Last month, The New York Times published its front-page exposÃ© of the Pentagon’s strategy of using military analysts. The retired officers who frequently appeared on TV were the ideal vehicle to broadcast the administration’s message on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Message force multipliers,” Pentagon officials called them.
Well, earlier this week, the Pentagon released all of the documents that had been turned over to the Times. It is a staggering load. But most immediately intriguing is audio of some of the briefings at the Pentagon, including two featuring Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
The audio we’ve excerpted here comes from a meeting on April 18, 2006. It was an emergency meeting called because earlier in the month, several retired generals had hit the airwaves demanding that Rumsfeld resign. 17 analysts attended the briefing, which featured Rumsfeld and then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Peter Pace. It was a remarkable display of servility, with one analyst at one point proclaiming that Rumsfeld need to get out there on the “offense,” because “we’d love to be following our leader, as indeed you are. You are the leader. You are our guy.” Here’s the audio:
Another analyst chimed in to the effect that, though PsyOps or “brainwashing” are dirty words, it was necessary to get out there on offense. “You know what they call PsyOps today, they call those public relations firms,” another said approvingly. Finally, Rumsfeld had to throw up his hands: “You people should be taking notes. I’m taking all the notes!” It sure was an eager group.
A transcript is available here (pdf) for those who want to follow along at home. The excerpt above begins at the bottom of page 18. It cuts at one point to the top of page 20. The full audio of the briefing is here (wav).
Unfortunately, the transcript does not name the analysts when they speak (it just says “Question”), meaning that it is not easily possible to figure out which of them said what. A list of the participants, however, is here.
The Times reported that the meeting was a rousing success for the Pentagon:
The meeting ended and Mr. Rumsfeld, appearing pleased and relaxed, took the entire group into a small study and showed off treasured keepsakes from his life, several analysts recalled.
Soon after, analysts hit the airwaves. The Omnitec monitoring reports, circulated to more than 80 officials, confirmed that analysts repeated many of the Pentagon’s talking points: that Mr. Rumsfeld consulted “frequently and sufficiently” with his generals; that he was not “overly concerned” with the criticisms; that the meeting focused “on more important topics at hand,” including the next milestone in Iraq, the formation of a new government.
Omnitec Solutions was the private contractor that was paid “hundreds of thousands of dollars to scour databases for any trace of the analysts.” The company “evaluated their appearances using the same tools as corporate branding experts.”
Update: The Politico reports on the “deafening silence” created by the networks failure to run with the Times‘ story.