Pentagon may have been ordered to cover up investigations, columnist says

Published: May 7, 2009

Last year, The New York Times revealed the existence of a secret Pentagon program which used retired officers who served as military analysts on television news programs to disseminate Bush administration talking points.

The Defense Department inspector general’s office issued a report this January attempting to refute the Times expose, but it was widely derided as a “whitewash.” In an unusual move, the Pentagon has now withdrawn that report, acknowledging its inaccuracies and flawed methodology.

Times columnist Frank Rich believes that this one apparent coverup may be only the tip of the iceberg and that it may have been carried out in response to “orders from above.”

Rich, who has written extensively on the Bush administration’s use of propaganda to sell its war in Iraq, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday that “there were a lot of suspect reports” from the inspector general’s office.

“In 2005, [Senator] John Warner … was incredulous at a Pentagon inspector general’s report that cleared Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz of knowing anything about the huge procurement scandal involving Boeing,” Rich noted. “That inspector general [Joseph Schmitz] then left and went to work for Blackwater.

“We have to know what other suspect IG reports there were over the past five or six years during the war in Iraq,” Rich insisted. “There may be a much bigger story here.”

When Maddow pointed out that there has been no announcement of a fresh investigation into the military analyst program to replace the discredited report, Rich agreed that “unfortunately, this is sort of our attitude about everything involving Iraq.

“But I think we have to get the facts out,” Rich commented. “The inspector general’s office is supposed to be this objective watchdog for the American people. … If they’re using Google to release reports, you have to wonder why they are. … They’re not idiots. Were there orders from above?”

Rich also agreed with Maddow that the Obama administration’s reluctance to look more deeply into these incidents leaves a dangerous precedent in place.

“Hoping it’ll all just pass under the bridge and we’ll forget about it and not know what really happened — and there are lots of instances involving the war in Iraq beyond torture — I don’t think that flies,” Rich stated. “I think we have to have the historical record.

“People in government bureaucracies, regardless of ideology or political party, want to … protect themselves,” Rich concluded. “And when things go wrong, that’s when propaganda happens. … I think eternal vigilence is necessary to stamp out propaganda and ensure freedom.”

This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast May 6, 2009.

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