Thursday, June 30, 2005


Don Rumsfeld was recently interviewed by Kansas City radio wingnut Jerry Agar. Agar's just another Limbaughite zombie thrashing about in search of brains -- although the high point of his idiocy, a poem about Terri Schiavo based on Horton Hears a Who qualifies him to be a member of the Right Wing Dumbass Hall of Fame -- but I'm sure the Bushies are taking every chance they can to speak to their base lately. Any port in a political storm. Even Port Agar.

Here's a bit from the interview:
Agar: Another area where there seems to be a disconnect, perhaps what you would see, and what you would tell us, and what much of the media is carrying, is Guantanamo Bay. Has anything happened at GTMO that you're embarrassed about?

Rumsfeld: You know, the Guantanamo Bay situation is an interesting one. There's so much misinformation flying around on that subject.

There have been a few allegations of misbehavior down there, but they have all been investigated and in any instance where it was validated, the people were convicted and punished. But for the most part I've heard people on television say there have been a hundred people killed at Guantanamo. It's just utter nonsense. There hasn't been anyone that I know of that's died at Guantanamo of anything other than a natural death and I don't know of anyone who's died of a natural death.
While the question is stupid and the response just the same old Rumsfeld, I want to show you how this kind of stuff gets filtered and fed back to the military.

This is how that section got summarized in a press release by the American Forces Press Service:
The secretary also told Agar he is amazed at the "misinformation that's flying around" in the media concerning detainees at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He admitted there have been a "few allegations" of misbehavior at the prison, but added, "they have all been investigated, and in any instance where it was validated, the people were convicted and punished."

He also said reports by the media that a hundred people have been killed at the prison is just "utter nonsense." (Emphasis Nitpicker's)
Of course, not even Rumsfeld said that claims were "report by the media." Instead, he said he had "heard people on television say there have been a hundred people killed at Guantanamo." Guess what? Everyone from Chris Matthews to the kooks who call into your favorite local access gardening program are "people on television." Rumsfeld, of course, meant his statement to be ambiguous, but I doubt that he could point to even one tinfoil-hat-free person on television who had said a hundred people were killed at Guantanamo.

The American Forces Press Service is made up of guys who, like me, were trained by the Defense Information School to work as journalists and public affairs specialists for the U.S. Military. When I served throughout the Clinton administration, military public affairs specialists were repeatedly ordered to leave our politics at home and, except for coffee room arguments, we did. I think a perfect example of the apolitical nature of military journalism and broadcasting is that, back in the early 90s, the Clinton administration allowed Rush Limbaugh to begin airing on American Forces Radio.

Things have changed and pro-administration press releases are the least of the problems.

American Forces Network has existed in one form or another since 1942. While its internal newscasts have always been a bit slanted, it's relied, since the 1970s, on mostly commercial news. When I served in Iceland (1993-1995), there were basically two channels and from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Channel 2, you could watch all three of the major network newscasts in a row.

Now there are 10 AFN channels, one of them being Don Rumsfeld's multi-million dollar propaganda organ, The Pentagon Channel (If you have DirecTV or subscribe to certain cable providers, you can see your
tax dollars being used for propaganda with your own eyes). Along with the creation of the channel early last year, the other AFN channels began getting "Pentagon Channel Reports" in the middle of football games and sitcoms and, yes, even political shows. Throughout last year, every time Bush would get within 50 feet of a soldier, these "reports" would be dropped into shows, usually with a soundbite of Bush saying something like "I, for one, think that the United States Army is the best Army in the history of the universe." Rumsfeld, Cheney, Feith and Wolfowitz were all similarly covered.

John Kerry's speeches were never covered. He could have promised to provide every soldier $100,000 and it wouldn't have earned a "Pentagon Channel Report." This despite the fact that the regulation for the management of military broadcasting (DOD 5120-20R) states that
AFRTS-BC and AFRTS outlets' news policy shall be guided by the principle of fairness. This principle applies to issues rather than persons and does not require "equal opportunities." It does require outlets to provide "reasonable opportunities" for the presentation of conflicting views on important controversial public issues. All AFRTS news programming shall be characterized by its fairness. (C4.7.2. Principle of Fairness.)
AFRTS-BC and AFRTS outlets shall maintain the same "equal opportunities" balance offered by these sources. Outlets should make extensive use of such programming, especially during presidential election years, and should provide their audience with the political analyses, commentaries, and public affairs programs provided by AFRTS-BC. (C4.8.2. Free Flow of Political Programming.)
The propaganda attitude has seeped in. Now, in the military public affairs community circling Washington, D.C., it's second nature to weave political spin into what was once relatively-unbiased military reporting. The end result is that American military members are getting fed pro-Bush propaganda on a daily basis.

The DOD argues tht it doesn't edit any of the military briefings it airs on the Pentagon Channel and, therefore, it's not selling propaganda but the straight scoop. "It would be propaganda if we tried to spin it," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Allison Barber told the Washington Times. Of course, when the briefing themselves are filled with propaganda, then spinning is unnecessary.

Public relations spending more than doubled overall under Bush (including payments to Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, etc.). In Afghanistan we used two satellite broadcast systems to send stories directly back to the states to be marketed to local and national television stations, often revoiced and uncredited to the military. Each system cost $1.5 million each, with the time on the satellite running about $1,500 per hour.

In other words, Rumsfeld is proving not only adept at blaming "people on television" for the faults of his leadership, but is proactively undermining the integrity of media. He's lying to you and American service members and you're paying for it.


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