Many of the seemingly objective experts recently appearing in the news media to discuss the pros and cons — mostly the pros — of U.S. military action against Syria are anything but disinterested parties to the debate, yet their conflicts of interest were seldom mentioned by the outlets that provided them with platforms for their opinions. That’s the conclusion of a new study from the nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative (PAI).
“The media debate surrounding the question of whether to launch a military attack on Syria in August and September of 2013 was dominated by defense industry-backed experts and think tanks,” reads the report. “These individuals and organizations are linked to dozens of defense and intelligence contractors, defense-focused investment firms, and diplomatic consulting firms with strong defense ties, yet these business ties were rarely disclosed on air or in print.”
PAI identified 22 commentators and seven think tanks whose defense-industry ties should have been disclosed because such connections could have colored their views on the wisdom of U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war. The commentators made a combined 111 media appearances, but in just 13 of those appearances were their potential conflicts of interest disclosed, and then generally not in full.
“We found lots of industry ties. Some of them are stronger than others. Some really rise to the level of clear conflicts of interest,” PAI director Kevin Connor told the Washington Post. “These networks and these commentators should err on the side of disclosure.”
Perhaps the most egregious example of a pro-war commentator whose conflicts of interest should have been disclosed is Steven Hadley. Hadley (shown on right), a former national security advisor to President George W. Bush (shown on left), “made a series of high-profile media appearances” strongly favoring U.S. military action in Syria, the report said. Among his appearances was a September 8 Post op-ed in which he wrote, “Every American committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon should urge Congress to grant President Obama authority to use military force against the Assad regime in Syria.”
Regarding these appearances, PAI observed:
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