Monday, December 1, 2008

Barry McCaffrey Is Sooo Busted

In an era littered with scams of unprecedented number and scope, one standout, a real operator, has displayed extraordinary flair, dexterity and ability in gaming the military-industrial complex. He's literally done it in our faces yet he's flown under the radar.

Since NBC anointed Gen. Barry McCaffrey as their post-9-11 go-to war guy, his extra-curricular businesses have borne little scrutiny. (See McCaffrey Associates). It left McCaffrey free to parlay his unparalleled DOD contacts and his NBC top "military analyst" status into big bucks "consultant" and board member gigs with a slew of defense industry players.

For almost two years, I've tracked Gen. McCaffrey's brazen exploitation of his unique situation with a total disregard of his multiple, flagrant conflicts of interest. I'm talking the kind of conflicts that would have driven him out of any other business and wicked fast (O.K. maybe not the music business). McCaffrey's on my shit list. He's really burned my goat.*

In April, NYT's David Barstow exposed McCaffrey's fellow TV military commentators as Bush Administration propagandists. He touched on their collective conflicts of interest too. Now Barstow takes aim at the worst offender of all, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, in "One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex":

In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.

The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles.

Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.

Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern Europe. “No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to succeed,” he said.

Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military.

“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.
I bet. What defense contractor large or small wouldn't want a 4-star wired to Commanding General, Multi-National Force - Iraq on their payroll? He's all over the tee-vee too. Bonus!

No one at Defense wants to fuck with McCaffrey. They're either former colleagues, served under his command and/or are acutely aware he's on NBC's various networks "analyzing" their military and their Iraq War. From his televised perch, this guy had the balls to bust Rumsfeld's balls.

This all would be bad, bad and more bad on it's own. McCaffrey wasn't nearly done. Oh, no no. He prostituted himself under oath in front of Congress:

...In his testimony to Congress, General McCaffrey criticized a Pentagon plan to supply Iraq with several hundred armored vehicles made in the United States by a competitor of Defense Solutions. He called the plan “not in the right ballpark” and urged Congress to instead equip Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles.

“We’ve got Iraqi army battalions driving around in Toyota trucks,” he said, echoing an argument made to General Petraeus in the Defense Solutions briefing packet.
Yep, he stood before Congress under the guise of impartial expert just back from Iraq. McCaffrey made the most of it. He ripped a client's competitor and pushed for more military spending that would ultimately benefit all those who paid him.

So you think this can't get any worse, do you? Hell yeah. McCaffrey's not your garden-variety sleazy-war-profiteer/TV star. This fucking guy shapes US policy:
His influence is such that President Bush and Congressional leaders from both parties have invited him for war consultations. His access is such that, despite a contentious relationship with former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Pentagon has arranged numerous trips to Iraq, Afghanistan and other hotspots solely for his benefit.

At the same time, General McCaffrey has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism.
That's just great. If you're like me, you're spitting blood right now. You're not? Maybe this'll do it. NBC, itself a military-industrial-media complex** charter member sees no problem with putting him on their combined networks nearly 1,000 times!
On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests. But those interests are not described to NBC’s viewers. He is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television.
What the fucking fuck?!? During my decade's experience in major market broadcast management, I insisted on disclaimers for stuff insanely stupid more trivial. No problemo, senor sez NBC. We'll pretend this never happened. As the all-powerful NBC, we decide what and where the lines are:
The president of NBC News, Steve Capus, said in an interview that General McCaffrey was a man of honor and achievement who would never let business obligations color his analysis for NBC. He described General McCaffrey as an “independent voice” who had courageously challenged Mr. Rumsfeld, adding, “There’s no open microphone that begins with the Pentagon and ends with him going out over our airwaves.”

General McCaffrey is not required to abide by NBC’s formal conflict-of-interest rules, Mr. Capus said, because he is a consultant, not a news employee. Nor is he required to disclose his business interests periodically. But Mr. Capus said that the network had conversations with its military analysts about the need to avoid even the appearance of a conflict, and that General McCaffrey had been “incredibly forthcoming” about his ties to military contractors.
For years defense industry star Barry McCaffrey has bounced footloose between the very highest levels of civilian government, our military and a Big Three television network. None have the least bit of interest in or a requirement for a disclosure of The General's extensive business ties.

For fuck's sake. When you rub it on down to the nub, we're the ones who pay all their salaries and keep all their lights on.

They just don't think we need to know.


*A stoned friend of mine coined this malaproptic(!?!) mashup of "burns me up" and "gets my goat" years ago. It was funny then. It's still funny now. In the case of McCaffrey, the visual perfectly encapsulates my feelings.

**The military-industrial-media complex is a Eisenhower could not have forseen. FAIR's 2005 look at The Military-Industrial-Media Complex has more.