July 4, 2010

Robert Gates's Twisted Independence

Since Americans lost another shred of their liberty when General Stanley McChrystal was terminated for, in his own gruff manner, speaking the truth, they may as well lose another. According to an order from US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, signed soon after McChrystal’s firing, military officials now require clearance for interviews and other interaction with the media.

"We were not happy with the content, and we were not happy that we didn't know about it," assistant defense secretary Douglas Wilson said of the Rolling Stone report, before promising that no "Iron Curtain" would fall between the Pentagon and the media.

Maybe not an iron curtain, but some type of wall is going up.

Gates’ memo offers few details, "how hundreds of thousands of officers will now funnel interview requests through a small central office at the Pentagon," and he seems in no rush to explain. On a certain level the order makes sense - the personal level. Gates has been struggling with a leaky Pentagon since President Barack Obama took office, and this is his latest tactic to plug the holes. Altering the strategy in Afghanistan to limit disagreement with the White House isn’t an option. Instead Gates has turned to the media for a scapegoat.

"I am concerned that the department has grown lax in how we engage with the media," he wrote.

Though Gates proclaims his admiration for the US media, his initiative seems contradictory to this position. Obama hasn’t suffered any real leak of classified information, only evidence of disagreement in Washington and a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. So when Gates “wants to make sure they are not... unintentionally releasing information that the Pentagon wants to hold back,” one must wonder why.

Is this classified information that could harm US interests, or secrets that expose the war as a threat towards US interests?

Furthermore, Gates spent the last two weeks scolding Congress and the US media for falsely portraying Afghanistan in a negative light. He argues, "We have far too many people talking to the media outside of channels, sometimes providing information which is simply incorrect, out of proper context, unauthorized, or uninformed by the perspective of those who are most knowledgeable."

Presumably “those most knowledgeable” means himself and General David Petraeus.

There’s a huge difference between safeguarding sensitive information and limiting negative information, between controlling the Pentagon and controlling how Americans perceive the war. CNN observes, “The new policy comes 18 months after Obama, on his first full day in office, promised ’a new era of openness in our country.’”

Demanding 33$ billion for Afghanistan by July 4th (some of which Congress rejected out of vague goals) and now suppressing the media on its eve - such is the distorted world that Robert Gates inhabits.

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