Rewarding the Pentagon for Lying

Nothing to see here, people!

W.J. Astore

The Afghan Papers have revealed widespread, systemic, and enduring lying about the course and progress of the Afghan War by U.S. military and civilian leaders.  So, what’s the punishment for all this lying?  Record-setting Pentagon budgets!  The more they lie, the more money they get.  Is it any wonder why these wars persist, without apparent end, when no one is punished for lies that lead to the death of American troops (not forgetting all the foreign innocents who are killed and wounded because of these lies)?

This may seem hard to believe, but “Integrity First” is the fundamental core value of the U.S. Air Force.  But what happens when the system is revealed to have no integrity? When the system sends young Americans to die in a lost war, a war that our most senior leaders have lied about since almost the very beginning?

I know we’re all jaded and cynical, but this is a monstrous failure, a horrendous betrayal of trust.

The entire military leadership at the top should be gutted. Anyone implicated in these lies, distortions, etc. should be cashiered. That’s what a real president and commander-in-chief would do. Heads should roll!

But the Pentagon prefers to obfuscate and pretend that the Afghan Papers are old news, and pretty much meaningless at that.  Meanwhile, fake tough guy Trump (along with the Congress) kowtows to the Pentagon, giving the generals everything they want as next year’s Pentagon budget soars to $738 billion, including money for a “Space Force,” among many other boondoggles.

Endless self-serving lies rewarded by scads of money — small wonder that America’s wars persist without end.

11 thoughts on “Rewarding the Pentagon for Lying

  1. “Integrity First,” eh? Believe it or not, while I was still in the Army (exited in 1971), the motto “Zero Defects” was in use!! Yeah, that sure describes the US Military Establishment! Who will “cashier” the craven cowards in Congress who give the Pentagon what it wants (sometimes more than was officially requested!) because a.) it brings jobs to their districts; b.) future employment in the industry potentially awaits them; and c.) they lack the guts to call the war lords on their BS? Well, that’s supposed to be the “job” of the voters, but they’ve been programmed to support every military adventure abroad and…some of those war industry jobs might fall into their laps. This is a genuine abyss of a morass. The “value” of the US Dollar is an illusion. These pieces of linen/paper can only be printed in unlimited numbers to fund this madness as long as the world sustains that illusion. Some day, that will change.


  2. The mechanisms and leadership of the DOD, like those of most large bureaucracies, are focused on self preservation and self promotion. In the AF, I was told that “integrity first” applied only to personal conduct (e.g., drinking and driving, treating fellow employees well, etc). “Service before self,” we were told, was our guiding star, its mid-1990s intent corrupted into the idea that the service could do no wrong and that if you disagreed, you shut up or left. In Air War College’s leadership course, the course director told us that the Air Force “belongs” to the generals and that it’s impossible for them to make a wrong or unethical decision. This led to the running gag, “One core value: Service before Integrity.”

    So, no, this isn’t surprising. Throughout the 19 years in Afghanistan, the Air Staff’s mission has been to figure out the political winds and adapt their weapon-system wants with them. Counterinsurgency? Yes, the F-35 can do that. Light transport aircraft? Well, no, because the F-35…


    1. Yes. Service before self is (or should be) about serving our country by upholding the Constitution. I don’t remember it being “Air Force service, and the generals, before anything else, including my oath.” Hmm …


    2. I learned from Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” that, in Nazi Germany, it was impossible for the regime to issue an illegal order. Morality or ethics never entered the picture.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This article makes a great point about the Washington Post, and, by extension, all of the mainstream media. Why have they been so willing to repeat Pentagon talking points, i.e. BS, for the last two decades?

    Afghan Papers Inadvertently Document WaPo’s Role in Spreading Official Lies

    by Joshua Cho

    WaPo: The Afghanistan Papers A secret history of the war

    To get the secret history of the media’s role in the Afghan War, you have to compare the Washington Post’s Afghanistan Papers (12/9/19) with what the Post was telling its readers in real time.

    The Washington Post’s publication of the “Afghanistan Papers” (12/9/19) unveiled over 2,000 pages of unpublished notes of interviews with US officials involved in the Afghanistan War, from a project led by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) to investigate waste and fraud. Hailed by some as the “Pentagon Papers of Our Generation” after the Post won access to those documents under the Freedom of Information Act in a three-year legal battle, the Post’s exposé found that senior US officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

    The paper published direct remarks on the war by US officials who assumed that “their remarks would not be made public”:

    “Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to US military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

    While more explicit admissions of deception on the part of US officials involved in wars are always appreciated, one question rarely discussed among the reports and opinion pieces praising the “Afghanistan Papers” is what this scoop says about the Washington Post.

    If the Post is now publishing material demonstrating that US officials have been “following the same talking points for 18 years,” emphasizing how they are “making progress,” “especially” when the war is “going badly,” shouldn’t the paper acknowledge that it has been cheerleading this same for all of those 18 years? Doesn’t it have a responsibility to examine how it served as a primary vehicle for those officials to spread these same “talking points” to spin the coverage in the desired fashion?

    FAIR has been tracking the Post’s coverage of the Afghanistan War from the very beginning, when the paper—along with the rest of corporate media—was actively following the Bush administration’s “guidance” on how to cover the war. In 2001, a FAIR survey (11/2/01) of the Post’s op-ed pages for three weeks following the September 11 attacks found that columns calling for or assuming a military response to the attacks were given a great deal of space, while opinions urging diplomatic and international law approaches as an alternative to military action were nearly nonexistent.

    Eight years later, FAIR (3/1/09) found that the Post’s cheerleading coverage didn’t change much from 2001, as 7 out of 9 Post op-eds and 4 out of 5 editorials supported some kind of military escalation from the day Barack Obama was elected president (11/4/08) through March 1, 2009, as the US was debating a “surge” of additional troops in Afghanistan later that year.

    Another study (Extra!, 11/1/09) of the first ten months of the Post’s opinion columns that same year found that pro-war columns outnumbered antiwar columns by more than 10 to 1: Of 67 Post columns on US military policy in Afghanistan, 61 supported a continued war, while just six expressed antiwar views. Of the pro-war columns, 31 were for escalation and 30 for an alternative strategy.

    The Post offered this lopsided coverage even though there were several polls at the time showing a majority of the US public opposed the war, because they believed that the Afghan War was “not worth fighting.”

    WaPo: Trump risks turning a chance for success in Afghanistan into a shameful failure
    The Washington Post (8/19/19) has consistently amplified the talking points the Post’s Afghanistan Papers exposes as lies.

    The Post also has a history of facilitating official spin for the war. When WikiLeaks posted tens of thousands of classified intelligence documents related to the Afghanistan War, FAIR (7/30/10) found that the Post either dismissed them as not being as important as the Pentagon Papers (7/27/10), or absurdly spun the leaks as good news for the US war effort (7/27/10) because the “release could compel President Obama to explain more forcefully the war’s importance,” and because they “bolstered Obama’s decision in December to pour more troops and money into a war effort that had not received sufficient attention or resources from the Bush administration.”

    The Post also buried attempts by whistleblowers and other journalists who were working to expose official lies and war crimes in Afghanistan. When US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison for sharing intelligence documents that first exposed what the “Afghanistan Papers” are now corroborating, the Post, along with other corporate outlets, largely neglected Manning’s legal trials and punishment (, 12/4/12, 6/18/14, 1/18/17, 4/1/19). The New York Times, to its credit, did give Manning space for an op-ed (6/14/19) to explain why she risked her freedom to expose matters that the US military recorded but left unreported, including hundreds of US military attacks on Afghan civilians. The Post, for its part, found room to publish frequent op-eds by the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon (e.g., 11/16/09, 6/26/10, 6/3/11, 2/10/13, 7/12/13) spouting the same optimistic US official talking points that the Post’s “Afghanistan Papers” has now exposed as lies (, 1/3/14).

    In fact, one major reason why the Afghanistan Papers are unnecessary to discern deceit from US officials is that—as Michael Parenti pointed out in The Face of Imperialism—when US officials constantly provide new and different justifications for invasions, it’s a sign that they’re being dishonest, not incompetent.

    WaPo: Stranded Without a Strategy
    The Washington Post (12/9/19) declared that the US “adopted fatally flawed warfighting strategies based on misguided assumptions about a country they did not understand.”

    The Post (12/9/19) admits this when it mentions that the US “largely accomplished what it set out to do,” with Al Qaeda and Taliban officials “dead, captured or in hiding,” yet “veered off in directions that had little to do with Al Qaeda or 9/11.” This is consistent with FAIR’s finding (Extra!, 7/11) that corporate media largely ignored the question of whether to end the Afghanistan War after the ostensible goal of the invasion—to capture or kill the leader of the group that carried out the September 11 attack—was accomplished in the death of Osama bin Laden.

    It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Post’s Afghanistan Papers have inadvertently exposed the Post as a subservient accomplice in disseminating US official lies; corporate media rely on official sources for free content and “scoops” to subsidize their journalism, which often spreads dishonest but convenient talking points by these same sources to retain “access” to this information, trustworthy or not (Extra!, 5/02; New York Times, 4/20/08;, 12/12/19).

    Political cartoonist and journalist Ted Rall pointed out, in an account (Common Dreams, 12/11/19) of being marginalized by corporate outlets like the Post:

    “The Afghanistan Papers” is a bright, shining lie by omission. Yes, our military and civilian leaders lied to us about Afghanistan. But they could never have spread their murderous BS—thousands of US soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghans killed, trillions of dollars wasted—without media organizations like the Washington Post, which served as unquestioning government stenographers.

    Press outlets like the Post and New York Times weren’t merely idiots used to disseminate pro-war propaganda. They actively censored people who knew we never should have gone into Afghanistan and tried to tell American voters the truth.

    It’s this mutually beneficial relationship between the need for corporate media outlets like the Post for “access” to US official sources, and US officials who need corporate media outlets to propagate their preferred spin on US foreign policy to manipulate public opinion, that explains what the Afghanistan Papers expose as the Post’s own role in deceiving the US public. It’s why the Post’s coverage and editorial board can argue that the Trump administration shouldn’t “abandon the country in haste” (even though it’s been 18 years), and rally around the US’s “forever war” in Afghanistan (, 1/31/19, 9/11/19), even as the paper investigates the official lies the continuing occupation depends on.

    Of course, this is also the reason why it’s systemically impossible for corporate outlets like the Post to take the opportunity to raise more substantive and provocative questions about whether deceit is a constant and essential aspect of US foreign policy, and not merely confined to isolated military invasions of “quagmire” countries like Vietnam and Afghanistan, despite the Afghanistan Papers providing a perfect opportunity to do so. To say nothing of challenging a worldview that invokes “winnable” wars, in which predictions of increasing numbers of (enemy) human deaths are best described as “rosy.”

    There’s quite a long history of US media assisting officials in fabricating moral pretexts for invasion—from fictional accounts of North Vietnamese attacks on American destroyer ships in the Gulf of Tonkin (, 8/5/17), to conflating very different Islamic groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda, or claims that formerly US-backed dictator Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs and the intent to use them against the US (CounterPunch, 6/11/14;, 3/19/07).

    WaPo: If you’re surprised by what’s in the Afghanistan Papers, you haven’t been paying attention
    Or, possibly, you’ve been paying too much attention to the Washington Post (12/12/19).

    Observers note that the Afghanistan Papers “only confirm what we already know” (Daily Beast, 12/14/19), or that “the shocking thing about the Post stories…is how unshocking they are” (Atlantic, 12/9/19); even the Washington Post (12/12/19) reminds us that only people who “haven’t been paying attention” to the Afghan War are “surprised” by what’s found in the Afghanistan Papers.

    Perhaps instead of pursuing FOIA requests to confirm the obvious, the Post could just interrogate its own contradictory coverage of the Afghan War and stop functioning as credulous mouthpieces for the US government. But to do that would also require confronting the lie that this entire so-called “War on Terror” has any moral credibility, when the US is a leading terrorist state that consciously pursues imperial policies that inflame hatred against the US to serve corporate interests (, 3/13/19, 11/22/19).

    Absent that, an exercise like the Afghanistan Papers come off more as a “please consider” note to the Pulitzer judges than as an earnest effort to use the spotlight of journalistic investigation to speak truth to power and halt the ongoing, generation-long destruction of a foreign nation.

    © 2018 Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. All rights reserved.


    1. 1.) A “self-licking ice cream cone”! Oh, I like that one!; 2.) without a doubt, we can see the same pattern in US press coverage of the Vietnam fiasco. National Geographic magazine was a big cheerleader for that war in the early days, and until it started becoming obvious that the Vietnamese were not going to surrender their independence to any foreign entity, size of that entity’s military be damned, there was precious little mainstream reporting that was critical of the US effort. It would be quite a while before in-country reporters started referring to the daily official press briefings as “the 5 O’clock Follies”; 3.) the biggest lie re: Vietnam was foisted on the world years before the Gulf of Tonkin affair. This was the creation of a fictitious “nation” called “South Vietnam,” via the US scuttling of the scheduled 1956 election that would have seen Ho Chi Minh president of the unified country. This must never be forgotten. First, you create a client state, then you paint it as the victim of “outside aggression” and rush to its assistance; 4.) finally, after the CIA’s creature bin-Laden apparently slipped away from the caves in Afghanistan, his whereabouts supposedly couldn’t be pinned down for years. (He would ultimately, we were told, be found in Pakistan–another wonderful “ally” of the US!–and be shot to a pulp.) So, how exactly did this justify US troops remaining on Afghan soil all those years? The ultimate “logic” of US policy would have seen US troops occupying every territory on the planet where the fiend bin-Laden MIGHT have been hiding out, right? And the continuing occupation of Afghanistan, and the terrorizing of its citizens, is justified by…….???


  4. Well, times have changed …
    (and I ask your indulgence while I act Like I really know what I’m talking about)

    The Pentagon/DOD has long been a “State within the State” and is accountable to no one. It doesn’t matter what laws or charters or amendments anyone cares to quote. As Lenny Bruce once said, “the truth is what is, not what should be.”
    Neither the President nor Congress have any control or influence over The Pentagon/DOD. Nothing screams “Un-American” and “I don’t care if I’m re-elected or not” like taking a stand against against The Pentagon/DOD.

    I can’t be bothered to do the research because I have enough frustration in my life already, but if someone can find a fiscal year since we first got involved in Vietnam (just to pick a starting point) in which the overall military budget was cut in any meaningful way – and I’m not talking about a program being shut down every so often – more power to them.
    As for changing out who calls the shots in The Pentagon/DOD, who are they replaced with? More of the same: chests full of ribbons & medals, more wannabe warriors who are squared away and with The Program. The job requirements: adept at blowing smoke, keeping a straight face before Congressional committees, and having no reservations about sending others off to die.
    I’ve yet to see an ad for an upcoming, open-to-the-public “Pentagon Job Fair.”

    As for the media, let’s go back to Vietnam again (all kinds of lessons with that war). The military certainly had journalists in their pocket, but they were safe at home, sleeping in their own beds every night. The people doing actual reporting, the dinner-time show & tell that let the country know what was really going on, were a far cry from the “embedded” correspondents we’ve been saddled with ever since. But it’s play by the military’s rules or you don’t get access, and access is everything.
    And how do you do that? Simple:
    “Everybody lies.” – Dr. Gregory House.
    Got to know which side of your bread is buttered.

    Finally, there is – for all practical purposes – no public resistance to any of the above.
    The draft has been gone since ’73 (Vietnam, one more time), so “no one joins the military who doesn’t want to be there” and “being killed or maimed is an occupational hazard, part of the job they signed up for.” In return, they get to be called heroes.
    The same “leaders” – or newer if not improved models – keep getting elected.
    Does anyone not vote “straight ticket” these days?
    Does it really matter who gets elected if “public service” is viewed by those running as a career move, akin to a head coaching job in the NFL (once you’re in, you’re never out again)?
    Is there any reason for the populace to believe (beyond belief itself) that politics, as Samuel Johnson said of patriotism, is the last refuge of a scoundrel?
    Or that only rich, white folks can get elected?
    No. Which is why the handful of those who – compared to the competition – have vision and offer hope for better days ahead are treated as pariahs by all involved. Verily, as the late and lamented Mike Royko put it, “People love pain-in-the-ass reformers, but they don’t vote for them.”

    Okay. That’s it from me for today. Blood pressure on the rise ….


    1. This is spot on: “As for changing out who calls the shots in The Pentagon/DOD, who are they replaced with? More of the same: chests full of ribbons & medals, more wannabe warriors who are squared away and with The Program. The job requirements: adept at blowing smoke, keeping a straight face before Congressional committees, and having no reservations about sending others off to die.”

      People don’t make general. They are selected and groomed to be generals. They are selected for loyalty (to the service, not to service) and tractability. Original thinkers are neither needed nor desired. The best officers tend to plateau at O-6 (Colonel).

      So, I’d fire all the generals and reach into the field grade ranks for officers who are outspoken from their hard experience on the ground. That’s what we need to happen — but of course it won’t.


      1. But, Bill Astore, there’s a flaw in your plan: What Bird Colonel isn’t itching to make Brigadier General and beyond? (Think pension, pension, pension.) If you remain stuck at Colonel too many years, you are unloved indeed! The solution is not to put the colonels in charge, it is to stop ginning up wars of choice! But that, too, for now, is mere fantasizing.


    2. Good points, but I have a few disagreements: The Executive and Legislative branches–with an unimpeachable POTUS now, these terms will soon be very archaic–DO have some “control” over DOD, in that the one concocts the budget and the other has the power to veto it. But yes, after an example was made of JFK for the fiasco at “Bay of Pigs,” no POTUS has been willing to go toe to toe and slug it out with the generals and admirals over the question of which war of choice to launch next. These decisions are made jointly by CIA and DOD, though they are sometimes temporarily at odds over fine print. I think around the time of the Carter presidency, Pentagon budget may have more or less stabilized. (Haven’t researched this, I could be dead wrong.) But without DOD being put on a genuine “reducing diet,” price inflation will always provide a rationale to boost that annual budget. The military has more or less filled their post-VN recruiting quotas (rough patches have been reported) thru the “economic draft” (despite POTUSes always boasting how great the economy is doing, some folks just can’t find civilian employment), and by lowering the standards, including criminal history, for recruits. But I believe that, largely, today’s recruits do hanker for the perceived glory of “blowing away Bad Guys.” It’s a French Foreign Legion model, a mercenary military. Thus, much as it pains me to ever agree with Trump on anything, he was sort of justified with his callous remark that dead American soldiers “got what they signed up for”! Thank you, Mr. Bone Spurs! Finally, you are wrong about NFL or any other pro sports leagues coaching positions. Either you produce winning seasons, preferably championship years, or you are out on your ass!


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