River Cities’ Reader
No. 827 • April 4 - 17, 2013
Business • Politics • Arts • Culture • Now You Know • RiverCitiesReader.com
factories run by militarist right-wing mediawatchdogs ensure this will be the case.Moreover, being branded un-American fordoubting a president’s case for war may leadto viewer or reader boycotts, which in turnmay lead to pressure from advertisers. Thus,the corporate bottom line played a role.Another factor is the simple truth thatwar makes better news than peace. Noone wins a Pulitzer Prize for being a peacecorrespondent. We must not underestimatethis as a motive for favoring war.Finally, we can’t overlook that many in themedia were simply motivated by nationalismand deference to the state with its dazzlingwar technology.This story of media malfeasance wouldbe bad enough if it were just history.Unfortunately, even as media figures now issue mea culpas about their shameful Iraq“coverage,” they are engaged in precisely thesame shoddy business with respect to Iranand its alleged but unproven nuclear-weaponsprogram.
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation (FFF.org) in Virginia.
Wall Street Journal
,ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CBS, CNN, FoxNews, and others. The blood of more thana hundred thousand – perhaps more than amillion – Iraqis and 4,500 Americans is ontheir hands, too.Today, like the Bush-administrationalumni attempting to duck responsibility,the media blame “bad intelligence” fortheir conduct. But that will not wash. Thedissenting reports of Knight Ridder’s WarrenStrobel and Jonathan Landay, along with a very few others, show definitively that in2002 and 2003, solid intelligence informationundermining every propagandisticadministration claim was readily available toanyone willing to use traditional reportingtechniques. Strobel and Landay were mostly ignored. On the rare occasions when the
reported onthe doubts intelligence personnel had aboutthe Bush narrative, the stories were burieddeep in the paper. (See Bill Moyers’s special“Buying the War” and Greg Mitchell’s book
Wrong for So Long
.)The media did not merely pass alongbaseless assertions; the television channelsalso attempted to shape public opinion with
he 10th anniversary of the start of America’s illegal and aggressive waragainst Iraq should not pass withoutrecalling that the mainstream news mediaeagerly participated in the Bush administra-tion’s dishonest campaign for public support.It is no exaggeration to say that most newsoperations were little more than extensionsof the White House Office of Communica-tions. Abandoning even the pretense of anadversarial relationship with the govern-ment, the media became shameful conduitsfor unsubstantiated and outright falseinformation about Saddam Hussein’s allegedthreat to the American people. Includedamong the falsehoods were reports thatSaddam had a hand in the 9/11 attacks, hadtrained al-Qaeda fighters, and had attemptedto obtain uranium ore and aluminum tubesfor nuclear bombs.Put bluntly, the disastrous invasion of Iraq– which was sold on the basis of lies told by President George W. Bush, Vice-PresidentDick Cheney, Secretary of State ColinPowell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice,and others – might not have happenedwithout the enthusiastic help of the
How the News Media Betrayed Us on Iraq
by Sheldon Richman
a biased selection of guests. Pro-war voicesabounded, while informed war skeptics werescarce. Even when an opponent of war wasfeatured, he or she had to share the timewith a pro-war advocate, yet the pro-warside was often featured unchallenged. As thewar became regarded as inevitable, the cablenews channels shifted almost exclusively tomilitary analysis, as though the question wasno longer whether the nation ought to go towar, but rather
it would be fought. Many of the retired generals who were presentedas objective experts had seats on the boardsof defense contractors and were gettingPentagon briefings.What motivated those who covered therun-up to the Iraq invasion this way? Severalfactors were surely at work. Groupthink andthe fear of going out on a limb must haveplayed a large role. The vaunted courageof journalists is more pose than fact. (Thismakes the work of Strobel and Landay, PhilDonahue of MSNBC until he was canceled,and Bob Simon of CBS’s
allthe more admirable.) “Pack journalism” isreinforced by a fear that reports suggestingskepticism about a military action willbe interpreted as unpatriotic. The smear
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