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NYTimes Exclusive: Generals Know People at Pentagon

12:27 AM, Apr 20, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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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 piece goes on for some ten pages, with one damning revelation after the next.The Pentagon distributes talking points, provides special access to retired generals, and even arranged a meeting for them with the Secretary of Defense. You'll also be very surprised to learn that many retired generals have business interests in the defense industry.

The paper offers no evidence that any of these men were using their influence to directly further a personal interest (unless one counts "networking"), and it offers no evidence of coercion on the part of the administration. So the charge is a lack of transparency, and it rests on the assumption that Americans are too stupid to surmise the likely ideological and institutional biases of a former general officer in the United State military.

Of course, Americans are not so stupid, and I suspect most will appreciate the irony of the New York Times judging retired military officers as insufficiently objective in their analysis of the war in Iraq.