I read with great interest your exchange of emails with Larry Di Rita and howled with laughter at his attempt to cite me as proof that DOD did so reach out to military analysts who were anything but friendly to Rumsfeld & Co. I was never invited to any of those hush-hush briefings of the favored military analysts/retired generals and colonels. The sum total of DOD “reaching out” in my case:
— I attended an off-the-record lunch with Rumsfeld in the early summer of 2003. I was astounded by his failure to grasp the reality of the situation on the ground in Iraq; even more astounded by his flat declaration that the U.S. was NOT going to do any “nation-building” there.
— In October of 2005 Di Rita called to invite me to travel with Rumsfeld “at the Secretary’s personal invitation” on a trip to the Middle East and Australia. I declined because of a prior commitment to speak at the graduation of a class of new U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter pilots at Luke AB, AZ., which included my nephew. Di Rita was amazed that I would not cancel that event to travel with his boss.
— In November 2005 Di Rita called again to invite me to have a “one-on-one” lunch/discussion with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. I accepted that one and arrived to find it was hardly one on one — at the table waiting for me were Rumsfeld, CJCS Gen. Peter Pace, Army Vice Chief Dick Cody, JCS staff director Lt. Gen. Walter Sharp and Di Rita himself. We went at it hammer and tongs for an hour and a half on issues such as Baghdad HQ releasing enemy body counts while the Pentagon said we would never do that, and shouldn’t; lowering Army recruiting standards to make the numbers; continuing to have our troops ride up and down the same roads day after day when they KNEW there were IEDs waiting for them. etc. I wrote my column that week on the lunch.
— Several months later, in response to a column I had written about how Marine Gen. Paul Van Riper had walked out of an Iran scenario war game where he was commander of the opposing forces when he outfoxed the U.S. Navy & Marine attacking forces, sunk over a dozen major American ships and killed over 10,000 U.S. sailors and marines. The headquarters response was to re-start the war game with new rules forbidding Van Riper to employ any of his successful tactics — using small speedboats and small aircraft packed with explosives in a mass kamikazi attack on the fleet; defeating U.S. eavesdropping by dispatching his orders by messengers; etc.
At this point Van Riper walked out. An investigation of the whole affair was done & DOD promised Van Riper they would release it within a year. They never did.
Di Rita sent me an email that said it was silly of me to criticize Rumsfeld because clearly he wasn’t directly involved in such matters and could not be expected to know about or bear responsibility for this. This provoked an exchange of half a dozen email volleys in which I brought up every failure of Rumsfeld and his people at DOD in the ongoing operations.
Once Di Rita’s responses tailed off I collected all the emails and sent them to a number of friends … one of whom promptly posted the exchange on various weblogs. Di Rita then expressed “shock” that I had somehow allowed this “private communication” to become public….
I remain puzzled at their motives in this so-called reach out to me in fall of 2005 after they had so steadfastly ignored two and a half years of my weekly columns pointing out everything they were doing wrong. I suppose they thought Rummy could somehow “handle” me or impress me or scare me. Whatever it was it didn’t work.
The column which Galloway wrote about the Iran war games, and the ensuing bitter emails from Di Rita about it, were part of the DoD document dump, and can be read here. While it’s certainly true that Di Rita and Rumsfeld tried to cajole Galloway into restraining his continuous criticisms, it is absolutely false to suggest that he (or, for that matter, McCaffrey or any other critic) was in any way included in those ongoing “military analyst” briefings. As the Memorandum endorsed by Di Rita makes explicitly clear, those briefings were only for –to use the Pentagon’s own words — the “reliably friendly” analysts who they knew would “carry their water.” Clearly, trying to hold up Galloway as an example to disprove that is just as misleading as Di Rita’s other denials about the functions of the Pentagon program.
There are several other developments in the “military analyst” story worth noting. Raw Story‘s Eric Brewer confirmed what I noted the other day: that Dana Perino, after Brewer asked whether the White House was aware of the military analyst program, did deny any such knowledge. But as Brewer wrote, and as the emails I pointed to strongly suggest: “Uh oh. Dana has denied something that is clearly true.”
Yesterday, The Washington Post‘s Dan Froomkin urged that reporters aggressively demand answers from the White House regarding this clear discrepancy:
Olney, Md.: It looks like the Pentagon may have been behind “planting” retired officers as analysts for news outlets. Do you think this can be tied to the White House? Is their any evidence of White House involvement?
Dan Froomkin: There’s no question at all the Pentagon organized it. As for White House involvement, that’s a very good question. There’s no hard evidence thus far, but I’m not sure anyone’s really digging for it — and it’s hard to imagine they weren’t plugged in to some extent.
Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald lays out the case for journalists to aggressively enquire: “Was Karl Rove involved in the military analyst program?”
Actually, the evidence that is available is rather compelling, if not conclusive, that the White House was at least aware of and likely involved in the program, and Perino’s denial of White House knowledge and involvement was thus false.
Media Matters has conducted a study demonstrating just how pervasive was the commentary from the Pentagon’s hand-picked, “water-carrying” military analysts. They “collectively appeared or were quoted as experts more than 4,500 times on ABC, ABC News Now, CBS, CBS Radio Network, NBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, and NPR.” If anything, the Media Matters study actually under-counts the appearances, since it only counted “the analysts named in the Times article,” and several of the analysts who were most active in the Pentagon’s propaganda program weren’t mentioned by name in that article.
Finally, Media Bloodhound notes some extremely ironic, and characteristically pompous, comments from Brian Williams this week: “I think you owe it to your democracy to know as much as you can about what’s going on.” But as MB points out, Williams — along with virtually every one of his colleagues — has, 25 days after the NYT exposé first appeared, still failed and refused to inform his viewers about the Pentagon’s propaganda program — notwithstanding the serious criminality questions it raises, the Congressional investigations under way, and his own network’s vital role in all of it.
UPDATE: In his own column today at McClatchy, Joe Galloway adds his own typically blunt and well-stated commentary about Di Rita’s remarks and the military analyst program generally. I don’t want to excerpt any of it because Galloway’s column is well worth reading.
Relatedly, Rolling Stone‘s Tim Dickinson points to what is probably the most compelling piece of evidence yet that the White House was kept apprised of what the Pentagon was doing: a July 12, 2005 memo from Donald Rumsfeld to Stephen Hadley which read: “Attached is a summary of the military analysts we took down to GTMO earlier this month.” [It can be seen clearly as the second page of this batch of documents]. That is rather clear evidence of the sheer falsity of Dana Perino’s denial of White House knowledge of this program.
As I wrote about last week, that June, 2005 GTMO trip and the ensuing TV commentary it generated was as propagandistic as it gets. This Rumsfeld email demonstrates that the White House was being fully informed as to the details of the fruits the program was producing. Shouldn’t some White House journalist be asking Perino about this?