In 2003, false intelligence and a news media willing to publicise it helped justify the invasion of Iraq.

The politicians responsible for launching the invasion have largely escaped repercussions for their role in misleading governments and the public. Much less have US media outlets learned lessons from the way that military institutions were allowed to drive narratives that promoted the conflict.

In 2008, the New York Times revealed a secret Pentagon programme which trained and briefed former military generals to push pro-Pentagon talking points to a compliant news media. Today, former military personnel are still regular contributors on every major cable news network despite some of them being the very same figures who pushed for the Iraq war.

"Being one of these former military official TV pundits means never having to say you're sorry," says Jeff Cohen, founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media and associate professor of journalism at Ithaca College. "These people have gotten it wrong repeatedly and they're on the air forever."

When you allow these military brass to come on night after night and never have to debate, it normalises what we call the military-industrial complex. I would call it, a military industrial media complex.

Jeff Cohen, associate professor of journalism, Ithaca College

Former CIA director John Brennan and former director of both the NSA and the CIA, Michael Hayden are now employed as national security analysts for NBC. No mention is ever made of Brennan's work as an adviser for cybersecurity SecureAuth Core Security or Hayden's role at the Chertoff Group, which provides strategic consultancy to the arms industry.

"This is a revolving door between folks who were officials in the national security apparatus who then have moved out of that role and are now leveraging their experience to get these lucrative positions in the defence industry, like contractors, strategic firms and media gigs," says Gin Armstrong, deputy director of the Public Accountability Initiative.

"Media have a responsibility to viewers to make sure that they know where this commentary is coming from and so far have just done a very poor job."

Almost without exception, these former officials turned media pundits are opposed to the current administration. The combination of their official record and their anti-Trump credentials helps the networks present themselves as part of the responsible 'resistance' to the White House.

However, when it comes to policies such as US President Donald Trump's choice of Gina Haspel as incoming director of the CIA, their resistance ends and their ideology begins.

"You saw a parade on cable news of former CIA officials talking about how great at her job she was. Remember, she oversaw torture and is part of the exact same military intelligence complex that has been doing rendition, torturing people," explains Nima Shirazi, co-host of the Citations Needed podcast.

"When it comes to strikes on Syria, we see the same thing; former military officials talking about how efficient and how effective the military is. These are people talking about a sector that they respect and they will always respect."

Polls consistently find that the US military retains the trust of the American public while confidence in other institutions such as Congress and the TV news have plummeted.

The constant presence of former military and intelligence figures in the news media may well contribute to the deep entrenchment of militarist values in US society.

"When you allow these military brass to come on night after night and never have to debate, it normalises what we call the military-industrial complex," said Jeff Cohen. "I would call it, a military-industrial media complex."

Contributors

Nima Shirazi, editor, Muftah co-host, Citations Needed Podcast
Gin Armstrong, deputy director, Public Accountability Initiative
Melvin Goodman, author, Whistleblower at the CIA: An Insider's Account of the Politics of Intelligence
Jeff Cohen, associate professor of journalism at Ithaca College

Source: Al Jazeera