The idea that, given a U.S. senator as a target, a psy-ops team could "plant" the urge, Inception-style, to give the Army more resources is fairly nonsensical. Psy-ops teams use persuasion, not mind control. If [Gen. William] Caldwell [shown here with Sen. McCain] really did want [whistle blower Michael] Holmes and others to compile detailed profiles of John McCain and others, including their voting records and opinions on hot-button issues, he might as well have assigned such research work to his public affairs staff. (The difference between psy-ops and public affairs is that the purpose of the former is influence and it's supposed to be directed at foreign audiences exclusively, whereas the latter merely informs audiences both at home and abroad. But the distinction can get hazy. A 1997 Army field manual on public affairs notes that the discipline helps the United States "achieve information dominance" and "contributes to the preservation of public support," which seems to edge into influence.)If military personnel have really broken the law, they should be held accountable. Senators and congressmen are entitled to receive strictly factual briefings, whether in Kabul or wherever they interact with government personnel. I also could understand how a member might get upset learning that the Pentagon had used taxpayers' money to study whether his having been bullied by his high school football coach might make him more inclined to fork over funds for killing the Taliban.
But people of substance engaged in important work always go into meetings hoping to bring back something for their side, and generals are no different. If you're canny, you'll want to learn a little something about the person you're talking to first. Call it psy-ops, or call it empathy.
What astonishes me is the idea that you could be a member of Congress and be all that susceptible to being emotionally manipulated. Wouldn't the members of most congressional delegations have spent the 16-hour flight reading about Afghanistan and getting ready for the meetings themselves? If not -- if the generals are taking these conversations more seriously than the congresspeople -- where's the real scandal?