Can We Trust Them?

Extracts from the article by David Sirota, “What Happens When We Can’t Trust the Verifiers,” distributed by Chicago Syndicates on December 26, 2009.

In 2008, the New York Times’ David Barstow reported that 75 retired military officers regularly appearing on television “have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.”

Collectively, the group represented “more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants,” and here’s the kicker: “Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to viewers.”

Wired magazine reports that neoconservative think tankers who directly helped craft the Pentagon’s Afghan escalation are now appearing throughout the media as allegedly disinterested analysts of the escalation – again, without any mention of their concurrent work.

A British government report admitted this month that one of the major rationales for invading Iraq – the claim that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes – probably came from a cab driver.

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9 responses to “Can We Trust Them?

  1. Horace Krever

    Would suspicion about objectivity be absent even without knowing about ties to the contractors?

    • Of course. The only generals I would have trusted in the last fifty years are General Eisenhower, General Marshall and General de Gaulle.

  2. Madeline Koch

    But cabbies know everything!

  3. Some surely have connections to businesses, but not that many. I listen to them but usually find they know more than I do, but not always. The story of the cab driver is a hoax, but the people who made the decisions knew no better. After 9/11 “something” had to be done. And Saddam surely was not a good guy. Intel on Afghanistan is bad. And obviously hazardous. But can you do better? RK

    • Of course I could do better. Instead of taking advice from the military (whose interests do not coincide with the public good) I would listen to Daniel Elsberg who said that no civilian in a position of authority in Washington believes any more the war in Afghanistan, even if it was originally a “just war”, makes any sense. Al Quaida is far more dangerous elsewhere. The only question facing the administration today is how to terminate it without upsetting the delicate situation in Pakistan. I ADMIT I WOULD NOT KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THAT. Accoerding to Elsberg, Obama had to order his surge in order to prevent a rebellion by the Pentagon.

  4. I always thought Saddam outsmarted himself. He pretended he had weapons he didn’t have. If he’d allowed a few weapons inspectors in and showed them everything he might still be alive. He didn’t believe Baby Bush would do him in.

  5. But you don’t run a cab.

  6. The business ties of the retired Generals is an old story, that was more than likely between the lines of President Eisenhower’s warning about the military industrial complex during his address at the end of his Presidency.

    What is missing from the extract, and likely the article itself, is the importance of being able to assess policies based on evidence, preferably reliable data or “objective” and multiple assessments.

    While the spotlight is on war policies and opinion makers people “trust”, more attention
    and resources needs to be directed to our tools of measurement and assessment. If we do not examine, nurture, and update these tools, even well intentioned opinion makers can mislead with disastrous results.

    Finally, never underestimate the potential intelligence that can be obtained and disseminated by a taxi driver.

    Happy New Year to All.

  7. Excellent comment.

    When I wrote the blog I was of course very much thinking of Eisenhower’s valedictory.

    Thank you.