Unwarranted Influence

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex."
President Dwight David Eisenhower, 1961

Michael D. "Mike" Furlong has, to all appearances, established himself as the premier military-industrial scumbag of the New American Century, an eye-watering accomplishment considering the competition in this category.

Furlong is the prototypical American war mongrel. During his 25-year military career he ingratiated himself into the circles of power through tours in Washington, and he managed to transition upon retirement from active duty into the upper levels of the defense industry, where he exploited his expertise in information operations (IO). As a defense contractor, Furlong established U.S.-government-funded propaganda broadcast networks in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. As an "on-site contractor for the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy," according to his bio at the official U.S. Air Force Web site, he "received the Secretary of Defense’s Exceptional Public Service Award for his strategic influence work following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."

The official Air Force Web site doesn’t mention that the undersecretary of defense for policy at the time was neoconservative luminary Douglas J. Feith, who was also in charge of the Office of Special Plans and the Office of Strategic Influence, the infamous sub-ministries of truth created by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to concoct a case for invading Iraq. With credentials and connections like that, it’s little mystery how Furlong bagged a senior-level executive government billet as the Strategic Planner and Technology Integration Adviser for Joint Information Operations Warfare Command at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

And with the amoral fiber that made him so useful to Feith and Rumsfeld, it’s no wonder at all how Furlong managed to parlay his experience as a government big shot into defense contracts for all his friends to sell information to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) mob of Central Command assassins.

According to Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, Furlong "hired contractors from private security companies that employed former CIA and Special Forces operatives" who "gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action."

There isn’t room in a column-length essay to fully explain all the things that are wrong with this arrangement, but we’ll hit the highlights.

The core sin that should land Furlong and his confederates (named by the Times as contractor Robert Young Pelton, former CIA official Duane Clarridge, and ex-network news executive Eason Jordan) in perdition is the assassination program itself. For the jackal’s share of a decade now, we’ve had people running amok in the western slice of Asia knocking off "suspected" terrorists on the say-so of local sources who couldn’t pass even the most cursory background check. Whenever we run these assassination raids, whether we do it with manned aircraft or drones or platoons of dudes with rifles and night-vision goggles, we tend to not get the alleged evildoer we were going after or we never find out for sure if we got him, and even if we’re sure we got him, we’re not all that sure he did any evil. He might just have been a lifelong enemy of the scumbag we paid to finger him. We can, however, be pretty sure that all the women and children we rubbed out in the process of offing the ostensible bad guy didn’t do any evil at all, so we’ve got that going for us.

That the U.S. government is conducting this kind of barbarism in the name of its people is bad enough, but it’s doing it in such a way as to distance itself from the crime. In the case of Furlong’s racket, we have retired guys who can no longer be held responsible for anything who, for all anyone knows, pull their "intelligence" out of their rear ends. They pass this information along to the "officials" who assign the wet work to a bunch of sorry suckers who have to answer to a chain of command and a code of justice. When things go to hell in a handcar, it’s not the guys who are getting both retirement pay and contract blood money from Uncle Sam who get in trouble; it’s the guys who won’t ever see a government retirement because they’ll be out on their ears with bad discharges long before they qualify for one. These guys will have trouble getting decent jobs on the outside because of their criminal records and will drift into killing unarmed civilians for mercenary outfits like Blackwater, but that’s a separate trail of military-industrial slime.

The slime trail we want to follow on this story is the one that leads to the upper tiers of the food chain, where bags even scummier than Furlong are trying to skulk away from the scene of the crime without getting sucked into the dragnet.

Read Adm. Gregory Smith, a career bull-feather merchant who is McChrystal’s chief propaganda and information warfare officer, says there are nine international media venues under employ of the U.S. military in Afghanistan doing "routine jobs in administration, information processing, and analysis." Whatever any other international media employees might be doing in Afghanistan, Smith has no idea about, and whatever they were up to, he certainly wasn’t responsible for their actions, he told Filkins and Mazzetti of the Times. But, Smith added, whatever they might have been doing, he was against it and he didn’t want them to do it any more. So there.

Filkins and Mazzetti also tell us "American officials don’t know" who "condoned and supervised" Furlong’s "off-the-books spy operation." Moreover, Filkins and Mazzetti say, despite the fact that Furlong is known to have "extensive experience" in psychological operations and has "plied his trade" in Iraq, the Balkans and elsewhere, officials don’t know exactly when Furlong’s "activities" began. The officials do know, however, that those activities "seemed to accelerate" in the summer of 2009.

Filkins and Mazzetti don’t tell us that summer of 2009 is when McChrystal took command of the mess in Afghanistan, and that before that, he and his SOCOM assassination team answered directly to Dick Cheney, that bosom pal of Doug Feith and Donald Rumsfeld. If Filkins and Mazzetti had mentioned those things, it might be impossible for anyone to avoid the conclusion that McChrystal has been the head culprit in Furlong’s shenanigans from the get-go.

When you get down to it, Furlong’s part in this scandal was that of a functionary, not of a co-conspirator. How he became the fall stooge is a bit of a mystery. In my time we’d have said that he must have knocked up some big shot’s wife or daughter, but these days that sort of thing is paltry.

Maybe they talked him into wearing the goat collar by promising him a house in the Hamptons and a VP slot with Lockheed Martin when he gets out of the can.

And they’ll probably make McChrystal CEO.

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.