[Note for Tomdispatch Readers: As a sidebar to today’s piece by Nick Turse, adapted from his book The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, you might get a kick out of taking his revealing “Pentagon pop quiz” put together for a favorite site of mine, Buzzflash.com. (If so, click here.) When you visit Buzzflash, you immediately feel the energy of the site, promising a prospective wild ride through all sorts of headlines that lead you to a potpourri of up-to-the-minute political pieces. To support itself, Buzzflash sells “premium” books like The Complex with an add-on contribution to the site. It’s a great way to get Turse’s book and offer a good website a couple of needed bucks. (If you want to do so, click here.) By the way, talking about someone with energy to spare, David Swanson of Afterdowningstreet.com — and ! a sometime Tomdispatch contributor — wrote a spot on review of Turse’s book recently. (“Nick Turse has done something pretty amazing in producing an entertaining account of the almost limitless variety of ways in which our money is wasted by what he calls the military industrial technological entertainment academic media corporate matrix, or ‘The Complex’ for short… Wait until you read about the exploding Frisbees, cyborg wasps, and Captain America no-meals and no-sleep soldiers being developed by the same people who brought you mechanical killer elephants and telepathic warfare: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.”) Check it out.]
Last Sunday, David Barstow of the New York Times revealed just how effectively the Pentagon orchestrated a propaganda campaign for “information dominance” when it came to the President’s various wars (and prisons). Pentagon officials, from the Secretary of Defense on down, put together a “rapid reaction force” of retired generals and other retired military officers (aka “message force multipliers” or “surrogates”). With copious Pentagon help and perks, these “experts” became key go-to guys for the mainstream media when it came to the War on Terror and the war in Iraq. As the Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel put the matter, “This was an all out effort at the highest levels of the Bush administration, continuing to this day, to dupe, mislead and lie to the American people — using propaganda dressed up and cherry-picked as independent military analysis. As one participant described it,’It was psyops on steroids.'” The Pentagon’s Brent T. Kreuger put it another way, speaking of the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq: “We were able to click on every single station and every one of our folks [the retired military men] were up there delivering our message. You’d look at them and say, ‘This is working.'”
But let’s face it, as today’s Tomdispatch post indicates, the Pentagon, however unseen, is increasingly everywhere in our world. That it’s been in bed with cable news, the major TV and radio networks, and our leading newspapers via retired-generals-tied-to-military-contractors-turned-pundits, can’t really shock anyone who’s bothered to listen to anything this bevy of talking-heads has had to say these last years. The fact is the Pentagon is now the most incestuous organization in America. If it regularly embeds reporters in its ranks to ensure decent coverage of its operations (think of this as a military version of Stockholm Syndrome) and, as Jon Stewart recently pointed out, embeds its retired generals in the media, it’s also regularly in bed with itself in a way that can only be called perverse.
Take a simple example of such in-beddedness, a $50 million Air Force contract involving another of those retired generals. Given our near trillion dollar defense budget, the sum itself is military chump change. As the Washington Post’s Josh White described the process, a seven-person “selection team” charged with picking a contractor to “jazz up the Air Force’s Thunderbirds air show with giant video boards,” under pressure from a higher-ranking officer, gave the contract to Strategic Message Solutions, “a company that barely existed in an effort to reward a recently retired four-star general and a millionaire civilian pilot who had grown close to senior Air Force officials and the Thunderbirds.”
It’s hardly surprising that taxpayer dollars in amounts that would have staggered Croesus have led to a revolving-door system of rampant corruption; more surprising is just how much that system is linked into your everyday life. In a sense, the militarization of America is happening right in your apartment or house. The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, the new book by Nick Turse who has long written for Tomdispatch on Pentagon matters, makes this point strikingly. (By hook or crook, it should be on your bookshelf.) You’ll get the idea as, in the adaptation of the book’s first chapter below, with the fictional “Rick” you live through an all-too-real, all-American militarized morning at home. (And while you’re at it, just imagine some of those retired generals offering lulling, Pentagon-inspired commentary in the background about how all of this is healthy, none of it really matters.) Tom
The Real Matrix
The Pentagon Invades Your Life
By Nick Turse
Rick is a midlevel manager in a financial services company in New York City. Each day he commutes from Weehawken, New Jersey, a suburb only a stone’s throw from the Big Apple, where he lives with his wife, Donna, and his teenage son, Steven. A late baby boomer, Rick just missed the Vietnam era’s antiwar protests, but he’s been against the war in Iraq from the beginning. He thinks the Pentagon is out of control and considers the military-industrial complex a danger to the country. If you asked him, it’s a subject on which he would rate himself as knowledgeable. He puts effort into educating himself on such matters. He reads liberal websites, subscribes to progressive-minded magazines, and is a devotee of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.