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The Military-Industrial-Pundit Complex: TV Guests Who Urged Syria War Profit From Arms Firms

Media outlets never disclosed that former Bush official Stephen Hadley worked for a company that would profit from launching cruise missiles at the Assad regime.

Former Bush official Stephen Hadley speaking at the Atlantic Council.
Photo Credit: Atlantic Council/Flickr


This transcript is taken from Democracy Now!'s October 18 broadcast.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: New research shows many so-called experts who appeared on television making the case for U.S. strikes on Syria had undisclosed ties to military contractors. The  report by the Public Accountability Initiative identifies 22 commentators with the industry. While they appeared on television or were quoted as experts 111 times, their links to military firms were disclosed only 13 of those times. Let’s take a look at how some of those pundits were identified during recent television appearances.

JAKE TAPPER: For insight into this high-stakes diplomatic mission, I’m joined by former secretary of state to the Clinton administration, Madeleine Albright.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, let’s analyze all this now with our panel of experts. Former vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General James Cartwright.

GREGG JARRETT: General Jack Keane joins us, Fox News military analyst, served as four-star general and Army vice chief of staff. General, good to see you, as always.

JAKE TAPPER: I want to bring in two former generals to talk about this. Anthony Zinni is the former commander-in-chief of CENTCOM, and Michael Hayden is the former CIAdirector. He’s now a principal with the Chertoff Group, a risk management firm.

FOLLY BAH THIBAULT: Well, joining me now, live from Washington, D.C., is former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen. Secretary Cohen, thank you for being on Al Jazeera.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us is Ambassador John Negroponte. He served as the first U.S. director of national intelligence, as well as U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations, and many more posts, I should add. Nice to see you, sir.


AMY GOODMAN: A sampling of recent TV coverage on Syria. All the pundits interviewed currently have ties to military and intelligence contractors, investment firms with a significant defense or intelligence focus, or ties to consulting firms with a focus on defense or intelligence. General Jack Keane, for example, is on the board of General Dynamics. General Anthony Zinni is on the board ofBAE Systems. General James Cartwright is on the board of Raytheon.

Joining us now from San Francisco, Kevin Connor, director and co-founder of the Public Accountability Initiative, co-author of the  report called "Conflicts of Interest in the Syria Debate."

Lay out what you found, Kevin.

KEVIN CONNOR: Sure. The report really maps out the extent to which the policy conversation on the airwaves around Syria was really dominated by individuals with ties to the defense industry. And these ties, as you laid out there, really were never disclosed—rarely disclosed, only 13 times out of 111 appearances that we identified during the Syria debate.

Now, the importance of that is that readers and viewers at home, who are, you know, seeing these people comment, are introduced to them as having gravitas and credibility—former secretaries of state, diplomats, generals with expertise. You would think these are independent experts who probably retired with a healthy pension, when in fact they’re representing interests that would profit from heightened military activity abroad in Syria. So that has a corrupting effect on the public discourse around an issue like Syria that’s so—so important. And it really goes back to the responsibility of media outlets to disclose these ties and also the individuals here who are implicated in the culture of corruption and the revolving door in Washington.

Anjali mentioned earlier, on the first segment, about the jobs program for the defense industry. And there’s a jobs program in place for the foreign policy establishment as they move out of their public positions onto the boards of these corporations. These aren’t—these are part-time positions, but they’re very high-paying positions. They have financial incentives and fiduciary responsibilities to companies that are profiting from war, profiting from current levels of defense spending. And this is something that viewers at home should be notified of. And it perhaps should preclude their involvement in debates like this, or perhaps they should not get the podium and platform they’re given for their views, given the fact that they have these conflicts of interest that are quite serious in some cases.

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