The time seems full of "activity" (of one sort or another), but unlike the days in a corporate office where at any moment one can be called to account for one's accomplishments, I can't enumerate what "tasks" I've ticked off the "to do" list, or what I've "contributed". (I am also acutely aware of the perverse contradiction, that by doing almost nothing, I'm in a sense "contributing" more than many Americans. Simply by NOT doing, by not working, I'm using a tiny fraction of the energy and resources I used while "being productive", helping produce massive volumes of wine. I know, it's a somewhat warped concept, but it is inescapable - especially when one compares the resources First World nations consume compared to other nations.)

***

When I actually stop and think about what I've been up to over the past couple years, a few "projects" come to mind. I have spent several hundred hours looking into the events of September 11, 2001. A ridiculous waste of time you might say, but I was trying to answer (for myself) that nagging internal question "were we complicit?"

As I've shown with a number of recent links below, some fairly intelligent people claim there is ample evidence of an internal "conspiracy" to attack the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and possibly the Capitol. As proof, they cite, among other examples, the manner in which WTC towers 1, 2 and 7 collapsed in what (from our experience) could only be likened to controlled demolitions. Were we really to believe the official narrative that all seven World Trade Center structures were destroyed by an event initiated solely by the two aircraft?

I figured my training in physics would serve me well in trying to understand what we observed that day, what the government officially reported to have happened and all the evidence of "controlled demolition" the "conspiracy theorists" point to.

Despite the many claims to the contrary, I recently arrived at the personal conclusion that I'm satisfied that the towers required no additional forces (explosive charges) to collapse them. The documented damage that all three sustained, the engineering studies and the physical laws the buildings must obey satisfactorily explain what we observed that day. The fact that, other than controlled demolitions, we had never seen a steel-frame high-rise collapse into its footprint, and though we saw three such events in a single day, this is not compelling proof of controlled demolition.

After all this time, a few days ago an annoyingly obvious question arose: "why would anyone, intent on designing a terrorist attack so horrific that our government would then have carte blanche to do whatever it desired in the pursuit of the terrorist enemy, why would they go to the trouble of rigging the towers for controlled demolition, strike them with aircraft, then bring them down in such a way as to cause minimal damage to adjacent property?"

While "terrorists" were using aircraft to strike their targets, why would the conspirators make it appear the towers were brought down, not by the aircraft, but by controlled demolition? It seems ludicrous now. Wouldn't that simply arouse suspicions of an inside job?

Because I don't accept the conspiracy theories about the World Trade Center collapses, or a missile strike on the Pentagon, or the complete "disappearance" of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, this doesn't mean I reject conspiracy theories about the planning, organization and execution of the attacks on America. There are far too many questions, few addressed by the "official" 9-11 Commission Report and these are not questions that physics will help answer. They are questions about what Dick Cheney would call the "dark side" of human nature.

After the 2000 election, the Bush Administration arrived in office with a large contingent of "neoconservative" signatories to “The Project for the New American Century” (PNAC), Dick Cheney being the most senior signatory. The PNAC called for the ouster of Saddam Hussein by force. They called for a permanent American presence in the Middle East. They demanded that America do everything necessary to maintain its unchallenged hegemony in the World. But the process of achieving these goals would be slow, "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor", they wrote. This is no secret conspiracy. It was published for all to see. But most paid no heed to these extremist views. No matter. The authors of the Project were now at our nation's helm.

After less than eight months in power, September 11th delivered EXACTLY the shock necessary to invoke their plan. The path led to Afghanistan, but it was clear from Day 1, the Administration needed the path to lead to Saddam and Iraq.

Whether there was American complicity in the attacks of September 11th remains unclear. That the American people were led into Iraq by an unconscionable conspiracy to deliver regime change and the appropriation by force of another nation's wealth, there can be absolutely no doubt.

This is one of, if not the greatest criminal act perpetrated by the United States.

***

The September 11th attacks remain an enigma. At his Crawford Ranch in the summer of 2001, George W. Bush received the August 6th Presidential Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike within U.S." The report stated "FBI information...indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York."

At that time, we knew these threats must be taken seriously. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (an attempt to tip one tower into the other), following his capture in Pakistan and extradition, was helicoptered past the Twin Towers. He told his FBI escort "with just a little more money, they would have come down, it is not yet finished".

Yousef's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the "admitted" mastermind of the September 11th attacks, in the 1995 "Bojimba Plot", conspired with his nephew and others to either plant bombs on 12 U.S. airliners and blow them up over the Pacific, or alternatively hijack some of them and strike targets within the U.S. The plot was uncovered and foiled, the details widely reported.

Prior to 9-11, the CIA and Pentagon engaged in defense exercise scenarios responding to threats of aircraft striking domestic targets. Yet, what sticks in our minds is the repeated statements by Administration officials, the "talking point" that "no one" had any idea terrorists would use airliners as "missiles".

For our Administration to claim, in the aftermath of September 11th, that we had never imagined such attacks to be possible betrays such blindness, distraction, incompetence and negligence. Or, perhaps it betrays something much more sinister.

***

In my wanderings over the past few years, I came to appreciate tools such as “Wikipedia” as a remarkably democratic resource that has contributed so much to our knowledge base. It is a good place to start with many inquiries. Though the credibility of sources cited should not be taken for granted, the discussion is moderated and, when there is sufficient interest in a topic, most perspectives are represented. Using links and citations provided, a much more comprehensive picture can be gathered. (And if you have knowledge or expertise on the topic, you can contribute - providing your input survives the review and scrutiny of the moderators and other contributors.) What results is generally a "neutralized" forum, offering some form of the truth. While it may not satisfy all parties, it must be considered as only a starting point, from which to launch your own quest for the truth.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Can't Get Enough Oil



In its final days, the Bush Administration is pressing the Bureau of Land Management to pursue the sale of leases in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah for oil shale and tar sand development.

This photo shows the devastation taking place in Northeastern Alberta. Arboreal forests are cleared and tar (or oil) sands strip-mined, largely to feed the insatiable American market. Canada is America's largest foreign supplier of oil.

This has really piqued my curiosity, and I'd love to take a trip up there to see first-hand what's really going on. However, I have a hard time right now justifying the expenditure of so much gasoline for a story about destructive oil sourcing.

Americans need to learn a few words the Bush Administration will never promote: "moderation", "conservation", "austerity", "respect for the environment".

Photo: David Dodge, The Pembina Institute
To view a remarkable slide show of oil sands operations near Fort McMurray, Alberta, click here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Ethanol's Failed Promise"

By Lester Brown and Jonathan Lewis
Published in the Washington Post
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The willingness to try, fail and try again is the essence of scientific progress. The same sometimes holds true for public policy. It is in this spirit that today, Earth Day, we call upon Congress to revisit recently enacted federal mandates requiring the diversion of foodstuffs for production of biofuels. These "food-to-fuel" mandates were meant to move America toward energy independence and mitigate global climate change. But the evidence irrefutably demonstrates that this policy is not delivering on either goal. In fact, it is causing environmental harm and contributing to a growing global food crisis.

Food-to-fuel mandates were created for the right reasons. The hope of using American-grown crops to fuel our cars seemed like a win-win-win scenario: Our farmers would enjoy the benefit of crop-price stability. Our national security would be enhanced by having a new domestic energy source. Our environment would be protected by a cleaner fuel. But the likelihood of these outcomes was never seriously tested, and new evidence has shown that the justifications for these mandates were inaccurate.

It is now abundantly clear that food-to-fuel mandates are leading to increased environmental damage. First, producing ethanol requires huge amounts of energy -- most of which comes from coal. Second, the production process creates a number of hazardous byproducts, and some production facilities are reportedly dumping these in local water sources.

Third, food-to-fuel mandates are helping drive up the price of agricultural staples, leading to significant changes in land use with major environmental harm. Here in the United States, farmers are pulling land out of the federal conservation program, threatening fragile habitats. Increased agricultural production also means increased fertilizer use. The National Academy of Sciences reported last month that meeting the congressional food-to-fuel mandate by 2022 would lead to a 10 to 19 percent increase in the size of the Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone" -- an area so polluted by fertilizer runoff that no aquatic life can survive there.

Most troubling, though, is that the higher food prices caused in large part by food-to-fuel mandates create incentives for global deforestation, including in the Amazon basin. As Time magazine reported this month, huge swaths of forest are being cleared for agricultural development. The result is devastating: We lose an ecological treasure and critical habitat for endangered species, as well as the world's largest "carbon sink." And when the forests are cleared and the land plowed for farming, the carbon that had been sequestered in the plants and soil is released. Princeton scholar Tim Searchinger has modeled this impact and reports in Science magazine that the net impact of the food-to-fuel push will be an increase in global carbon emissions -- and thus a catalyst for climate change.

Meanwhile, the mandates are not reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Last year, the United States burned about a quarter of its national corn supply as fuel -- and this led to only a 1 percent reduction in the country's oil consumption.

Turning one-fourth of our corn into fuel is affecting global food prices. U.S. food prices are rising at twice the rate of inflation, hitting the pocketbooks of lower-income Americans and people living on fixed incomes. Globally, the United Nations and other relief organizations are facing gaping shortfalls as the cost of food outpaces their ability to provide aid for the 800 million people who lack food security. Deadly food riots have broken out in dozens of nations in the past few months, most recently in Haiti and Egypt. World Bank President Robert Zoellick warns of a global food emergency. The immediate necessary step is a major increase in global food aid. But beyond that, America must stop contributing to food price inflation through mandates that force us to use food to feed our cars instead of to feed people.

Taking these together -- the environmental damage, the human pain of food price inflation, the failure to reduce our dependence on oil -- it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that food-to-fuel mandates have failed. Congress took a big chance on biofuels that, unfortunately, has not worked out. Now, in the spirit of progress, let us learn the appropriate lessons from this setback, and let us act quickly to mitigate the damage and set upon a new course that holds greater promise for meeting the challenges ahead.

Lester Brown is founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute. Jonathan Lewis is a climate specialist and lawyer with the Clean Air Task Force.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day 2008



A professor of environmental economics once told us that every time we enter the marketplace, we're admitting a failure - that something had failed to satisfy a need.

How often do we Americans shop for something we actually need? How often is shopping merely an act of entertaining ourselves, of volunteering ourselves to the lure of the marketplace?

Over the past few days, I've reflected on some personal efforts in recent years, some with origins in my late 60s-early 70s "Ecology Now!" days, some inspired by traveling light on a motorcycle, some inspired by the exposure to other cultures where a little must be stretched a long way.

Thirty-eight years ago, when President Nixon established "Earth Day", it was a daunting challenge for the nation to consider the "ecology" for more than one day a year. It is encouraging to see momentum building, and the once-fringe topics of ecology, global warming, conservation and moderation becoming increasingly mainstream.

We can learn. Behaviors can change.

(Most of these "tips" I follow. Some, due to present circumstances, I can only aspire to. Please excuse my judgmental tone that often slips through. I do consider this stuff important.)

Transportation
  • Motorcycle only (and I try to remember that how I ride affects the longevity of the vehicle.)
  • Try to make no more than a single circuit or "run" each day, combining all errands and tasks into one path. (Plan my travel before I leave - visualize the circuit.)
  • Avoid single-purpose trips
  • Use less than 1/2 gallon of gas per day (This is about 15-20% of my average consumption level over past 40 years!)
  • To save fuel, keep tire pressure adjusted to the proper level
  • Assure proper fitting gas cap - reduces evaporation
  • If possible use public transportation
  • If possible, walk
  • If possible, ride a bike in place of driving a car or motor vehicle
Home
  • "Keep it simple"
  • Live small. (How much house do I really need? How much "stuff" do I need? Presently, for me, 300 square feet is almost enough.)
  • Set the thermostat at 55-58 degrees (layer up clothing as needed)
  • Turn off the furnace pilot from March through November (not a problem in California)
  • Set refrigerator low (1 of 10 in winter, 3 of 10 in warmer season)
  • Avoid perishable foods that require extreme refrigeration or freezing
  • Buy fresh foods more often. If I could, I would have a refrigerator without a freezer - or with a freezer that is independently controlled and could be turned off when not needed. (Which, for me is all the time.)
  • Light only the room I am using (rather easy since I essentially inhabit one room.)
  • Conserve water. Hand wash dishes in a dish pan. Air or towel dry.
  • Minimize electrical appliance use (except my air popper, computer and radio, that is)
  • Make maximum use of daylight versus artificial light, fresh air versus air-conditioned or fan-forced air (Actually, I can't recall ever living in a house with AC!)
  • Lower the thermostat on the water heater
  • Wear clothes longer between washings (everything that touches my body doesn't immediately need washing)
  • Hand wash, air dry laundry (December - February, machine dry)(again, not a problem in California)
  • Save ironing of clothes for "special occasions"
  • Wear things out, then repair them rather than discard them
  • Purchase no paper towels, plastic wraps, foils, plastic bags, etc. (use cloth towels, re-use produce bags for wrapping leftovers)
  • Buy powdered detergents in chipboard box (no plastic containers - liquid form has higher carbon footprint - higher transport cost, essentially transporting water)
  • Avoid individual serving containers - the most inefficient of packaging
  • NO bottled water. Use city water - don't let municipal water utilities off the hook for supplying fresh, clean water to all
  • Xeriscape - no lawns, no landscaping that requires gas-consuming equipment for its maintenance. Landscape consistent with native, naturally-adapted species
  • No newspapers (read them at community sources - if taken from a news box, return it after reading)
  • Buy natural products
  • Avoid heavily processed foods (packaging and processing are the main value-added features that inflate prices)
  • Avoid heavily-marketed products. If it's advertised, you probably don't need it (and will likely pay too much.)
  • Consume less meat (I eat meat, chicken primarily, about once a week, beef, at most once a month)
  • Try to use less of everything than I think I need
  • Grow your own food (can't do this right now, since I have no yard!)
Bathroom
  • Lower the thermostat on the water heater temperature (use solar heating if possible)
  • Limit showers to 5 minutes or less
  • Take cooler showers
  • Don't shave, brush teeth, lather up etc. while the water is running
  • Toilets don't need flushing after every use (maybe after every #2)
  • Bar soap only
  • No plastic or metal containers of shampoo, conditioner, shave cream, antiperspirant, air fresheners, etc.
  • NO aerosol cans (ridiculously wasteful)
  • Use up products completely - no waste
  • Razor blades can last for months - discard when they no longer work
  • Buy products/cleaners that are multi-purpose (AVOID specialty products)
Shopping
  • Carry cloth grocery bags
  • Re-use plastic and paper bags and other containers
  • Take my own containers to refill (where allowed)
  • Buy fresh!
  • Buy local produce, support local farms
  • Buy seasonal local produce (Learn what is seasonal in my area! Avoid apples and oranges in Spring and Summer; avoid strawberries, grapes, melons and tomatoes in winter)
  • Buy bulk
  • No frozen foods. Minimize use of foods that require refrigeration (shop regularly to assure freshness rather than rely on refrigeration/freezing)(I now shop one day a week.)
  • Try to avoid purchasing items that require packaging
  • Avoid any item with EXCESSIVE packaging. If I can't avoid it, write the producers to complain.
  • In deciding what to buy, prioritize items: buy reusable containers first, disposable containers last
  • Buy things that can serve multiple purposes, avoid specialized tools, implements, containers and products, if possible
Community
  • Frequent community spaces - share utilities
  • Use the public library (and donate those books gathering dust on your shelves)
  • If possible, borrow rather than buy
  • Redistribute possessions that are no longer used, and merely being stored - help avoid others' unnecessary consumption (http://www.freecyle.com)
  • For exercise, walk
  • For exercise, help a neighbor
  • Avoid exercise facilities that require heating and air-conditioning, artificial lighting, elaborate equipment (and excess quantities of cologne.)
  • Adjust the attitude: find pleasure and exercise in physical labor (exercise doesn't have to look like what is marketed to Americans)
  • Force stores to take responsibility for the products they sell - especially if excess packaging is involved
  • Avoid restaurants that serve too much food - those that typically oversize portions resulting in excessive use of take-out containers
  • Avoid the businesses with a "frontier chuck wagon mentality" (Costco, Sam's Club, etc.) For most Americans, it is not necessary to "warehouse" six months' supply of paper towels, bath tissue, cleansers, a side of beef, etc. We are just a short distance from the nearest store, not a day's ride from the nearest settlement. By creating bulk packaging, retailers encourage excess consumption and waste through a perception of abundance. They turn our homes into supplies warehouses. This binds our hard-earned dollars in inventory carrying costs, and that "inventory" is prone to careless use, waste and spoilage.
Workplace (Not applicable at the moment, since I don't work!)
  • Cut the commute. Telecommute as much as possible. Better yet, work close to home.
  • If your workplace requires air-conditioning, find another job
  • If your workplace doesn't utilize natural lighting, natural flow of fresh air, find another job
  • If your workplace seals you off from the natural world, find another job
  • If your workplace does not actively promote a concern for the planet, find another job

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand"

“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.”

By David Barstow

Published on Sunday, April 20, 2008 by The New York Times
In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.
The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse - an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

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.

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.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

Kenneth Allard, a former NBC military analyst who has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, said the campaign amounted to a sophisticated information operation. “This was a coherent, active policy,” he said.

As conditions in Iraq deteriorated, Mr. Allard recalled, he saw a yawning gap between what analysts were told in private briefings and what subsequent inquiries and books later revealed.

“Night and day,” Mr. Allard said, “I felt we’d been hosed.”

The Pentagon defended its relationship with military analysts, saying they had been given only factual information about the war. “The intent and purpose of this is nothing other than an earnest attempt to inform the American people,” Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

It was, Mr. Whitman added, “a bit incredible” to think retired military officers could be “wound up” and turned into “puppets of the Defense Department.”

Many analysts strongly denied that they had either been co-opted or had allowed outside business interests to affect their on-air comments, and some have used their platforms to criticize the conduct of the war. Several, like Jeffrey D. McCausland, a CBS military analyst and defense industry lobbyist, said they kept their networks informed of their outside work and recused themselves from coverage that touched on business interests.

“I’m not here representing the administration,” Dr. McCausland said.

Some network officials, meanwhile, acknowledged only a limited understanding of their analysts’ interactions with the administration. They said that while they were sensitive to potential conflicts of interest, they did not hold their analysts to the same ethical standards as their news employees regarding outside financial interests. The onus is on their analysts to disclose conflicts, they said. And whatever the contributions of military analysts, they also noted the many network journalists who have covered the war for years in all its complexity.

Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many - although certainly not all - faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.

“Good work,” Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general, consultant and Fox News analyst, wrote to the Pentagon after receiving fresh talking points in late 2006. “We will use it.”

Again and again, records show, the administration has enlisted analysts as a rapid reaction force to rebut what it viewed as critical news coverage, some of it by the networks’ own Pentagon correspondents. For example, when news articles revealed that troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor, a senior Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues: “I think our analysts - properly armed - can push back in that arena.”

The documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts. But some analysts said they had used the special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.

John C. Garrett is a retired Army colonel and unpaid analyst for Fox News TV and radio. He is also a lobbyist at Patton Boggs who helps firms win Pentagon contracts, including in Iraq. In promotional materials, he states that as a military analyst he “is privy to weekly access and briefings with the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other high level policy makers in the administration.” One client told investors that Mr. Garrett’s special access and decades of experience helped him “to know in advance - and in detail - how best to meet the needs” of the Defense Department and other agencies.

In interviews Mr. Garrett said there was an inevitable overlap between his dual roles. He said he had gotten “information you just otherwise would not get,” from the briefings and three Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq. He also acknowledged using this access and information to identify opportunities for clients. “You can’t help but look for that,” he said, adding, “If you know a capability that would fill a niche or need, you try to fill it. “That’s good for everybody.”

At the same time, in e-mail messages to the Pentagon, Mr. Garrett displayed an eagerness to be supportive with his television and radio commentary. “Please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay,” he wrote in January 2007, before President Bush went on TV to describe the surge strategy in Iraq.

Conversely, the administration has demonstrated that there is a price for sustained criticism, many analysts said. “You’ll lose all access,” Dr. McCausland said.

With a majority of Americans calling the war a mistake despite all administration attempts to sway public opinion, the Pentagon has focused in the last couple of years on cultivating in particular military analysts frequently seen and heard in conservative news outlets, records and interviews show.

Some of these analysts were on the mission to Cuba on June 24, 2005 - the first of six such Guantánamo trips - which was designed to mobilize analysts against the growing perception of Guantánamo as an international symbol of inhumane treatment. On the flight to Cuba, for much of the day at Guantánamo and on the flight home that night, Pentagon officials briefed the 10 or so analysts on their key messages - how much had been spent improving the facility, the abuse endured by guards, the extensive rights afforded detainees.

The results came quickly. The analysts went on TV and radio, decrying Amnesty International, criticizing calls to close the facility and asserting that all detainees were treated humanely.

“The impressions that you’re getting from the media and from the various pronouncements being made by people who have not been here in my opinion are totally false,” Donald W. Shepperd, a retired Air Force general, reported live on CNN by phone from Guantánamo that same afternoon.

The next morning, Montgomery Meigs, a retired Army general and NBC analyst, appeared on “Today.” “There’s been over $100 million of new construction,” he reported. “The place is very professionally run.”

Within days, transcripts of the analysts’ appearances were circulated to senior White House and Pentagon officials, cited as evidence of progress in the battle for hearts and minds at home.


Charting the Campaign


By early 2002, detailed planning for a possible Iraq invasion was under way, yet an obstacle loomed. Many Americans, polls showed, were uneasy about invading a country with no clear connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Pentagon and White House officials believed the military analysts could play a crucial role in helping overcome this resistance.

Torie Clarke, the former public relations executive who oversaw the Pentagon’s dealings with the analysts as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, had come to her job with distinct ideas about achieving what she called “information dominance.” In a spin-saturated news culture, she argued, opinion is swayed most by voices perceived as authoritative and utterly independent.

And so even before Sept. 11, she built a system within the Pentagon to recruit “key influentials” - movers and shakers from all walks who with the proper ministrations might be counted on to generate support for Mr. Rumsfeld’s priorities.

In the months after Sept. 11, as every network rushed to retain its own all-star squad of retired military officers, Ms. Clarke and her staff sensed a new opportunity. To Ms. Clarke’s team, the military analysts were the ultimate “key influential” - authoritative, most of them decorated war heroes, all reaching mass audiences.

The analysts, they noticed, often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events. What is more, while the analysts were in the news media, they were not of the news media. They were military men, many of them ideologically in sync with the administration’s neoconservative brain trust, many of them important players in a military industry anticipating large budget increases to pay for an Iraq war.

Even analysts with no defense industry ties, and no fondness for the administration, were reluctant to be critical of military leaders, many of whom were friends. “It is very hard for me to criticize the United States Army,” said William L. Nash, a retired Army general and ABC analyst. “It is my life.”

Other administrations had made sporadic, small-scale attempts to build relationships with the occasional military analyst. But these were trifling compared with what Ms. Clarke’s team had in mind. Don Meyer, an aide to Ms. Clarke, said a strategic decision was made in 2002 to make the analysts the main focus of the public relations push to construct a case for war. Journalists were secondary. “We didn’t want to rely on them to be our primary vehicle to get information out,” Mr. Meyer said.

The Pentagon’s regular press office would be kept separate from the military analysts. The analysts would instead be catered to by a small group of political appointees, with the point person being Brent T. Krueger, another senior aide to Ms. Clarke. The decision recalled other administration tactics that subverted traditional journalism. Federal agencies, for example, have paid columnists to write favorably about the administration. They have distributed to local TV stations hundreds of fake news segments with fawning accounts of administration accomplishments. The Pentagon itself has made covert payments to Iraqi newspapers to publish coalition propaganda.

Rather than complain about the “media filter,” each of these techniques simply converted the filter into an amplifier. This time, Mr. Krueger said, the military analysts would in effect be “writing the op-ed” for the war.


Assembling the Team


From the start, interviews show, the White House took a keen interest in which analysts had been identified by the Pentagon, requesting lists of potential recruits, and suggesting names. Ms. Clarke’s team wrote summaries describing their backgrounds, business affiliations and where they stood on the war.

“Rumsfeld ultimately cleared off on all invitees,” said Mr. Krueger, who left the Pentagon in 2004. (Through a spokesman, Mr. Rumsfeld declined to comment for this article.)

Over time, the Pentagon recruited more than 75 retired officers, although some participated only briefly or sporadically. The largest contingent was affiliated with Fox News, followed by NBC and CNN, the other networks with 24-hour cable outlets. But analysts from CBS and ABC were included, too. Some recruits, though not on any network payroll, were influential in other ways - either because they were sought out by radio hosts, or because they often published op-ed articles or were quoted in magazines, Web sites and newspapers. At least nine of them have written op-ed articles for The Times.

The group was heavily represented by men involved in the business of helping companies win military contracts. Several held senior positions with contractors that gave them direct responsibility for winning new Pentagon business. James Marks, a retired Army general and analyst for CNN from 2004 to 2007, pursued military and intelligence contracts as a senior executive with McNeil Technologies. Still others held board positions with military firms that gave them responsibility for government business. General McInerney, the Fox analyst, for example, sits on the boards of several military contractors, including Nortel Government Solutions, a supplier of communication networks.

Several were defense industry lobbyists, such as Dr. McCausland, who works at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, a major lobbying firm where he is director of a national security team that represents several military contractors. “We offer clients access to key decision makers,” Dr. McCausland’s team promised on the firm’s Web site.

Dr. McCausland was not the only analyst making this pledge. Another was Joseph W. Ralston, a retired Air Force general. Soon after signing on with CBS, General Ralston was named vice chairman of the Cohen Group, a consulting firm headed by a former defense secretary, William Cohen, himself now a “world affairs” analyst for CNN. “The Cohen Group knows that getting to ‘yes’ in the aerospace and defense market - whether in the United States or abroad - requires that companies have a thorough, up-to-date understanding of the thinking of government decision makers,” the company tells prospective clients on its Web site.

There were also ideological ties.

Two of NBC’s most prominent analysts, Barry R. McCaffrey and the late Wayne A. Downing, were on the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, an advocacy group created with White House encouragement in 2002 to help make the case for ousting Saddam Hussein. Both men also had their own consulting firms and sat on the boards of major military contractors.

Many also shared with Mr. Bush’s national security team a belief that pessimistic war coverage broke the nation’s will to win in Vietnam, and there was a mutual resolve not to let that happen with this war.

This was a major theme, for example, with Paul E. Vallely, a Fox News analyst from 2001 to 2007. A retired Army general who had specialized in psychological warfare, Mr. Vallely co-authored a paper in 1980 that accused American news organizations of failing to defend the nation from “enemy” propaganda during Vietnam.

“We lost the war - not because we were outfought, but because we were out Psyoped,” he wrote. He urged a radically new approach to psychological operations in future wars - taking aim at not just foreign adversaries but domestic audiences, too. He called his approach “MindWar” - using network TV and radio to “strengthen our national will to victory.”

The Selling of the War


From their earliest sessions with the military analysts, Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides spoke as if they were all part of the same team.

In interviews, participants described a powerfully seductive environment - the uniformed escorts to Mr. Rumsfeld’s private conference room, the best government china laid out, the embossed name cards, the blizzard of PowerPoints, the solicitations of advice and counsel, the appeals to duty and country, the warm thank you notes from the secretary himself.

“Oh, you have no idea,” Mr. Allard said, describing the effect. “You’re back. They listen to you. They listen to what you say on TV.” It was, he said, “psyops on steroids” - a nuanced exercise in influence through flattery and proximity. “It’s not like it’s, ‘We’ll pay you $500 to get our story out,’ ” he said. “It’s more subtle.”

The access came with a condition. Participants were instructed not to quote their briefers directly or otherwise describe their contacts with the Pentagon.

In the fall and winter leading up to the invasion, the Pentagon armed its analysts with talking points portraying Iraq as an urgent threat. The basic case became a familiar mantra: Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, was developing nuclear weapons, and might one day slip some to Al Qaeda; an invasion would be a relatively quick and inexpensive “war of liberation.”

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 working.’ ”

On April 12, 2003, with major combat almost over, Mr. Rumsfeld drafted a memorandum to Ms. Clarke. “Let’s think about having some of the folks who did such a good job as talking heads in after this thing is over,” he wrote.

By summer, though, the first signs of the insurgency had emerged. Reports from journalists based in Baghdad were increasingly suffused with the imagery of mayhem.

The Pentagon did not have to search far for a counterweight.

It was time, an internal Pentagon strategy memorandum urged, to “re-energize surrogates and message-force multipliers,” starting with the military analysts.

The memorandum led to a proposal to take analysts on a tour of Iraq in September 2003, timed to help overcome the sticker shock from Mr. Bush’s request for $87 billion in emergency war financing.

The group included four analysts from Fox News, one each from CNN and ABC, and several research-group luminaries whose opinion articles appear regularly in the nation’s op-ed pages.

The trip invitation promised a look at “the real situation on the ground in Iraq.”

The situation, as described in scores of books, was deteriorating. L. Paul Bremer III, then the American viceroy in Iraq, wrote in his memoir, “My Year in Iraq,” that he had privately warned the White House that the United States had “about half the number of soldiers we needed here.”

“We’re up against a growing and sophisticated threat,” Mr. Bremer recalled telling the president during a private White House dinner.

That dinner took place on Sept. 24, while the analysts were touring Iraq.

Yet these harsh realities were elided, or flatly contradicted, during the official presentations for the analysts, records show. The itinerary, scripted to the minute, featured brief visits to a model school, a few refurbished government buildings, a center for women’s rights, a mass grave and even the gardens of Babylon.

Mostly the analysts attended briefings. These sessions, records show, spooled out an alternative narrative, depicting an Iraq bursting with political and economic energy, its security forces blossoming. On the crucial question of troop levels, the briefings echoed the White House line: No reinforcements were needed. The “growing and sophisticated threat” described by Mr. Bremer was instead depicted as degraded, isolated and on the run.

“We’re winning,” a briefing document proclaimed.

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.

But if the trip pounded the message of progress, it also represented a business opportunity: direct access to the most senior civilian and military leaders in Iraq and Kuwait, including many with a say in how the president’s $87 billion would be spent. It also was a chance to gather inside information about the most pressing needs confronting the American mission: the acute shortages of “up-armored” Humvees; the billions to be spent building military bases; the urgent need for interpreters; and the ambitious plans to train Iraq’s security forces.

Information and access of this nature had undeniable value for trip participants like William V. Cowan and Carlton A. Sherwood.

Mr. Cowan, a Fox analyst and retired Marine colonel, was the chief executive of a new military firm, the wvc3 Group. Mr. Sherwood was its executive vice president. At the time, the company was seeking contracts worth tens of millions to supply body armor and counterintelligence services in Iraq. In addition, wvc3 Group had a written agreement to use its influence and connections to help tribal leaders in Al Anbar Province win reconstruction contracts from the coalition.

“Those sheiks wanted access to the C.P.A.,” Mr. Cowan recalled in an interview, referring to the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Mr. Cowan said he pleaded their cause during the trip. “I tried to push hard with some of Bremer’s people to engage these people of Al Anbar,” he said.

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. And on the key strategic question of the moment - whether to send more troops - the analysts were unanimous.

“I am so much against adding more troops,” General Shepperd said on CNN.


Access and Influence


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.

“We’re hitting a home run on this trip,” a senior Pentagon official wrote in an e-mail message to Richard B. Myers and Peter Pace, then chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Its success only intensified the Pentagon’s campaign. The pace of briefings accelerated. More trips were organized. Eventually the effort involved officials from Washington to Baghdad to Kabul to Guantánamo and back to Tampa, Fla., the headquarters of United States Central Command.

The scale reflected strong support from the top. When officials in Iraq were slow to organize another trip for analysts, a Pentagon official fired off an e-mail message warning that the trips “have the highest levels of visibility” at the White House and urging them to get moving before Lawrence Di Rita, one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s closest aides, “picks up the phone and starts calling the 4-stars.”

Mr. Di Rita, no longer at the Defense Department, said in an interview that a “conscious decision” was made to rely on the military analysts to counteract “the increasingly negative view of the war” coming from journalists in Iraq. The analysts, he said, generally had “a more supportive view” of the administration and the war, and the combination of their TV platforms and military cachet made them ideal for rebutting critical coverage of issues like troop morale, treatment of detainees, inadequate equipment or poorly trained Iraqi security forces. “On those issues, they were more likely to be seen as credible spokesmen,” he said.

For analysts with military industry ties, the attention brought access to a widening circle of influential officials beyond the contacts they had accumulated over the course of their careers.

Charles T. Nash, a Fox military analyst and retired Navy captain, is a consultant who helps small companies break into the military market. Suddenly, he had entree to a host of senior military leaders, many of whom he had never met. It was, he said, like being embedded with the Pentagon leadership. “You start to recognize what’s most important to them,” he said, adding, “There’s nothing like seeing stuff firsthand.”

Some Pentagon officials said they were well aware that some analysts viewed their special access as a business advantage. “Of course we realized that,” Mr. Krueger said. “We weren’t naïve about that.”

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.

The analysts met personally with Mr. Rumsfeld at least 18 times, records show, but that was just the beginning. They had dozens more sessions with the most senior members of his brain trust and access to officials responsible for managing the billions being spent in Iraq. Other groups of “key influentials” had meetings, but not nearly as often as the analysts.

An internal memorandum in 2005 helped explain why. The memorandum, written by a Pentagon official who had accompanied analysts to Iraq, said that based on her observations during the trip, the analysts “are having a greater impact” on network coverage of the military. “They have now become the go-to guys not only on breaking stories, but they influence the views on issues,” she wrote.

Other branches of the administration also began to make use of the analysts. Mr. Gonzales, then the attorney general, met with them soon after news leaked that the government was wiretapping terrorism suspects in the United States without warrants, Pentagon records show. When David H. Petraeus was appointed the commanding general in Iraq in January 2007, one of his early acts was to meet with the analysts.

“We knew we had extraordinary access,” said Timur J. Eads, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Fox analyst who is vice president of government relations for Blackbird Technologies, a fast-growing military contractor.

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.

“Human nature,” he explained, though he noted other instances when he was critical.

Some analysts said that even before the war started, they privately had questions about the justification for the invasion, but were careful not to express them on air.

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 doing?’ ”

Another analyst, Robert L. Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who works in the Pentagon for a military contractor, attended the same briefing and recalled feeling “very disappointed” after being shown satellite photographs purporting to show bunkers associated with a hidden weapons program. 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 public.

Mr. Bevelacqua and another Fox analyst, Mr. Cowan, had formed the wvc3 Group, and hoped to win military and national security contracts.

“There’s no way I was going to go down that road and get completely torn apart,” Mr. Bevelacqua said. “You’re talking about fighting a huge machine.”

Some e-mail 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 2006.

“Recall the stuff I did after my last visit,” he wrote. “I will do the same this time.”


Pentagon Keeps Tabs


As it happened, the analysts’ news media appearances were being closely monitored. The Pentagon paid a private contractor, Omnitec Solutions, hundreds of thousands of dollars to scour databases for any trace of the analysts, be it a segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” or an interview with The Daily Inter Lake in Montana, circulation 20,000.

Omnitec evaluated their appearances using the same tools as corporate branding experts. One report, assessing the impact of several trips to Iraq in 2005, offered example after example of analysts echoing Pentagon themes on all the networks.

“Commentary from all three Iraq trips was extremely positive over all,” the report concluded.

In interviews, several analysts reacted with dismay when told they were described as reliable “surrogates” in Pentagon documents. And some asserted that their Pentagon sessions were, as David L. Grange, a retired Army general and CNN analyst put it, “just upfront information,” while others pointed out, accurately, that they did not always agree with the administration or each other. “None of us drink the Kool-Aid,” General Scales said.

Likewise, several also denied using their special access for business gain. “Not related at all,” General Shepperd said, pointing out that many in the Pentagon held CNN “in the lowest esteem.”

Still, even the mildest of criticism could draw a challenge. Several analysts told of fielding telephone calls from displeased defense officials only minutes after being on the air.

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.”

“General, I just made that point on the air,” an analyst replied.

“Let’s work it together, guys,” General Conway urged.


The Generals’ Revolt

The full dimensions of this mutual embrace were perhaps never clearer than in April 2006, after several of Mr. Rumsfeld’s former generals - none of them network military analysts - went public with devastating critiques of his wartime performance. Some called for his resignation.

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. When an aide urged a short delay to “give our big guys on the West Coast a little more time to buy a ticket and get here,” Mr. Rumsfeld’s office insisted that “the boss” wanted the meeting fast “for impact on the current story.”

That same day, Pentagon officials helped two Fox analysts, General McInerney and General Vallely, write an opinion article for The Wall Street Journal defending Mr. Rumsfeld.

“Starting to write it now,” General Vallely wrote to the Pentagon that afternoon. “Any input for the article,” he added a little later, “will be much appreciated.” Mr. Rumsfeld’s office quickly forwarded talking points and statistics to rebut the notion of a spreading revolt.

“Vallely is going to use the numbers,” a Pentagon official reported that afternoon.

The standard secrecy notwithstanding, plans for this session leaked, producing a front-page story in The Times that Sunday. In damage-control mode, Pentagon officials scrambled to present the meeting as routine and directed that communications with analysts be kept “very formal,” records show. “This is very, very sensitive now,” a Pentagon official warned subordinates.

On Tuesday, April 18, some 17 analysts assembled at the Pentagon with Mr. Rumsfeld and General Pace, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

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.”

“Yeah,” Mr. Rumsfeld said, taking notes.

But winning or not, they bluntly warned, the administration was in grave political danger so long as most Americans viewed Iraq as a lost cause. “America hates a loser,” one analyst said.

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 guy.”

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.’ ”

Even as they assured Mr. Rumsfeld that they stood ready to help in this public relations offensive, the analysts sought guidance on what they should cite as the next “milestone” that would, as one analyst put it, “keep the American people focused on the idea that we’re moving forward to a positive end.” They placed particular emphasis on the growing confrontation with Iran.

“When you said ‘long war,’ you changed the psyche of the American people to expect this to be a generational event,” an analyst said. “And again, I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job…”

“Get in line,” Mr. Rumsfeld interjected.

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.

Soon after, analysts hit the airwaves. The Omnitec monitoring reports, circulated to more than 80 officials, confirmed that analysts repeated many of the Pentagon’s talking points: that Mr. Rumsfeld consulted “frequently and sufficiently” with his generals; that he was not “overly concerned” with the criticisms; that the meeting focused “on more important topics at hand,” including the next milestone in Iraq, the formation of a new government.

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.


View From the Networks


Two weeks ago General Petraeus took time out from testifying before Congress about Iraq for a conference call with military analysts.

Mr. Garrett, the Fox analyst and Patton Boggs lobbyist, said he told General Petraeus during the call to “keep up the great work.”

“Hey,” Mr. Garrett said in an interview, “anything we can do to help.”

For the moment, though, because of heavy election coverage and general war fatigue, military analysts are not getting nearly as much TV time, and the networks have trimmed their rosters of analysts. The conference call with General Petraeus, for example, produced little in the way of immediate coverage.

Still, almost weekly the Pentagon continues to conduct briefings with selected military analysts. Many analysts said network officials were only dimly aware of these interactions. The networks, they said, have little grasp of how often they meet with senior officials, or what is discussed.

“I don’t think NBC was even aware we were participating,” said Rick Francona, a longtime military analyst for the network.

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.”

Mr. Allard and other analysts said their network handlers also raised no objections when the Defense Department began paying their commercial airfare for Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq - a clear ethical violation for most news organizations.

CBS News declined to comment on what it knew about its military analysts’ business affiliations or what steps it took to guard against potential conflicts.

NBC News also declined to discuss its procedures for hiring and monitoring military analysts. The network issued a short statement: “We have clear policies in place to assure that the people who appear on our air have been appropriately vetted and that nothing in their profile would lead to even a perception of a conflict of interest.”

Jeffrey W. Schneider, a spokesman for ABC, said that while the network’s military consultants were not held to the same ethical rules as its full-time journalists, they were expected to keep the network informed about any outside business entanglements. “We make it clear to them we expect them to keep us closely apprised,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Fox News said executives “refused to participate” in this article.

CNN requires its military analysts to disclose in writing all outside sources of income. But like the other networks, it does not provide its military analysts with the kind of written, specific ethical guidelines it gives its full-time employees for avoiding real or apparent conflicts of interest.

Yet even where controls exist, they have sometimes proven porous.

CNN, for example, said it was unaware for nearly three years that one of its main military analysts, General Marks, was deeply involved in the business of seeking government contracts, including contracts related to Iraq.

General Marks was hired by CNN in 2004, about the time he took a management position at McNeil Technologies, where his job was to pursue military and intelligence contracts. As required, General Marks disclosed that he received income from McNeil Technologies. But the disclosure form did not require him to describe what his job entailed, and CNN acknowledges it failed to do additional vetting.

“We did not ask Mr. Marks the follow-up questions we should have,” CNN said in a written statement.

In an interview, General Marks said it was no secret at CNN that his job at McNeil Technologies was about winning contracts. “I mean, that’s what McNeil does,” he said.

CNN, however, said it did not know the nature of McNeil’s military business or what General Marks did for the company. If he was bidding on Pentagon contracts, CNN said, that should have disqualified him from being a military analyst for the network. But in the summer and fall of 2006, even as he was regularly asked to comment on conditions in Iraq, General Marks was working intensively on bidding for a $4.6 billion contract to provide thousands of translators to United States forces in Iraq. In fact, General Marks was made president of the McNeil spin-off that won the huge contract in December 2006.

General Marks said his work on the contract did not affect his commentary on CNN. “I’ve got zero challenge separating myself from a business interest,” he said.

But CNN said it had no idea about his role in the contract until July 2007, when it reviewed his most recent disclosure form, submitted months earlier, and finally made inquiries about his new job.

“We saw the extent of his dealings and determined at that time we should end our relationship with him,” CNN said.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obama, Bitterness, Meet the Press, and the Old Politics

by Robert Reich

Published on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 by CommonDreams.org

I was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, 61 years ago. My father sold $1.98 cotton blouses to blue-collar women and women whose husbands worked in factories. Years later, I was secretary of labor of the United States, and I tried the best I could - which wasn’t nearly good enough - to help reverse one of the most troublesome trends America has faced: The stagnation of middle-class wages and the expansion of povety. Male hourly wages began to drop in the early 1970s, adjusted for inflation. The average man in his 30s is earning less than his father did thirty years ago. Yet America is far richer. Where did the money go? To the top.

Are Americans who have been left behind frustrated? Of course. And their frustrations, their anger and, yes, sometimes their bitterness, have been used since then — by demagogues, by nationalists and xenophobes, by radical conservatives, by political nuts and fanatical fruitcakes - to blame immigrants and foreign traders, to blame blacks and the poor, to blame “liberal elites,” to blame anyone and anything.

Rather than counter all this, the American media have wallowed in it. Some, like Fox News and talk radio, have given the haters and blamers their very own megaphones. The rest have merely “reported on” it. Instead of focusing on how to get Americans good jobs again; instead of admitting too many of our schools are failing and our kids are falling behind their contemporaries in Europe, Japan, and even China; instead of showing why we need a more progressive tax system to finance better schools and access to health care, and green technologies that might create new manufacturing jobs, our national discussion has been mired in the old politics. Read more
Listen to this morning’s “Meet the Press” if you want an example. Tim Russert, one of the smartest guys on television, interviewed four political consultants - Carville and Matalin, Bob Schrum, and Michael Murphy. Political consultants are paid huge sums to help politicians spin words and avoid real talk. They’re part of the problem. And what do Russert and these four consultants talk about? The potential damage to Barack Obama from saying that lots of people in Pennsylvania are bitter that the economy has left them behind; about HRC’s spin on Obama’s words (he’s an “elitist,” she said); and John McCain’s similarly puerile attack.

Does Russert really believe he’s doing the nation a service for this parade of spin doctors talking about potential spins and the spin-offs from the words Obama used to state what everyone knows is true? Or is Russert merely in the business of selling TV airtime for a network that doesn’t give a hoot about its supposed commitment to the public interest but wants to up its ratings by pandering to the nation’s ongoing desire for gladiator entertainment instead of real talk about real problems.

We’re heading into the worst economic crisis in a half century or more. Many of the Americans who have been getting nowhere for decades are in even deeper trouble. Large numbers of people in Pennsylvania and across the nation are losing their homes and losing their jobs, and the situation is likely to grow worse. Consumers are at the end of their ropes, fuel and food costs are skyrocketing, they can’t go deeper into debt, they can’t pay their bills. They aren’t buying, which means every business from the auto industry to housing to even giant GE is hurting. Which means they’ll begin laying off more people, and as they do, we will experience an even more dangerous downward spiral.

Bitter? You ain’t seen nothing yet. And as much as people like Russert, Carville, Matalin, Schrum, and Murphy want to divert our attention from what’s really happening; as much as HRC and McCain seek to make political hay out of choices of words that can be spun cynically by the mindless spinners of the old politics; as much as demagogues on the right and left continue to try to channel the cumulative frustrations of Americans into a politics of resentment - all these attempts will, I hope, prove futile. Eighty percent of Americans know the nation is on the wrong track. The old politics, and the old media that feeds it, are irrelevant now.

Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written ten books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Reason. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Opportunity Cost

In the face of escalating food and energy prices, there are protests and riots around the World: in Egypt, Haiti, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Senegal, Birkina Fasso and Sierra Leone.

The United Nations World Food Program has launched an extraordinary appeal to donors for an additional US$500 million to respond to dramatic increases in global food and fuel prices, which have risen an estimated 55% since last June.

America spends nearly $500 million a DAY in Iraq.

Frank Rich Says it Better Than I Ever Could

"The Petraeus-Crocker Show Gets the Hook"

By New York Times Op-Ed Columnist FRANK RICH
The night before last week’s Senate hearings on our “progress” in Iraq, a goodly chunk of New York’s media and cultural establishment assembled in the vast lobby of the Museum of Modern Art. There were cocktails; there were waiters wielding platters of hors d’oeuvres; there was a light sprinkling of paparazzi. Then there was a screening. We trooped like schoolchildren to the auditorium to watch a grueling movie about the torture at Abu Ghraib.

Not just any movie, but “Standard Operating Procedure,” the new investigatory documentary by Errol Morris, one of our most original filmmakers. It asks the audience not just to revisit the crimes in graphic detail but to confront in tight close-up those who both perpetrated and photographed them. Because Mr. Morris has a complex view of human nature, he arouses a certain sympathy for his subjects, much as he did at times for Robert McNamara, the former defense secretary, in his Vietnam film, “Fog of War.”

More sympathy, actually. Only a few bad apples at the bottom of the chain of command took the fall for Abu Ghraib. No one above the level of staff sergeant went to jail, and no one remotely in proximity to a secretary of defense has been held officially accountable. John Yoo, the author of the notorious 2003 Justice Department memo rationalizing torture, has happily returned to his tenured position as a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. So when Mr. Morris brings you face to face with Lynndie England — now a worn, dead-eyed semblance of the exuberant, almost pixie-ish miscreant in the Abu Ghraib snapshots — you’re torn.

Ms. England, who is now on parole, concedes that what she and her cohort did was “unusual and weird and wrong,” but adds that “when we first got there, the example was already set.” That reflection doesn’t absolve her of moral responsibility, but, like much in this film, it forces you to look beyond the fixed images of one of the most documented horror stories of our time.

Yet I must confess that, sitting in MoMA, I kept looking beyond the frame of Mr. Morris’s movie as well. While there’s really no right place to watch “Standard Operating Procedure,” the jarring contrast between the film’s subject and the screening’s grandiosity was a particularly glaring illustration of the huge distance that separates most Americans, and not just Manhattan elites, from the battle lines of our country’s five-year war. If Tom Wolfe was not in the audience to chronicle this cognitive dissonance, he should have been.

Mr. Morris’s movie starts fanning out to theaters on April 25. We don’t have to wait until then to know its fate. Sympathetic critics will tell us it’s our civic duty to see it. The usual suspects will try to besmirch Mr. Morris’s patriotism. But none of that will much matter. “Standard Operating Procedure” will reach the director’s avid core audience, but it is likely to be avoided by most everyone else no matter what praise or controversy it whips up.

It would take another column to list all the movies and TV shows about Iraq that have gone belly up at the box office or in Nielsen ratings in the nearly four years since the war’s only breakout commercial success, “Fahrenheit 9/11.” They die regardless of their quality or stand on the war, whether they star Tommy Lee Jones (“In the Valley of Elah”) or Meryl Streep (“Lions for Lambs”) or are produced by Steven Bochco (the FX series “Over There”) or are marketed like Abercrombie & Fitch apparel to the MTV young (“Stop-Loss”).

As The New York Times recently reported, box-office dread has driven one Hollywood distributor to repeatedly postpone the release of “The Lucky Ones,” a highly regarded and sympathetic feature about the war’s veterans, the first made with full Army assistance, even though the word Iraq is never spoken and the sole battle sequence runs 40 seconds. If Iraq had been mentioned in “Knocked Up” or “Superbad,” Judd Apatow’s hilarious hit comedies about young American guys who (like most of their peers) never consider the volunteer Army as an option, they might have flopped too. Iraq is to moviegoers what garlic is to vampires.

This is not merely a showbiz phenomenon but a leading indicator of where our entire culture is right now. It’s not just torture we want to avoid. Most Americans don’t want to hear, see or feel anything about Iraq, whether they support the war or oppose it. They want to look away, period, and have been doing so for some time.

That’s why last week’s testimony by Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker was a nonevent beyond Washington. The cable networks duly presented the first day of hearings, but only, it seemed, because the show could be hyped as an “American Idol”-like competition in foreign-policy one-upmanship for the three remaining presidential candidates, all senators. When the hearings migrated to the House the next day, they vanished into the same black media hole where nearly all Iraq news now goes. If the Olympic torch hadn’t provided an excuse to cut away, no doubt any handy weather disturbance would have served instead.

The simple explanation for why we shun the war is that it has gone so badly. But another answer was provided in the hearings by Senator George Voinovich of Ohio, one of the growing number of Republican lawmakers who no longer bothers to hide his exasperation. He put his finger on the collective sense of shame (not to be confused with collective guilt) that has attended America’s Iraq project. “The truth of the matter,” Mr. Voinovich said, is that “we haven’t sacrificed one darn bit in this war, not one. Never been asked to pay for a dime, except for the people that we lost.”

This is how the war planners wanted it, of course. No new taxes, no draft, no photos of coffins, no inconveniences that might compel voters to ask tough questions. This strategy would have worked if the war had been the promised cakewalk. But now it has backfired. A home front that has not been asked to invest directly in a war, that has subcontracted it to a relatively small group of volunteers, can hardly be expected to feel it has a stake in the outcome five stalemated years on.

The original stakes (saving the world from mushroom clouds and an alleged ally of Osama bin Laden) evaporated so far back they seem to belong to another war entirely. What are the stakes we are asked to believe in now? In the largely unwatched House hearings on Wednesday, Representative Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat, tried to get at this by asking what some 4,000 “sons and daughters” of America had died for.

The best General Petraeus could muster was a bit of bloodless Beltway-speak — “national interests” — followed by another halfhearted attempt to overstate Iraq’s centrality to the war on Al Qaeda and a future war on Iran. He couldn’t even argue that we’re on a humanitarian mission on behalf of the Iraqi people. That would require him to acknowledge that roughly five million of those people, 60 percent of them children, are now refugees receiving scant help from either our government or Nuri al-Maliki’s. That’s nearly a fifth of the Iraqi population — the equivalent of 60 million Americans — and another source of our shame.

The prevailing verdict on the Petraeus-Crocker show is that it accomplished little beyond certifying President Bush’s intention to kick the can to January 2009 so that the helicopters will vacate the Green Zone on the next president’s watch. That’s true, but by week’s end, I became more convinced than ever that in January we’ll have a new policy that includes serious withdrawals and serious conversations with Mr. Maliki’s pals in Iran, even if John McCain becomes president.

General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker define victory as “sustainable security” in Iraq. But both Colin Powell and Gen. Richard Cody, the Army’s vice chief of staff, said last week that current troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan are unsustainable and are damaging America’s readiness to meet other security threats. And that’s not all that’s unsustainable. An ailing economy can’t keep floating the war’s $3-billion-a-week cost. A Republican president intent on staying the Bush course will find his vetoes unsustainable after the Democrats increase their majorities in Congress in November. No war can be fought indefinitely if the public has irrevocably turned against it.

Mr. McCain says Americans want “victory,” whatever that means today, and yes, they would if it could be won on the terms promised by Mr. Bush five years ago — fast, and with minimal sacrifice. It’s way too late to ask for years of stepped-up sacrifice now in the cause of a highly debatable definition of “national interests.”

This war has lasted so long that Americans, even the bad apples of Abu Ghraib interviewed by Mr. Morris, have had the time to pass through all five of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief over its implosion. Though dead-enders like Mr. McCain may have only gone from denial to anger to bargaining, most others have moved on to depression and acceptance. Unable to even look at the fiasco anymore, the nation is now just waiting for someone to administer the last rites.

Friday, April 11, 2008

After listening to this week's Congressional Committee hearings on Iraq...

...I can only conclude that we have relinquished our nation's leadership to the military and its suppliers.

The President told the American People that he would base his Iraq "strategy" on General Petraeus's counsel. The general's reports and statements are vetted by the White House and reflect the language desired by the President.

Following the Congressional testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, the President announced his decision to halt troop withdrawals from Iraq after July. This, he said, is a direct result of the Petraeus and Crocker recommendations. And so, around and around it goes.

The American People (80% of whom now call for a withdrawal from Iraq), their Congress and their Courts have no voice in the matter.

"The War President", his Executive Department, his generals, and the defense and oil industries demonstrate a seamless alignment and resolve. It's an astoundingly clear manifestation of what President Eisenhower warned against: the ascendancy of the military-industrial complex.

General Petraeus spoke clearly of our goal in Iraq: to protect our "interests" in the Middle East. Preventing another terrorist attack on the U.S. may be on the list, but it's well down that list.

Once our military juggernaut has been launched, the Defense Department is loathe to alter course, and the industries that reap the bounty of war are bound to support anything and anyone who will stoke the fires of war. (The chummy reception of Petraeus and Crocker by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, especially Republicans with their soft-ball questioning and effusive praise, betrayed deep ties to the beneficiary industries.)

As expected, General Petraeus' and Ambassador Crocker's testimonies, and the President's subsequent proclamation are filled with dire warnings against "failure" or "weakening resolve" or "precipitous withdrawal".

The President has become a mere facilitator, a booster, for the military and its contractors. He long ago ceased to represent the interests of the American people (and never did represent the interests of the Iraqi people.) He does not distinguish between an economy based upon war-making and an economy based upon peace.

Or, perhaps he does, and has concluded that a war economy is more profitable - at least for the industries near and dear to his heart.