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The Times' War Against the Vets By: Dan Rabkin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 24, 2008


The New York Times must really have something against U.S. military veterans. In addition to diminishing almost every success and embellishing every set-back relating to the war in Iraq, the Times has now run two front-page articles smearing American war heroes.

The first piece, titled “For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk,” was published on February 21st. The article, heavy on drama and light on sources, attempted to brand Sen. John McCain a philandering, lobbyist-bedding, crook. Some might say that as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee McCain is fair game for such liberal-media hit jobs. Be that as it may, the fact that the paper was willing to publish such a low-grade attack on a decorated veteran was a revealing demonstration of its deep-seated contempt for the military.

Yet, the attack on McCain seems almost reasonable next to the paper’s latest offensive against the armed forces. This weekend, the Times published a long and tendentious piece, titled “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand,” which took the paper’s anti-war bias to a whole new level. In the article, Times reporter David Barstow suggests that dozens of “decorated war heroes” are simply a “media Trojan horse” – puppets of the Defense Department who only support the war because they are profiting from it.

What misdeeds did these men, with their hundreds of combined years of proud and honorable service to their country, commit? Apparently, they attended “hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders.” (Presumably, the Times reporters who likewise attended meetings with senior military leaders are immune from charges that they are subservient mouthpieces of the Pentagon.) They were also “taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence.”

One can appreciate the paper’s frustration. The nerve of these men: instead of getting their information about the war from the New York Times, they had the audacity to speak to military leaders, to review key intelligence, and to travel to the region to see for themselves what was really going on.

The Times article provides no evidence that suggests that these servicemen-turned-military analysts are doing anything against their will. It seems the Times just cannot accept the prospect of former military men, with their decades of experience in national security, having a favorable opinion of the war without there being some sinister plan on the part of the Bush administration to coerce them.

Indeed, these military veterans’ biggest sin, in the paper’s eyes, seems to be their voicing displeasure with the liberal media establishment personified by the New York Times. Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely was singled out for special criticism because he had “shared with Mr. Bush’s national security team a belief that pessimistic war coverage broke the nation’s will to win in Vietnam.” According to the Times, in a paper Vallely published in 1980, he “accused American news organizations of failing to defend the nation from ‘enemy’ propaganda during Vietnam.” He wrote that “we lost the war — not because we were outfought, but because we were out Psyoped.”

Equally contemptible to the Times is that these military men have sided with their government in a time of 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,” the Times’ reporter writes – as if it were somehow inappropriate for these veterans to sympathize with the cause of their fellow soldiers and their civilian leadership. And one can’t help but wonder: Whose “team” would the Times have these men support?

In addition to the 11-page, 10,000-word article, reporter Barstow has a whole multimedia presentation about his revelations on the Times’ website. It includes documents, audio clips, and one video piece. The single uploaded video - undoubtedly added to show the degree of the propaganda the Pentagon is pushing on the population - starts with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer clearly informing his audience that these media military analysts are in close contact with the Pentagon and Sec. Rumsfeld:

Blitzer: “This is just coming into CNN right now. The Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has just wrapped up his meeting with retired US generals who now serve as military analysts for the news media. Our own military analyst, retired USAF Maj. Gen. Don Sheppard, is fresh out of that meeting. He is joining us now live from the Pentagon.”

If anyone deserves a Pulitzer for uncovering the “secret” special access retired generals have to the Pentagon, it seems it should be Blitzer, not “investigative reporter” David Barstow.

The fact that no evidence exists showing compulsion makes it difficult for the Times to place the blame for this “propaganda plan” directly on Bush and the Pentagon. So instead, Barstow provides another theory: the retired generals have – wait for it – “ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.” Of course, it would take a New York Times reporter to be shocked and appalled that retired generals would have connections to the defense industry.

In fairness, Barstow does concede that “the documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts” and that the “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.” Notably, however, such caveats do not deter him from portraying these men as the tools of a sinister Pentagon scheme to dupe the American public.

The message of Times' piece is clear: If you support your nation in a time of war, you are doing the Pentagon’s dirty work. American military veterans deserve more respect for their years of committed service. And the Times’ readers deserve better than anti-military smears masquerading as investigative journalism.


Dan Rabkin is a Middle Eastern Affairs and National Security analyst based in Toronto, Canada.  He was Canada’s 2005 Governor General’s Medalist.  He can be reached at rabkin.dan@gmail.com.


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