Baffle Them with Bull Feathers

Bull Feather Merchants discussed how fighting propaganda wars became the Pentagon’s primary mission during young Mr. Bush’s administration. This piece describes how the ubiquitous warmongery continues to manipulate American and the world into a constant state of armed conflict.

Candidate Obama stepped into a steaming pile of gotcha when he promised to "finish the job" in Afghanistan.  He did so in response to heat he was taking for having voted in the Senate against the surge that turned out to be such a "success" and that, as FOX News noted, his presidential opponent "John McCain courageously fought for."  The "successful surge" in Iraq has been one of the warmongery’s most successful PR ploys to date.   

As official stenographer to the General David Petraeus and former journalist Thomas E. Ricks has artlessly blabbed, "King David" did, indeed, "betray us."  Petraeus misled Congress and the public into believing he was trying to create conditions in Iraq "that would allow our soldiers to disengage" when he was actually creating conditions that would support the Pentagon’s Long War, a stratagem that will keep America’s military, especially its Army, engaged in low level, indecisive conflicts against numerically and technologically inferior opponents for 50 years or longer.   

To pacify critics of the war, Petraeus artificially reduced violence statistics through bribery and by cooking the figures: Sunnis killed by Sunnis, Shiites killed by Shiites, Iraqis killed by car bombs and people shot in the front of the head instead of the back of the head didn’t count.  High-ranking officials at the five-sided echo chamber repeated the "successful surge" mantra at every opportunity, as did Republican politicians and wonks hoping to put McCain in the White House.   

The rabid right media amplified the message, and the bovine mainstream media, petrified at the prospect of losing more audience share to AM radio and FOX News hate jockeys, meekly crawled aboard the bandwagon, promulgating brainwash disguised as news.  To this day, despite credible and available evidence and testimony that Iraq’s government and security forces are corrupt and incompetent, that political reconciliation is nowhere in sight, that political violence and intimidation is rampant, that attacks still take place at a frequency and intensity that would not be acceptable in any nation we don’t happen to be occupying, the Long War propaganda apparatus continues to tout the "success of the Iraqi surge." 

Where Do We Find Such Men?

Much of the war mafia’s conquest of the narrative has been its success in promoting our four-star generals into five star deities.  Otherwise hard-nosed media pundits and moderators across the political spectrum turn into blubbering idolaters in the presence of a Petraeus or a Stanley McChrystal.  Congressional testimony from these guys should be X-rated: lipstick neocon Joe Lieberman and his hawkish buddies go into states of full blown estrous, and everybody else, mainly the Democrats, are afraid to ask the generals any tough questions for fear of being called a pack of limp-wristed peace pansies.  

The Rovewellian rhetoric of the Bush years insisted that the commander in chief was wisely doing what his generals recommended.  As any slow child could tell you, that merely meant Bush picked generals that told him what he wanted to hear.  When it was time to deflect criticism that we hadn’t committed enough troops to Iraq, the generals in charge said we had plenty of troops.  When Bush got desperate after the drubbing his party suffered in the 2006 election, and decided to send more troops to Iraq, he got him a general (Petraeus) who told him he needed more troops.   

The myth that our generals are infallible persists even though everything they’ve done proves otherwise.  Petraeus’s successes have been a sham; that he’s managed to thrive is a testimony to his genius for self-serving hucksterism.  You can’t count the number of times you’ve heard that Petraeus "wrote the book" on counterinsurgency.  The only part of legendary Field Manual 3-24 Petraeus wrote was his name at the bottom of the cover letter.  (Though we should give the devil his due.  Petraeus’s signature is pretty much the only part of the manual that wasn’t plagiarized.) 

The Pentagon sold Petraeus protégé McChrystal to the Senate as a counterinsurgency expert.  McChrystal’s only real combat command experience involved assassinating suspected bad guys along with whatever civilians happened to be within the frag pattern at Dick Cheney’s behest.  Image-makers have toiled Herculean to make Petraeus and McChrystal seem superhuman.  Tom Ricks gushed like Joe Lieberman in a 2007 NPR interview as he recounted the spectacle of Petraeus besting teen-age privates in one-arm pushup contests, and McChrystal’s public relations staff made a point of ensuring the world knows that he only eats one meal a day and sleeps just a few hours a night.  That should have told everyone paying attention that Petraeus’s military genius consists of penchant for staging flashy displays of chickensh**t and that McChrystal is permanently goofy from the effects of long-term malnourishment and sleep deprivation.   

But these two brass-hatted humbugs know how to manipulate the media and baffle Congress and the public with bull feathers, as does Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, whose father was a high profile Hollywood publicity agent.  The way they polluted the information environment to mousetrap Obama into going along with the Afghanistan surge was eye-watering.  In another era — most notably the Truman administration days — an insubordinate stunt like that would have gotten Petraeus, McChrystal and Mullen transferred to Civilian Command.  However, the three amigos currently at the top of the armed forces pile are connected and valued in high places, especially in the defense industry and the Congress, both of which have a vested interest in making the Long War as long as possible.  

That’s the most frightening part of the recent Supreme Court ruling that allows politicians to guzzle every last drop of campaign financing that corporations can afford to pour down their throats.  The ruling is an all’s-in-free for the military-industrial-congressional-media complex to keep us in never-ending counterproductive wars that we get to pay for.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.