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November 30, 2008

Get Rich Or Die Tryin

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If this mammoth New York Times piece is wrong, Barry McCaffrey really ought to sue, because if it isn’t, he has no reputation for integrity left. The piece follows up on Barstow’s blockbuster story in April about how the cable networks’ horde of retired-officer military analysts became appendages of the Rumsfeld messaging apparatus while posing as independent observers, all while they collected hefty consulting fees from defense contractors whose businesses benefited from their analysis.

But the scope of McCaffrey’s hustle is really breathtaking. Barstow demonstrates that many, if not most, of the pronouncements he made on TV about the wars benefited one or another defense contractor who employed him. That’s the way the scheme worked: Company hires retired general to use his connections to its benefit. Retired general accepts special grants of access from the office of the secretary of defense that benefit both his TV career and his consulting career. Retired general proclaims on TV things that benefit both the secretary and the company — or, when circumstances necessitate, the company at the expense of the secretary. TV viewer, looking for informed analysis of confusing wars, is unaware of any of this. Welcome to the new military-media-industrial complex.

There really are too many examples to blockquote, and you should take the time to read the story.  But here’s one egregious example:

…General McCaffrey used his access to further business interests, as he did during the summer of 2005, when Americans were turning against the Iraq war in droves.

Veritas had been on a shopping spree, buying military contractors deeply enmeshed in the war. Its biggest acquisition was of DynCorp International, best known for training foreign security forces for the United States government. By 2005 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for 37 percent of DynCorp’s revenues.

 … What is more, some of DynCorp’s Iraq contracts were in trouble, plagued by cost overruns, inept work by subcontractors and ineffective training programs. So when DynCorp executives learned that General McCaffrey was planning to travel to Iraq that June, they asked him to sound out American commanders and reassure them of DynCorp’s determination to make things right….

Back home, General McCaffrey undertook a one-man news media blitz in which he contradicted the dire assessments of many journalists in Iraq. He bore witness to progress on all fronts, but most of all he vouched for Iraq’s security forces. A year earlier, before joining DynCorp’s board, he had described these forces as “badly equipped, badly trained, politically unreliable.” Just months before, Gary E. Luck, a retired four-star Army general sent to assess progress in Iraq, had reported to Mr. Bush that security training was going poorly. Yet General McCaffrey now emphasized his “surprising” conclusion that the training was succeeding.

After Mr. Bush gave a speech praising Iraq’s new security forces, Brian Williams asked General McCaffrey for an independent assessment. “The Iraqi security forces are real,” General McCaffrey replied, without noting the concerns about DynCorp.

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? McCaffrey had the nerve to rejoinder to the Times, "Thirty-seven years of public service. Four combat tours. Wounded three times. The country knows me as a nonpartisan and objective national security expert with solid integrity." Was he quoting from his consultancy pitch to DynCorp?


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