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Murtha: The Military Has Been ‘Dishonored’ By The ‘Untruths’ Of The Pentagon’s Propaganda Program

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"Murtha: The Military Has Been ‘Dishonored’ By The ‘Untruths’ Of The Pentagon’s Propaganda Program"

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Two weeks ago, the New York Times revealed a secret Pentagon program that uses retired military analysts to “generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.” Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino defended the program, claiming “it’s absolutely appropriate to provide information to people who are seeking it.”

In an interview with ThinkProgress today, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) called the program “unfortunate,” adding that “it hurts us in the long run.” Murtha said he was especially “disappointed” that some of the analysts involved in the program “didn’t even believe what they were saying” in support of the administration:

MURTHA: I saw that some of the officers that were saying that didn’t even believe what they were saying. Well, the military’s held in the highest level and the highest esteem in this country. All of us appreciate their sacrifices. I’ve gotten to the point where I now distrust the military because they have been dishonored by these kind of untruths. It used to be that I could listen to the military, they would come to me, and what they said privately they were willing to say publicly. With Rumsfeld’s tenure, they distorted everything. And that’s the way they got by for four years because the public said, well, the military’s saying that. Well, the public’s no longer accepting that. The public realizes we made a mistake when we went in, much of the information was inaccurate and they continue to say these kind of things.

Murtha also said that he was “disappointed in the news media” for allowing the Pentagon to exploit them, noting that “blogs have been so important to bringing out the truth.”

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/05/MurthaPentagonPropaganda.320.240.flv]

As Murtha noted, the Times reported that some of the analysts toed the administration’s line to such an extent that they publicly contradicted what they privately believed:

“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 [from a Pentagon-provided trip to Iraq in Sept. 2003]. He predicted the insurgency would be “down to a few numbers” within months.

Murtha closed by noting the price Americans are paying for the Iraq war, saying that the Pentagon program is “unfortunate and it just makes it that much more difficult for us to overcome this, because people who don’t believe it now, believed it for a while and they don’t want to be misled again.”

Transcript:

QUESTION: The New York Times recently published an expose on a secret Pentagon program to work with retired military analysts to, quote, “generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.” And yesterday, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino defended the program by saying, “it’s absolutely appropriate to provide information to people,” eventhough many of the analysts, not all of them, provided information that was the administration spin giving the opposite indication of what the reality on the ground in Iraq was, specifically in 2006. I’m wondering if you could respond.

MURTHA: Here’s what’s the problem with something like that. I didn’t read the whole article, it was seven or eight pages and small type. But, I saw the headlines and I saw that some of the officers that were saying that didn’t even believe what they were saying. Well, the military’s held in the highest level and the highest esteem in this country. All of us appreciate their sacrifices.

I’ve gotten to the point where I now distrust the military because they have been dishonored by these kind of untruths. It used to be that I could listen to the military, they would come to me, and what they said privately they were willing to say publicly. With Rumsfeld’s tenure, they distorted everything. And that’s the way they got by for four years because the public said, well, the military’s saying that.

Well, the public’s no longer accepting that. The public realizes we made a mistake when we went in, much of the information was inaccurate and they continue to say these kind of things. So, I’m dissapointed. I’m dissapointed in the news media. I tell ya, till I spoke out, the news media was not honest — or afraid to come forward. And I think the tactic was, “we don’t give them access if they say anything bad about us.”

The blogs have been so important to bringing out the truth. I didn’t know what a blog was till a couple of years ago. Now, I not only know, I understand how important they are because people have an opportunity to hear the other side of what they’re saying. Most people, they’re worried about their ordinary lives. They hear a news clip, news media doesn’t cover anything very thoroughly. It’s a small excerpt about it and so the blogs are very important. It’s very important to get the facts out. And this particular case, it’s damaging when a officer says, “I didn’t think it was true and yet I went ahead and said it.” That’s unfortuante and it hurt us in the long run. It took us 20 years to get over Vietnam.

It took us through the Ford administration, the Carter administration, it took us into the Reagan administration because we didn’t pay for the war and the public was misled. Now the public recognized it very early on in Vietnam because they casualties were so heavy. Because of the technology increases, they didn’t recognize it as quickly in Iraq. But until the end of the Clinton administration, where we had a budget with a surplus, we were paying for the Vietnam war. We’re doing the same thing now. I offered a sur tax on people, Dave Obey and I did, to pay for the war. I mean, nobody recognized we’re paying now with inflation, we’re paying all the expensese in Iraq. We’re paying $343 million dollars a day because of Iraq.

So, it’s unfortunate and it just makes it that much more difficult for us to overcome this, because people who don’t believe it now, believed it for a while and they don’t want to be misled again.

Update

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking whether the Pentagon’s program broke the law. From his letter:

According to the article, the documents suggest that the Pentagon supplied retired officers serving as analysts for several major American broadcasters with private briefings with Sec. Rumsfeld, talking points in anticipation of appearing on TV, and commercial airfare. Allegedly, the Pentagon discouraged the analysts from publicly describing the nature of their relationship with the Pentagon. This clearly violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.

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