Sunday, April 20, 2008

mindwar and message-force multipliers

yet another story from the "this ought to be shocking, but under the bush administration, it's not even surprising" file: remember all those "independent" military analysts that used to be all over the tv (back when the media was still regularly covering the war)? it turns out the pentagon had a lot of them in the tank. this is a long story, but here's a taste:

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.


"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.


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.

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