Pentagon Back to Tried and True PR Tactic - Greenwashing

The Pentagon public relations and propaganda machine is at it again. Working overtime to convince pundits and citizens of the benevolence of its “democracy spreading” missions abroad,  some notables have drank the kool-aid

In a recent article titled, “The military’s historic embrace of smart energy,” Grist's David Roberts wrote, 

The U.S. military's embrace of energy efficiency and renewable energy is going to be one of the great stories of the coming decade. It will be a story about technology, the changing face of warfare, geopolitics in the 21st century, and the struggle to change one of the world's largest bureaucracies…For decades, the lines of warfare on climate change and clean energy have been drearily familiar and amazingly resistant to change. If it follows through on its promises, the Department of Defense – the largest consumer of oil and electricity in America – has the potential to change all that.

Furthermore, in March 2010, the Center for American Progress penned a holistic report titled, “It’s Easy Being Green: The Pentagon Goes Green One Wedge at a Time.”

While a nice and hopeful sentiment, this flies in the face of both history, as well as present day reality of the Pentagon's activities abroad. A review, then, is in order.

​Hampshire College Professor Michael Klare: “Blood for Oil”

We wrote in a recent DeSmogBlog article regarding former Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell's recent hire as spokesman for BP America, a transition that will probably be quite smooth for him.

Titled “Seamless Transition: Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell Moves to BP America,” the article covered the crux of American foreign policy dating back to the Cold War Era – what Hampshire College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies, Michael Klare, calls a foreign policy of “Blood for Oil,” which was outlined in full as such vis-a-vis the 1980 “Carter Doctrine,” presented as part of President Jimmy Carter's 1980 State of the Union Address. In that address, he stated (emphases mine),

Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.

The Carter Doctrine made it clear that domination over the procurement of the resources of the Persian Gulf (a.k.a. oil) was a national security issue for the United States, and thus, an issue largely in the hands of the Pentagon.

The article is worth revisiting in light of the new Pentagon talks about “going green.”

The Fossil Fuel Industry's Role in “Fueling” the Pentagon's Adventures Abroad

​An important June 2010 article written by Alternet and Tom's Dispatch's Nick Turse covered the intricate bond between the Pentagon and fossil fuel conglomerates as it pertains to fueling contracts.

The takeaway from the article? No fueling contracts, no “fueling” of aggressive military adventures around the globe, no 1,180 military bases dotting nearly every crevice of the planet.

In that June 2010 article, Turse wrote (emphases mine),

In 2009, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Energy Support Center (DESC)the military spent $3.8 billion for 31.3 million barrels – around 1.3 billion gallons – of oil consumed at posts, camps, and bases overseas. Moreover, DESC’s bulk-fuels division, which purchases jet fuel and naval diesel fuel among other petroleum products, awarded $2.2 billion in contracts to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year. Another $974 million was reportedly spent by the ground-fuels division, which awards contracts for diesel fuel, gasoline, and heating oil for ground operations, just for the war in Afghanistan in 2009.


In 2009, according to the Defense Energy Support Center, the military awarded $22.5 billion in energy contracts. More than $16 billion of that went to purchasing bulk fuel. Some 10 top petroleum suppliers got the lion’s share, more than $11.5 billion, among them big names like Shell, Exxon Mobil and Valero. The largest contractor, however, was BPwhich received more than $2.2 billion – almost 12% of all petroleum-contract dollars awarded by the Pentagon for the year.

“Going green”? More like greenwashing.

​The Pentagon Public Relations Machine and Greenwashing

For the Pentagon, greenwashing serves as a conquer-and-divide tactic for its public relations machine. It utilizes this tactic to prevent people from connecting the dots between foreign policy and environmental policy. 

Back in May, Salon​ contributor David Sirota wrote a sound critique of this new push in a piece titled, “The Pentagon's attempt to greenwash the military.” He wrote, 

The fastest, most immediate and most efficient way for the Pentagon to mitigate the environmental crises that come from energy consumption is to simply move America away from its energy-draining policy of permanent war.

This revelation – and the fact that few military leaders are talking about it – shows why this really is greenwashing in the purest sense of that marketing term.

In an interview, former Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, John Stauber, said,

It is obscene for anyone to laud the military for being green. The US military possesses thousands of nuclear bombs and prides itself on obeying any order to use them. It is stupid to greenwash history's most lethal and destructive organization.

Image from Jirsak / Shutterstock