To keep the terminally ill justification for the war in Iraq alive, President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have stopped at nothing in their life-support tactics.
The war would be over in months and U.S. troops quickly withdrawn while Iraqis ran their affairs, they once said. Troops would be welcomed as liberators. A cakewalk. Mission accomplished.
Senior military officers who began doubting the war's rationale and outcome, however, were retired early to snuff out any negative reality.
But the grandest deceit of all seems to have been pulled off by the Pentagon with the willing collaboration of America's television and cable networks and retired senior officers posing as objective commentators.
After months of investigation, The New York Times has discovered that virtually all of those "military analysts" on TV are, in fact, extensions of the White House and Pentagon propaganda programs to portray the war as winnable, improving and worthwhile.
Some of the analysts, the Times found out, also work for military contractors.
So, when "analysts" showed up on TV news programs with perspectives of Iraq, they in fact were giving White House and Pentagon perspectives, or maybe that of a defense contractor.
To their everlasting shame, TV networks did not inform viewers of the culpable conflicts of interest of "analysts" who were being passed off as reliable, trustworthy, objective professionals. Viewers can be excused for being taken in by this cynical duping.
Retired military officers participating in this deceit brought no honor on themselves. Their excuse was lame: They needed to be briefed by the Pentagon to remain current, but were bound not to criticize the war lest they lose their seats at the table and, in some cases, lose retirement jobs with defense industries. Play along or you're out, was the implied blackmail.
Reprehensible, even criminal behavior, by the Bush administration has been a hallmark of its conduct. Prostituting professional credentials of senior officers can be added to the long list that includes torture, kidnapping, abuse of the U.S. Constitution and Geneva Conventions, and disregard for congressional oversight.
However, what of TV networks who ignored responsibilities to disclose the "analysts'" conflicts?
Whatever passed for professional standards in TV news in the past continue to vanish.
CNN, which showcased many of the military "analysts" now exposed as propagandists, has just hired former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow as a "political contributor." Snow, who presided over the Bush-can-do-no-wrong White House propaganda machine for 16 months, will deliver about the same honest perspective as the military analysts who conned CNN viewers all this time.