We’d seen his face often, on “the networks of NBC”, giving his expert opinion on what was needed for United States forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a “military analyst”, you couldn’t ask for much more. After all, who better than a four star general to explain to the American People, and even to Congress, just what was needed to “support our troops”, and “win the hearts and minds” of Iraqis and Afghanis? It never occurred to us to question whether or how much he was being paid to make those “news” appearances. Or who was paying him. Some were shocked, years later, to find out he was being paid by the defense contractors whose weapons and equipment he pimped on the Today show, and NBC Nightly News. In November, 2008, well after the quadrennial (s)election of the new “Commander-In-Chief” of United States military forces, the New York Times described “retired general” Barry McCaffrey’s “post-service” career as “One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex”. And for good reason.
After “rising to fame” as Bill Clinton’s “Drug Czar” (Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)) from 1996 to 2001, where he developed a program of paying millions in misappropriated tax money to five major television networks for adding anti-drug messages in their programs, including (but certainly not limited to) ER, Beverly Hills, 90210, Chicago Hope, The Drew Carey Show and 7th Heaven, he founded B R McCaffrey Associates, and became NBC’s most-frequently-seen military analyst, around the same time his company began representing defense contractors at the Pentgon, and in Congress. And according to the graphic published in that New York Times article, he’s done quite well, joining the boards of eight defense contractors, and “advising” four more.
For one “tiny defense contractor”, Defense Solutions, Defense Solutions, hiring McCaffrey was a watershed. Within days the company had a 15 page briefing packet in front of recently “retired” CIA Director David Petraeus, then the US commanding general in Iraq. Of course, McCaffrey didn’t mention to Petraeus, or to Congress, that he had a financial stake in the company he recommended to provide 5,000 armored vehicles for service in Iraq.
Disturbingly, McCaffrey’s story is far from a rarity. A report released by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Brave New Foundation last week revealed that between 2009 and 2011, more than 70 percent of retired three-and-four star generals either took jobs with or became consultants for defense contractors. Retired general James Cartwright took a paid position on Raytheon’s board of directors, and Admiral Gary Roughead went to work for NorthropGrumman, each while serving on the Defense Policy Board.
And that 70 percent? That was actually a decline. Between 2004 and 2008, while American fathers, sons, mothers and daughters, aunts and uncles were filling casualty lists, 80 percent of their “retiring” commanders became war profiteers, as consultants or executives of companies whose bottom lines rise in a sea of blood. Many began these lucrative activities before retirement, a practice the Pentagon supports.
The path from command to certain “defense” contracting jobs is laid out like paving stones. As put on AntiWar.com, “the last seven generals and admirals who worked as Department of Defense gatekeepers for international arms sales are now helping military contractors sell weapons and defense technology overseas.”
McCaffrey does just fine “on the home front”, though. VeritasCapital, described in the NYT article as “a relatively small player in 2001”, had announced, on Sept. 6, 2001, forming an “advisory council” including McCaffrey and other “well-connected retired generals and admirals”. Veritas gave those advisers board seats on its military companies, profit sharing, and even equity stakes; attractive because Veritas intended to turn quick profits through I.P.O.’s.
That might have looked like a gamble at the time, since revenue growth is important to the Goldfinger entities that underwrite Initial Public Offerings, like Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers. Five days later, the only question was just how big those increases would be.
McCaffrey’s banging on NBC's war drum, his rants for ongoing increases in military spending, for a global campaign against terrorism, and for ever-greater spending for high-tech weapons, like the drones that local police agencies are increasingly encouraged to “buy” (with “Homeland Security” grants), has answered the question.
Oh, and those networks? Imagine what they were paid for The Agency (first broadcast: September 26, 2001!); Alias (first broadcast: September 30, 2001); and even West Wing (first aired in ‘99). But those are subjects for other posts. Maybe even another blog.