The media and the Iraq War

Numerous examples
of how the American media in the prewar period
sold the Iraq War to the American public by
hyping the benefits of launching the war
hiding the costs of the war that could have been reasonably anticipated

are provided by:

Selected Columns by Greg Miller on
the Presentation of the Iraq War
by the American Media

Greg Miller is a rarity in the print media:
a fervent and outspoken sceptic, from the beginning,
of the likelihood of the Iraq War producing the effects forecast.
A sample of his recent columns
examining the prowar bias of most of the print media
Greg Mitchell, Editor of Editor and Publisher,
Editorials Oppose Iraq Withdrawals -- As U.S. Sends More Troops
Editor and Publisher, 2006-05-29

NEW YORK Monday marked another Memorial Day,
this time with the American death toll in Iraq well past 2400 lives,
with over 18,000 injured.
Just over six months have passed since hawkish Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.)
called for the beginning of a U.S. pullout in Iraq
but just days ago, President Bush outlined his latest plan,
amid rumors of a withdrawal,
to "stay the course,” amid graphic reports of a new “My Lai.”

All of this would seem to call out for a re-thinking of positions or assumptions
on newspaper editorial pages.
Indeed, three of the most influential did weigh in Sunday with Iraq editorials.
All of them, despite voicing strong crtiicism in the same editorials,
came out against starting to bring the boys home.

This continues the depressing tradition of newspaper editorials
saying most of the right things,
and pressing charges against the administration’s handling of the war –
while arguing for “more time” or “a few more months”
for the latest “turning point” in Iraq to produce a positive outcome.
This pattern could – and possibly will – go on nearly forever.

It ain’t funny how time slips away.

As Bob Herbert, the New York Times columnist, put it on Monday:
"Pretty soon this war in Iraq will have lasted as long
as our involvement in World War II,
with absolutely no evidence of any sort of conclusion in sight."

Then, on Tuesday,
the military announced it was actually increasing troop levels in Iraq,
transfering forces from Kuwait to troubled Anbar province.
This is progress?

So, with that in mind,
let’s examine the latest from the editorial boards of
The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times.

The New York Times called its editorial “The Price of Iraq.” As usual, it offered bitter truths on this subject. The following passages seemed to be leading to a call for a pullout. In fact, there seemed to be no other logical conclusion:

“American forces can never be a substitute for Iraqi soldiers and police officers who take seriously their duty to protect all the people, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Mr. Bush's premise that American troops should simply stay on the ground until Iraq gets things right and defeats all insurgent forces and terrorist groups, however long it takes, is flat wrong. The United States presence is dangerous — to the soldiers themselves, to American standing in the world, and most tellingly to large numbers of innocent Iraqis.

“The currently emerging story about what happened last November in Haditha, where at least two dozen Iraqi men, women and children were apparently shot by a small group of American marines, is only the latest indication of what terrible things can happen when soldiers are required to occupy hostile civilian territory in the midst of an armed insurrection and looming civil war. A military investigation is currently deciding whether any of the marines should be charged with murder, and whether a cover-up took place. All these questions have awful resonance for those who remember Vietnam, and what that prolonged and ultimately pointless war did to both the Vietnamese and the American social fabric.

“It was somewhat reassuring that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair have stopped trying to pretend that everything has gone just fine in Iraq, since most of the rest of the world already knows otherwise. But it was very disturbing to hear them follow their expressions of regret with the same old ‘stay the course’ fantasy.”

Surely the time-to-set-a-deadline call would follow. But no, the Times concluded with: “It's time for Mr. Bush either to chart a course that can actually be followed, or admit that there is none.”

This leaves standing the essential blunder that the Times editorial page, its star columnist Thomas Friedman, and so many other commentators have made: a) trusting that, surely, the president and his team will come up with a wise plan -- and even if they did b) could be trusted to carry it out successfully.

That’s why all of these fine editorials nailing the administration for stupidity and incompetence in regard to Iraq are so hollow—
if they are as stupid and incompetent as the Times suggests,
why spend even one more day entrusting 135,000 American soldiers to their care?

To quote another wise lyric: History is a cruel judge of overconfidence.

The Washington Post, always more hawkish on the war, in an editorial called “Iraq's Uncertain Progress,” worried that the small progress in forming a government there may “presage” troop withdrawals – before the new Iraqi government has a full chance to fix things: “If the ultimate measure of success is Iraq's pacification, the U.S. mission is producing results but no visible progress.”

So, maybe, the Iraqis are using the U.S. as a crutch – or as an excuse? Perhaps we are doing more harm there than good? We are part of the problem, not the solution? Alas, the newspaper argued that it’s ”too early to draw that conclusion,” to admit our “strategy is wrong” or “should be abandoned.”

Instead, the “new government and its army … should be given a chance to tackle the insurgency and stabilize the country with U.S. support.” You may be glad, and not surprised, to learn that there “is also a new plan to pacify Baghdad.”

On balance, the paper is more afraid of withdrawals too soon rather than too late. It says it hopes Bush last week “was sincere when he declared that any reduction will be based on military rather than political considerations,” such as the November elections. Supporting a statement by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, it declared that “our sense of mission should be equal to that" of the insurgents.

Unfortunately, the sense of mission for the insurgents is likely to last a long, long time.

The Los Angeles Times, which has grown increasingly critical on the war
(and separately has called for Vice President Cheney’s resignation)
weighed in Sunday [“Iraq: Time to talk about disengagement”]
with a review of Bush’s statement on Iraq last week:
“What the president did not do was connect the dots between the disaffection he described and the need to hasten the disengagement of U.S. forces from Iraq.
We hope his actions in the next several months reckon with that reality even if his words didn't.”

But the editorial hastily added: “We aren't talking about a firm deadline for withdrawal, which we continue to believe would be a tactical mistake that might embolden Iraqi insurgents — or Shiite elements within the government who'd like to settle scores with the Sunni minority that was privileged under Hussein. But Bush needn't set a date for an American exit to make it clear that he wants it to occur sooner rather than later.”

Of course, nearly everyone has wished for “sooner rather than later” for years.

The editorial concluded not by urging the start of a withdrawal but warning that voters might prefer something even quicker: “With congressional elections looming, the Bush administration would be wise not to leave the impression with voters — or candidates — that the alternatives in Iraq are limited to a precipitous withdrawal or an open-ended role for the United States as the nursemaid of Iraqi democracy, prosperity and security. Given that false choice, voters might prefer to get out now.”

The newspaper added that Bush last week “seemed more interested in urging Americans to be patient than in exhorting Iraqi politicians to get their act together.” American newspapers, on the other hand, have done both, but the result has been the same: dozens of Americans expiring every month while more than 135,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, with no promise of a reduction.

Will Media Finally Count the Dead in Iraq?
From the beginning, the U.S. military refused to count --
and the American media rarely probed --
civilian casualties as the result of our invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Now a new study places the number at 600,000, more or less.
Why is the AP playing up the view that the report is nothing but "politics"?

By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2006-10-11

(October 11, 2006) -- From the beginning, the U.S. military refused to count -- and the American media rarely probed -- civilian casualties as the result of our invasion of Iraq in 2003.

For the longest time these deaths were rarely mentioned at all. In recent months, they do appear nearly every day or two, usually in relation to several dozen bodies discovered around Baghdad with holes drilled in their skulls or showing other forms of torture. We also now learn about U.S. soldiers arrested for killing innocent cvilians. Even so, the press almost never attempts to quantify the Iraqi death toll.

Now today comes a shocking study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health -- to be published Thursday by Lancet, a leading medical journal -- based on very detailed (and no doubt dangerous) field work. It suggests that more than 600,000 Iraqis have met a violent or otherwise war-related end since the U.S. arrived in March 2003. Even now, however, The Associated Press casts a very skeptical eye on the study, emphasizing the views of one “expert” (as the AP describes him) who charges that it is nothing but “politics,” with the November election approaching.

The expert is Anthony Cordesman, who actually is a respected voice on military matters (he recently said flatly that a civil war is indeed raging in Iraq). But the Washington Post, fortunately, quickly found others with far more experience in studying civilian casualties who basically endorsed the Johns Hopkins study.

The AP report by Malcolm Ritter called the study “controversial” right in its first sentence, then went on to cite Cordesman as the only critic. Ritter also noted that the invaluable Web site, Iraq Body Count, which has tried to keep a running tally, places the number of dead at 50,000. At least he admitted that base their count strictly on confirmed media reports.

But, as I said at the top, media reports have been scattered, partly due to disinterest (in the beginning) and the dangers of investigating (later on).

The Johns Hopkins count, based on door-to-door surveys in 18 provinces (most of them not beset by daily violence) could be lower, the study suggests -- but the bottom line is still 426,000 and the high end soars to nearly 800,000. The last guess coming from President Bush was 30,000.

Today, asked about this at a press conference, Bush declined to amend his 30,000 figure, called the new survey not “credible,” and, seriously, added: “I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to — you know, that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate.”

He meant Iraq, but he could just as easily been talking about America.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, interviewed Ronald Waldman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for many years. He called the Johns Hopkins survey method “tried and true,” and added that “this is the best estimate of mortality we have.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, an official of Human Rights Watch in New York, told the Post, “We have no reason to question the findings or the accuracy” of the survey.

Two weeks ago, in a column, I explored Bush’s recent statement that, one day, the Iraq adventure will be looked on as “just a comma.” Baffled at first (did he mean “coma”), I soon discovered that the “a comma, not a period” phrase is widely used by some Christians today, though it originated, oddly enough, with the comedienne Gracie Allen.

Anyway: at that time, to graphically show what 2,700 American deaths in Iraq looked like, I displayed 2,700 periods (not commas) on the page. But I also noted that the number of Iraqi casualties dwarfed the American toll.

Now, thanks to the Johns Hopkins survey, we have a better (if not confirmed) idea of that. Unfortunately, I cannot think of a way to readily show 600,000 periods, although I suppose I could print 600 of them and then say “multiply by 1000 in your mind”.

Maybe that would be hard to imagine -- one would hope so.

So, instead, I will close with something a little more palpable. When I was doing my own field research a few decades ago in another place devastated by violent death – Hiroshima – I found that the most valuable and chilling moment of all came on virtually the first day, when I climbed a hill overlooking the rebuilt city. It resides in a natural bowl formed by the hills, and I found it all too easy to imagine nearly everything spread out below me, including all the people, dead and gone.

Here is a list of 12 American cities with a populaton of just under or just over 600,000. Think of them disappearing -- and imagine the U.S. one-tenth its current size. Then you’ve got the possible toll in Iraq:

Washington, D.C.
Ft. Worth
Las Vegas


Relating to the above, NBC correspondent Jane Arraf posted the following last night at the network’s Blogging Baghdad site (at msnbc.com):

“Some readers and viewers think we journalists are exaggerating about the situation in Iraq. I can almost understand that because who would want to believe that things are this bad? Particularly when so many people here started out with such good intentions.

“I’m more puzzled by comments that the violence isn’t any worse than any American city. Really? In which American city do 60 bullet-riddled bodies turn up on a given day? In which city do the headless bodies of ordinary citizens turn up every single day? In which city would it not be news if neighborhood school children were blown up? In which neighborhood would you look the other way if gunmen came into restaurants and shot dead the customers?

“Day-to-day life here for Iraqis is so far removed from the comfortable existence we live in the United States that it is almost literally unimaginable.

“It’s almost impossible to describe what it feels like being stalled in traffic, your heart pounding, wondering if the vehicle in front of you is one of the three or four car bombs that will go off that day. Or seeing your husband show up at the door covered in blood after he was kidnapped and beaten.

“I don’t know a single family here that hasn’t had a relative, neighbor or friend die violently. In places where there’s been all-out fighting going on, I’ve interviewed parents who buried their dead child in the yard because it was too dangerous to go to the morgue.

“Imagine the worst day you’ve ever had in your life, add a regular dose of terror and you’ll begin to get an idea of what it’s like every day for a lot of people here.”

Part II: Iraqi Death Rate May Top Our Civil War -- But Will the Press Confirm It?
The press, after its initial coverage,
has turned away from the shocking Johns Hopkins study
which estimated 400,000 to 800,000 deaths in the Iraq war since 2003.
One of the authors of the study has issued a challenge:
Check out their findings in the field -- and then confirm or debunk it.

By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2006-10-16

(October 16, 2006) -- With mass killings occurring every day in Iraq, and Americans falling at one of the highest daily rates of the entire war, it’s no wonder that support for the conflict in the U.S. continues to slip. What the American press, public and political figures have yet to grasp or acknowledge, however, is the true human catastrophe in Iraq, a 21st century holocaust, if I may put it that way. This inconvenient truth -- suggested, if not proven, by the Johns Hopkins study released last week -- seems to be too horrible for many to face, considering the mild or negative reaction to the report in the days following the broad attention it did receive at first.

Would it surprise you to learn that if the Johns Hopkins estimates of 400,000 to 800,000 deaths are correct -- and many experts in the survey field seem to suggest they probably are -- that the supposedly not-yet-civil-war in Iraq has already cost more lives, per capita, than our own Civil War (one in 40 of all Iraqis alive in 2003)? And that these losses are comparable to what some European nations suffered in World War II? You’d never know it from mainstream press coverage in the U.S.

“Everybody knows the boat is leaking, everybody knows the captain lied,” Leonard Cohen once sang. The question the new study raises: How many will go down with the ship, and will the press finally hold the captain fully accountable?

When I completed a column on the Johns Hopkins study last week, it was too early to gauge the reaction, beyond President Bush standing by his estimate of 30,000 civilian casualties. Since then, a few pundits have weighed in, pro and con, but America’s role in possibly triggering a Darfur-on-the-Euphrates is now sinking out of sight.

Do the study’s numbers seem that far out? Many experts on such work, in fact, seem to support the methods used by the surveyors, and their work was peer-reviewed up the wazoo. Les Roberts, one of the co-authors of the study, has even challenged newspapers to send reporters to far-flung Iraqi provinces to check on local mortuaries and confirm or contest the findings. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, and possibly others, have checked with one or more mortuaries in the past, but someone ought to now answer the wider challenge.

Roberts, appearing on the “Democracy Now” radio program, said, “it’s going to be very easy for a couple of reporters to go out and verify our findings, because what we’ve said is the death rate is four times higher. And a reporter will only have to go to four or five different villages, go visit the person who takes care of the graveyard and say, ‘Back in 2002, before the war, how many bodies typically came in here per week? And now, how many bodies come in here?’ And actually, most graveyard attendants keep records. And if the number is four times higher, on average, you’ll know we’re right. If the numbers are the same, you’ll know we’re wrong.

“It is going to be very easy for people to verify this and get all of this talk about whether it’s political out of the way, because the fundamental issue is -- a certain number of Iraqis have died, and if our leaders are saying it’s ten times lower than it really is, we are driving a wedge between us and the Middle East.”

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson commented a few days ago: “If the study’s findings are flawed, then its critics should demonstrate how and why. But no one should dismiss these shocking numbers without fully examining them. No one should want to.” No one should want to, but many seem to be doing just that.

The same John Hopkins group had asked for an independent study of its similar survey in 2004, which also came in with a death toll well above other estimates. It never happened.

The new study, published last week in the respected Briitish medical journal Lancet, drew on data obtained by eight Iraqi physicians during a survey of 1,849 Iraqi families -- 12,801 people -- in 47 neighborhoods of 18 regions across the country. The researchers based the selection of geographical areas on population size, not on the level of violence. How strict were their standards? They asked for death certificates to prove claims -- and got them in 92% of the cases. I’d suggest that everyone go to the Lancet site and decide for yourself on their protocol, rather than rely on newspaper articles or talk radio.

Ronald Waldman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for many years, told the Washington Post the survey method was “tried and true.” He said that “this is the best estimate of mortality we have.” Frank Harrell Jr., chairman of the biostatistics department at Vanderbilt University, told the Associated Press the study incorporated “rigorous, well-justified analysis” of the data. Other death counts have been based on media or government reports, not door-to-door surveys.

“I loved when President Bush said ‘their methodology has been pretty well discredited,’” Richard Garfield, a public health professor at Columbia University who works closely with a number of the authors of the report, told the Christian Science Monitor. “That’s exactly wrong. There is no discrediting of this methodology. I don’t think there’s anyone who’s been involved in mortality research who thinks there’s a better way to do it in unsecured areas. I have never heard of any argument in this field that says there’s a better way to do it.”

The sampling “is solid. The methodology is as good as it gets,” said John Zogby, whose polling agency, Zogby International, has done several surveys in Iraq since the war began. “It is what people in the statistics business do.” Zogby said similar survey methods have been used to estimate casualty figures in other conflicts, such as Darfur and the Congo.

Some critics have charged that the research was politically motivated or that its release was timed to come shortly before U.S. elections. Gilbert Burnham, lead author of the paper and a public health professor at Johns Hopkins, has called that charge “bunk.” He said his “goal was to get this out in July or August, just so people wouldn’t say this was tied somehow to elections” but that peer review and other administrative issues slowed up publication.

The sad truth is: People who don’t want to face this sort of death toll won’t ever want to face it.

Critics of the survey -- from the president all the way down to National Review Online -- have continually cited the much lower number numbers gathered from press accounts and mortuaries, which is known as “passive surveillance.” The Johns Hopkins study notes: “Aside from Bosnia, we can find no conflict situation where passive surveillance recorded more than 20% of the deaths measured by population-based methods. In several outbreaks, disease and death recorded by facility-based methods underestimated events by a factor of ten or more when compared with population-based estimates. Between 1960 and 1990, newspaper accounts of political deaths in Guatemala correctly reported over 50% of deaths in years of low violence but less than 5% in years of highest violence.”

Yet Richard Nadler, writing at National Review Online, complained that “the Hopkins researchers don’t record 655,000 extra casualties -- they extrapolate them.” Nadler, I’d bet, rarely attacks the validity of U.S. opinion polls which base their findings on interviews with about 1,000 Americans – in a country of 300 million.

On “Democracy Now, “ Les Roberts explained that “this cluster survey approach is the standard way of measuring mortality in very poor countries where the government isn’t very functional or in times of war. And when UNICEF goes out and measures mortality in any developing country, this is what they do. When the U.S. government went at the end of the war in Kosovo or went at the end of the war in Afghanistan and the U.S. government measured the death rate, this is how they did it. And most ironically, the U.S. government has been spending millions of dollars per year, through something called the Smart Initiative, to train NGOs and UN workers to do cluster surveys to measure mortality in times of wars and disasters.”

Even so, press response to the new survey has been muted, at best. “You know, I think that -- this is just my opinion -- the U.S. press sort of follows public opinion,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t necessarily lead it, except in a few circumstances, like AIDS in Africa. And the public is ready to think, ‘Wow, things might be going badly in Iraq.’ And I don’t think the public was ready to say that two years ago. .. No one asked George Bush about how many civilians had died or about our study for 14 months after the study came out. And then, when he was asked, it was just by a member of the public in a forum in Philadelphia.

“And now, within about four hours of the study coming out, he was asked directly, he was forced to respond, there was a dialogue going on. So I think that the nation, as a whole, is more ready to honestly talk about Iraq, and that’s led the press to be more able to honestly talk about Iraq.” But will anyone take up the challenge to confirm or deny the 600,000 dead?

Finally, it should be noted that Iraq Body Count, which has chronicled, on a daily basis, the civilian casaulties in that country since the start of the war in an ongoing, questions the Johns Hopkins count, but concludes: “Do the American people need to believe that 600,000 Iraqis have been killed before they can turn to their leaders and say ‘enough is enough’? The number of certain civilian deaths that has been documented to a basic standard of corroboration by ‘passive surveillance methods’ surely already provides all the necessary evidence to deem this invasion and occupation an utter failure at all levels.”



The well-known Baghdad Burning blogger, known as Riverbend, returned this week, after several weeks of silence, with a commentary from Iraq on the Johns Hopkins study. Here is an excerpt:

“The chaos and lack of proper facilities is resulting in people being buried without a trip to the morgue or the hospital. During American military attacks on cities like Samarra and Fallujah, victims were buried in their gardens or in mass graves in football fields. Or has that been forgotten already?

“We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons – with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?

“There are Iraqi women who have not shed their black mourning robes since 2003 because each time the end of the proper mourning period comes around, some other relative dies and the countdown begins once again.”

Must-See Video: The Iraq War in 8 Minutes
A new video shot for a London newspaper and the BBC
by an embed with the U.S. Army,
suggests, in chilling words and images,
the absurd position of the U.S. in Iraq,
as the people we try to train -- you know, our comrades in arms --
seem more intent on lobbing grenades at us.

By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2006-10-22

(October 22, 2006) -- Over the years, I have made few requests of readers of this column, beyond hinting that, maybe, you ought to return here from time to time. But now I have to urge you to drop everything, finish reading this come-on, and then link to the video described below. It’s the most revealing little (eight-minute) video I’ve seen yet on our country’s preposterous position in Iraq.

Aptly, it is titled, "Iraq: The Real Story." It won’t turn your stomach, in fact, you may even chuckle in spots (like you might have done in reading much of “Catch-22”). But, hopefully, you will end up screaming at the computer screen.

That’s partly because it arrives at such a critical moment, with the death counts for both Americans and Iraqis soaring, and the debate over what to do about this catastrophe reaching a fever pitch, even before the election of a new Congress.

Here’s what you will see (notice, I wrote will, presuming you will, indeed, follow the link below).

Sean Smith, the award-winning photographer for The Guardian in London, who has put in several tours of duty in Iraq (before, during, and after the 2003 invasion), recently embedded with the 101st Airborne, for six weeks. He ended up chronicling attempts by the U.S. Army in the northern Iraqi region around Hawija and Tikrit to hand over duties, or at least work with, Iraqi military and police -- you know, helping them stand up so we can stand down. He’s now produced the video, which includes some of his photos, for the Guardian and the BBC.

It opens on a familiar note, as Smith observes that some in the 101st are on their third tour of duty. Many are just counting the days until they "are back in Tennesee." Then they suddenly are shown in a six-minute firefight with insurgents, but no bodies are found, no prisoners taken, and they may have to wait days for more action. “We do our jobs,” one young soldier says.

Then we watch the unit seize three Iraqis suspected of doing ... something. They are “bagged” -- literally have bags placed over their heads -- and taken away. Another couple locals are caught “redhanded” planting IEDs. So far so good.

But then it turns ugly.

We tag along on “a home visit for the 101st." They have been tipped off that an alleged gun dealer was hanging with a local family but nothing is found. The angry family say it's the sixth time they’ve been raided over nothing.

So where are the Iraqi forces in all this? Conspicuous by their absence. The same young soldier who spoke earlier tells Smith, “I don’t think this country will ever be ready for U.S. forces to leave it. They’re too lazy.”

Then we see and hear an Iraqi soldier telling the Americans things were better off under Saddam. They had more fuel and electricity then. An earnest U.S. soldier asks, “For those two things you are willing to give up your freedom?” His Iraqi “comrade” replies, “Of course I am, these are the essentials of life.”

The narrator then observes: “The tension between the Americans and their Iraqi colleagues is never far away. An Iraqi officer has been heard over the radio telling his men not to fire at the insurgents.” So Americans go on the “warpath.” They pay a visit to the offices of the local town council. Did I mention that a grenade had just been thrown from there into the next door compound -- which happens to be headquarters of the joint command for the U.S./Iraqi force?

No one there knows anything about that so we watch as all in the town building, plus any bystanders, are herded outdoors into the noonday sun, where the Americans berate them. “It’s another exercise that turns out fruitless for the Americans and humiliating for the Iraqis,” the narrator says. After a couple hours they are released, “hearts and minds that much further out of reach.”

A few days later the Americans are again under attack, from another building, but they bust no one. Eventually they find four Iraqi policemen who say they have seen and done nothing, even though this seems to happen every day, so “the Americans are not impressed.” Our guys complain that they also let suspicious traffic pass freely and allow illegal gas sellers to run free.

One of our officers tells them: “You are doing nothing here.” He warns them they will be arrested if our guys get shot at again.

Blackout. New scene.
“24 hours on and
the marriage of the Americans and the Iraqis
looks headed for the rocks,”

the narrator explains.
We see maybe a dozen Iraqis kneeling on a porch,
their hands bound behind them, in custody.
Insurgents? Al-Qaeda terrorists? Maybe, at least, those black marketeers?
Alas, no.
Things have got so bad
“the Americans are raiding the offices of the Iraqi Army, their allies,
the people they are training.”

Then we see our allies blindfolded and hauled away.
Believe me, this image may stay with you awhile
as a symbol of the entire war effort.

we learn that a hand grenade has been thrown at one of our armored trucks
from inside the secure zone --
from inside our own “joint” command center.
“The insurgents, the terrorists,
appear to be the soldiers of the Iraqi Army,”

the narrator says simply.
Well, what more does he need to say?

After more arrests, a U.S. soldier announces that’s one for us, zero for the insurgents. “But if this is what victory looks like,” the narrator concludes, before the video ends, “it is hollow indeed.”

To watch the video click here.

Another Turning Point in Iraq -- Pull Out or Final Push?
Editorial writers and pundits,
often critical of the conduct of the war,
have long opposed a U.S. pullout from Iraq.
Now, with death and violence already at a peak, there is much talk—
including a prominent plea by Sen. John McCain on Sunday—
of a sending more troops for a “final push.”
Now what will the opinion shapers say?

By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2006-11-19

(November 19, 2006) -- Today, on a Sunday news show, Sen. John McCain called for a massive injection of U.S. troops into Iraq. He claimed that the war could still be won and the consequences of pulling out would be catastrophic. With the president's visit to Vietnam reviving bad memories and links to the Iraq war, McCain asserted that while it was proper to eventually abandon Southeast Asia, the fallout from leaving Iraq would imperil all of us.

This comes on the heels of hints in the press that both President Bush and his Iraq Study Group may well favor a "final push" for victory in Iraq, despite the apparent plea for a reversal of course expressed by voters in the recent midterm elections.

It has been one year since Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) issued his sudden and startling call for the start of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Since then, troop levels have remained steady, death and violence have increased, and few editorials and pundits have echoed Murtha's call.

One more thing: Since that day, 790 Americans have been killed in Iraq and more than 6000 seriously wounded.

One year later, we are again at a critical moment in the war,
with the renewed calls for a build up.
The media remains complacent.
The Washington Post stands hawkish through it all,
and even the dovish New York Times suggested last Sunday
"one last push to stabilize Baghdad.
That would require at least a temporary increase
in American and Iraqi troops on Baghdad streets."

Sound like a good idea to you? Opinion writers are once again squarely on the spot. If they oppose the idea they won't hear much protest from readers. Every major survey shows that about 60% back a U.S. withdrawal -- immediately or within a year.

Last Nov. 17, I was in the middle of writing yet another of my tireless, perhaps tiresome, columns suggesting that perhaps it was time for at least a few major newspapers to carry editorials calling for the start of a phased pullout from Iraq after more than two years of murder and incompetence. None of my previous efforts had produced much of a positive response, beyond the Seattle Times and Minneapolis Star Tribune and a few others, so my hopes were not exactly high.

Then came word that Rep. Murtha had suddenly called for a rapid “redeployment” of U.S. forces from Iraq, and even introduced a bill to this effect. Murtha? Wasn’t he that crusty old hawk and Pentagon water-carrier? Amazingly, it was true, and the media went wild -- not endorsing his views, God forbid, but at least giving them serious play. Within hours, I had penned a column hinting that perhaps this would be this war’s “Cronkite moment” -- when a wholly establishment figure says, enough! That voice sure wasn’t going to come from, say, The Washington Post.

“Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily,” Murtha said then. “It is time to bring them home.” He pointed out that more than half of Americans in polls wanted us out, and uttered these highly prescient words: “The public is way ahead of us.”

In response, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, "it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore."

But hat’s off to Rod Dreher, the conservative newspaper columnist, who quickly posted this at NRO Online, the National Review site: “If tough, non-effete guys like Murtha are willing to go this far, and can make the case in ways that Red America can relate to -- and listening to him talk was like listening to my dad, who's about the same age, and his hunting buddies -- then the president is in big trouble. I'm sure there's going to be an anti-Murtha pile-on in the conservative blogosphere, but from where I sit, conservatives would be fools not to take this man seriously.”

I closed my initial column by urging editorial and opinion writers to rise to the “Cronkite” challenge. So what happened after that? Most of them praised Murtha for showing some courage, but then came out against withdrawal or suggested that the U.S. give the Iraqis a few more months to get their act together. Of course, 12 months have passed since then -- and some of the same editorial writers now ask for another six months.

One year ago, USA Today, which had been critical of the conduct of the war, opined: “Murtha's call for withdrawal is as understandable as it is misguided.” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, also no fan of the war, weighed in that Murtha's call “plays better as a heartfelt expression of frustration than as sound practical advice.” The Washington Post ripped those who call for “an early pullout,” adding “what we've mainly seen during the past two weeks is a shameful exercise in demagoguery and name-calling. ... If there is to be any chance of that war being won, the United States will have to commit its own forces to the fight for years, though perhaps not at current levels. The alternative is to risk a defeat that would be devastating to U.S. security.”

The San Antonio Express-News added: “A precipitous departure from Iraq is likely to create more problems than it will solve.” Many other papers expressed the belief, or at least hope, that the upcoming elections in Iraq would turns things around. The Plain Dealer in Cleveland repeated its demand for the resignation of Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld -- while opining that a "precipitous withdrawal risks the tragic waste of the blood investment we have in Iraq." The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said Murtha is "surely on the right track," but "leaving Iraq now would be a mistake."

So here we are, 12 months and thousands of U.S. casualties later, with renewed calls for an American buildup, not a draw-down, in Iraq. So, editorial writers, what do you have to say?

Richard Cohen on Iraq: A ‘Sorry’ Case
The Washington Post columnist --
who once declared that the U.S. had “no choice” but to invade Iraq, partly for “therapeutic” reasons --
now admits things have gone wrong,
and says that soldiers have a right to feel “duped”
because of the “exaggerations” that led to war.
But, please, don't blame him.

By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2006-11-21

(November 21, 2006) -- For Richard Cohen, the longtime Washington Post columnist sometimes accused of being a "liberal," being fatally wrong on the Iraq war means never having to say you're sorry.

Today he took the occasion of President Bush's visit to Vietnam to offer his thoughts on the parallels between America's two most disastrous foreign adventures. In doing so, he admits -- as John Kerry might have put it -- that he was for them before he was against them. But here's the twist: He argues that in each case he was right to push for war (even if they turned out badly) -- so don't look for any apology.

This from the man who, on Feb. 6, 2003, after Secretary of State Colin Powell's deeply-flawed testimony in New York, famously wrote: "The evidence he presented to the United Nations -- some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail -- had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise."

Now consider his statement from today's column on why he backed the Iraq invasion: "In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic." Ponder that statement as you consider the tens of thousands of lives lost, on all sides, since then.

But the new column is one appalling rationalization after another.

Cohen reveals that he turned against Vietnam only after he joined the military and realized he didn't particularly want to die in an "unwinnable" war. Jumping ahead, it was easier for him to support the Iraq invasion because those doing the fighting would be "after all, volunteers. This mattered to me." In other words: It was okay if they died for a mistake -- in a "therapeutic" cause -- because they had signed up for the military, in peacetime.

But there's much more. Cohen, who had so demeaned those "French" lovers who, as it turns out, correctly opposed the Iraq catastrophe from the start, now explains he was encouraged to back the invasion by the "offensive opposition to the war -- silly arguments about oil or empire or, at bottom, the ineradicable and perpetual rottenness of America."

Of course, there were some who made such arguments, but the vast majority of those who opposed the war did so on the grounds (again sustained, as it soon turned out) that the Iraqi WMDs were far from proven and that, as Chris Hedges put it, an occupied Iraq would likely turn into America's "West Bank."

Yet Cohen says "few envisaged" this.

It gets worse. Referring to his willing "volunteers," Cohen writes: "If they thought they were going to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction and sever the link between al-Qaeda and Hussein, they now are entitled to feel duped by Bush, Vice President Cheney and others." I love that "others." Who could those unnamed others be? Certain influential pundits who once declared that there was "no choice" but to invade Iraq?

He goes on to say the "exaggerations" that led to war were "particularly repellent. To fool someone into sacrificing his life to battle a chimera is a hideous abuse of the public trust."


"Daily," he reveals, "I read the casualty list from Iraq -- and I invent reasons to make the deaths less tragic. And no wonder.


To read Cohen's entire column, click here.

E&P Survey Finds That, At Critical Point,
Editorials Offer Little Commentary on Troop Escalation in Iraq

By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2007-01-06

As a critical turning point
in America’s role in the nearly four-year-old Iraq war nears,
the editorial pages of the largest U.S. newspapers
have been surprisingly – even, appallingly – silent
on President Bush’s likely decision
to send thousands of more troops to the country.

It follows a long pattern, however, of
the editorial pages strongly criticizing the conduct of the war
without advocating a major change in direction.


An E&P survey of major papers’ editorial pages this past week, however,
finds that very few have said much of anything
about the well-publicized “surge” idea, pro or con.
They may finally declare themselves Sunday –
much too late,
given that the president seems to have made up his mind
and just shook up his cast of commanders to assemble a more sympathetic crew.
(Note: This "surge" in editorials on Sunday did not happen. See update below.)

The liberal editorial page of The New York Times has said nothing this week,
beyond noting the "bleak realities" in Iraq,
even as its regular columnists Bob Herbert, Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd and (on Sunday) Frank Rich and David Brooks, across the page, have ripped the idea.


Sunday (01-07):

The Washington Post did carry an editorial, which praises Sen. McCain and Sen. Lieberman for "courageously" pressing the "surge" -- but adding the idea still gives the editors "pause." It concludes: "If he chooses escalation, Mr. Bush will have to work a lot harder than he has before to explain the mission that justifies the risk and to build support in Congress and with the public."

The New York Times again failed to discuss the surge, even though it ran a lengthy editorial attack on Bush called "The Imperial Presidency 2.0." The closest it came to taking up the matter in the editorial was one snippet, where it accused the president of interpreting "his party’s drubbing as a mandate to keep pursuing his fantasy of victory in Iraq."

Among the many leading papers that also ignored the pending Bush move on Sunday were the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News and Cleveland's Plain Dealer.

‘NYT’ Does Not Oppose Bush’s ‘Surge’ in Iraq
By E&P Staff
Editor and Publisher, 2007-01-08

The New York Times [is] a paper whose coverage in the run-up to the war
helped make it possible.
True, it has been very critical of the conduct of the war in the past,
and as E&P tallied it up today,
all seven of its regular opinion columnists have come out against the “surge” --
a rare point of unanimity.
But the editorial page remained silent.

Tuesday [01-09] it breaks that silence,
with an editorial that expresses skepticism
about the results of any escalation
and whether the president would justify it adequately --
but stopping well short of opposing the idea.
The Times, in fact, has called for a last-shot troop increase before.
Now it says Bush’s plan
“needs to concentrate enough forces in Baghdad
to bring some security to streets and neighborhoods,
giving Iraq’s leaders one last opportunity
to try to bargain their way out of civil war....

‘NYT’ Reporter Who Got Iraqi WMDs Wrong Now Highlights Iran Claims
By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2007-02-10

Saturday’s New York Times features an article, posted at the top of its Web site late Friday, that suggests very strongly that Iran is supplying the “deadliest weapon aimed at American troops” in Iraq. The author notes, “Any assertion of an Iranian contribution to attacks on Americans in Iraq is both politically and diplomatically volatile.”

What is the source of this volatile information? Nothing less than “civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies.”

Sound pretty convincing? Well, almost all the sources in the story are unnamed. It also may be worth noting that the author is Michael R. Gordon, the same Times reporter who, on his own, or with Judith Miller, wrote some of the key, and badly misleading or downright inaccurate, articles about Iraqi WMDs in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

Gordon wrote with Miller the paper's most widely criticized -- even by the Times itself -- WMD story of all, the Sept. 8, 2002, “aluminum tubes” story that proved so influential, especially since the administration trumpeted it on TV talk shows.

When the Times eventually carried an editors’ note that admitted some of its Iraq coverage was wrong and/or overblown, it criticized two Miller-Gordon stories, and
noted that the Sept. 8, 2002, article on page one of the newspaper "gave the first detailed account of the aluminum tubes. The article cited unidentified senior administration officials who insisted that the dimensions, specifications and numbers of tubes sought showed that they were intended for a nuclear weapons program."

This, of course, proved bogus.

The Times “mea-culpa” story dryly observed: "The article gave no hint of a debate over the tubes," adding, "The White House did much to increase the impact of The Times article." This was the famous "mushroom cloud" over America article.

Gordon also wrote, following Secretary of State Colin Powell's crucial, and appallingly wrong, speech to the United Nations in 2003 that helped sell the war, that "it will be difficult for skeptics to argue that Washington's case against Iraq is based on groundless suspicions and not intelligence information."

Now, more than four years later, Gordon reveals: “The Bush administration is expected to make public this weekend some of what intelligence agencies regard as an increasing body of evidence pointing to an Iranian link, including information gleaned from Iranians and Iraqis captured in recent American raids on an Iranian office in Erbil and another site in Baghdad.” Gordon's unnamed sources throughout the story are variously described as "Administration officials," "intelligence experts" and "American intelligence."

Today, in contrast to the Times' report, Dafna Linzer in The Washington Post simply notes, "Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said serial numbers and markings on some explosives used in Iraq indicate that the material came from Iran, but he offered no evidence."


Last month, Byron Calame, public editor at The New York Times, and the paper's Washington bureau chief, Phil Taubman, agreed that Gordon had stepped over the journalistic line in a recent TV appearance by starkly backing the "surge" in Iraq. Gordon had said, “So I think, you know, as a purely personal view, I think it's worth one last effort for sure to try to get this right, because my personal view is we've never really tried to win. We've simply been managing our way to defeat.”

The Washington Post joined in on Sunday in trumpeting the Iran weapons charge.

Wash Post Joins NYT
in Trumpeting ‘Anonymous’ Claims on Iranian Weapons in Iraq

By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2007-02-11

Published: February 11, 2007 1:20 PM ET updated 3:30 PM 9:00 PM

NEW YORK First it was Michael Gordon in The New York Times on Saturday. Now The Washington Post and other media outlets have joined in suggesting a slam dunk case for Iranian weapons killing Americans in Iraq.

An article by Joshua Partlow from Baghdad -- long atop the Post's Web site -- first carried the declarative headline, "Iran Sending Explosives to Extremist Groups in Iraq," without even "U.S. officials say." The headline was later changed but, amazingly, the story remained at the top of the site a full 24 hours later.

As in case of Michael Gordon's article, none of the U.S. officials are named.

The Associated Press, The New York Times, Reuters and others also reported on a briefing in Baghdad on Sunday, agreeing beforehand to the condition that none of the three U.S. officials taking part could be named or even described closely.

The Times, after accepting the terms, found itself in the embarrassing position of reporting, "During the briefing, the senior United States military officials were repeatedly pressed on why they insisted on anonymity in such an important matter affecting the security of American and Iraqi troops."

It added: "The official also criticized recent news reports, saying they overstated the importance of today’s presentation, which had been previously announced and then delayed." This didn't stop the Times, the Post and other outlets from featuring these new charges at the top of their sites all day. The Times then put the story at top of its front page on Monday.

National Public Radio, at least, concluded its report this way: "In today's briefing, the U.S. officials admitted there was a gap between what they say they know, and what they can show, leaving reporters with more questions than answers."

And in Monday's New York Times, columnist Paul Krugman points out, "Why wasn’t any official willing to take personal responsibility for the reliability of alleged evidence of Iranian mischief, as opposed to being an anonymous source? If the evidence is solid enough to bear close scrutiny, why were all cameras and recording devices, including cellphones, banned from yesterday’s Baghdad briefing?"

The Washington Post article, which was published online at 12:30 on Sunday afternoon, stated, "Iranian security forces, taking orders from the 'highest levels' of the Iranian government, are funneling sophisticated explosives to extremist groups in Iraq, and the weapons have grown increasingly deadly for U.S.-led troops over the past two years, senior defense officials said Sunday in Baghdad."

"Three defense officials from the U.S.-led Multi-National Force in Baghdad, laid out for reporters what they described as a 'growing body of evidence' that Iran is manufacturing and exporting into Iraq the armor piercing explosives, known as 'explosively formed penetrators,' or EFPs, that have killed more than 170 coalition troops, and wounded more than 620 others, in the past two years."

The officials all spoke "on condition of anonymity."

Partlow added: "The allegations against Iran marked the farthest that coalition forces have gone to make the case that Iran is working to attack U.S. and Iraqi troops. The revelations threaten to further enflame tensions between America and Iran."

Of course, the article itself -- and its placement on top of the Post site and with that headline -- is sure to "enflame" as well.

Newsweek reports in a major article on Sunday (and in this week's print issue) on the many ways the U.S. is trying to provoke Iran into war, stating flatly: "The Iranians have reason to feel paranoid."

The officials today in Baghdad who blamed Iran for killing Americans said they decided to speak "on the condition of anonymity so the trio's explosives expert and analyst who would normally not speak to reporters could provide more information. The analyst's exact job description was not revealed to reporters. Reporters' cell phones were taken before the briefing, and the officials did not allow reporters to record or videotape the proceedings....

"On two tables in a briefing room in Baghdad, military officials laid out tubular rocket propelled grenades, football-shaped mortars, a cylindrical EFP, and about 40 tail fins of exploded mortars, which they say are manufactured in Iran -- just a 'smattering' of the examples they have found in Iraq, said the defense analyst. Iran is the only country in the region that produces these weapons, the officials said."

The Associated Press also attended the briefing and noted that it could not reveal the names of the three officials. The AP's Steven Hurst did open his article on a more neutral note, saying that the Americans "accused" Iran in this case.

The New York Times' James Glanz also covered the briefing -- again, accepting the terms of allowing total anonymity -- but he did note, "Today’s presentation of evidence is bound to generate skepticism among those suspicious that the Bush administration is trying to find a scapegoat for its problems in Iraq and, some political analysts and White House critics believe, is looking for an excuse to attack Iran."

On his new site, Iraqslogger.com, Eason Jordan observed in response, that "one of the three supposedly unnamed US officials apparently has been outed by an Iraqi news service, Voices of Iraq, whose report on the Baghdad news conference identified one of the three speakers as Major General William Caldwell, whose portfolio includes public affairs and who holds frequent news conference and grants one-on-one interviews.

"So, if the VOI report identifying Caldwell is correct, why did every other news organization apparently agree to grant anonymity to the general who's the official spokesman of the US-led Multi-National Force in Iraq? Why would Caldwell insist on not having his name associated with these allegations today?

"After the bogus Iraq evidence debacle in 2002 and 2003 -- allegations that led to war, tens of thousands of lives lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent -- only a fool would accept as the gospel supposed evidence against another country that's presented by officials who insist on making their allegations anonymously.

"We deserve better from the US government. We deserve better from the western news media."

And what do the Iraqis think of all this? The Washington Post reports Monday that Iraq's deputy foreign minister, Labeed M. Abbawi, said in an interview Sunday that the Iraqi government remains in the dark about the full U.S. investigation. "It is difficult for us here in the diplomatic circles just to accept whatever the American forces say is evidence," he said, according to the Post.

"If they have anything really conclusive, then they should come out and say it openly, then we will pick it up from there and use diplomatic channels" to discuss it with Iran, he said. "The method or the way it's being done should be changed, to have more cooperation with us."

An E&P article earlier this weekend pointed out echoes of the WMD charges in the run-up to the Iraq war. Michael Gordon, for example, had co-authored with Judith Miller the wildly inaccurate "aluminum tubes" article in 2002 that proved so influential.


The online hed on the Partlow article was later changed to "Officials: Iran Sending Arms to Militias in Iraq."

When the ‘Surge’ Might Have Been Stopped -- Editorial Pages Punted
By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2007-02-17

Six weeks ago, when the Iraq escalation might have been deterred,
newspapers failed to take a stand.
Now many oppose it, when it's way too late.

[An excerpt:]

(February 17, 2007) -- For the past five weeks, since President Bush announced his surge (or escalation, if you will) plan for Iraq, most of the nation's newspapers have regularly covered the debate it sparked. Many have, since that time, editorialized against the idea.

Too late. The surge/escalation is now well underway in Iraq and the U.S. Senate just voted on Saturday not to vote on a tame resolution expressing opposition. But where were the concerned editorial writers in late December and early January when they might have made a difference?

Nowhere. Following a general pattern since the start of the war, they punted.

At this sad stage, it is worth recalling that as this critical turning point in America’s role in the nearly four-year-old Iraq war neared, and with fair warning of what was coming, the editorial pages of the largest U.S. newspapers were surprisingly, even, appallingly, silent -- pro or con -- on President Bush’s decision to send thousands of more troops to Baghdad.

It followed a long pattern, however, of the editorial pages strongly criticizing the conduct of the war without advocating a major change in direction. This happened, even though the president signaled his intention and Democrats in Congress, overcoming their own timidity on the issue, had finally emerged with opposition to the buildup -- setting up a possible battle royal.

But newspapers, at least in their editorials, chose to retreat to the sidelines, as E&P noted at the time. This came even as hawkish conservatives such as Oliver North and Charles Krauthammer, and dozens of other op-ed contributors, came out against the idea, and polls showed that 30% or less of the public backed the idea. That would seem to set the stage for editorials taking a strong stand, for or against.

An E&P survey of major papers’ editorial pages in the first week of January, however, just before the president's official announcement, found that very few said much of anything about the well-publicized “surge” idea. A few that did declare themselves came around much too late to make any difference.

Gaffney Again Uses Lincoln to Hit War Critics
By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2007-02-20

The Washington Times columnist [Frank Gaffney]
who featured a bogus Abraham Lincoln quote last week returns today --
and advocates harsh punishment for critics of the Iraq war who are giving
“aid and comfort to the enemy.”

You’d think that after embarrassing himself and his newspaper
by basing a column on a fabricated quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln --
then hearing it cited in a key congressional debate on the Iraq war --
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. would just apologize and turn the page.
Instead, in his new column today for The Washington Times,
he draws on Lincoln again with the same goal:
to lock up or otherwise punish critics of the Bush “surge” in Iraq,
with Gaffney again charging them with
“unacceptable treachery, if not actual treason”
and giving “aid and comfort to the enemy.”

Why We ‘Harp’ on Press Failure on WMD
By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2007-03-05

As anonymous administration sources hype up the threat of Iran,
some reporters fall into the same bad habits they did
in the run-up to the disastrous Iraq War,
spreading unconfirmed information as if it is fact.
But there’s also some evidence that lessons have been learned.

5 Years Later:
Pundits Who Were Wrong on Iraq Are Silent

by Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2008-03-25

To choose just one example: David Brooks.
Exactly five years ago, on the verge of war,
he even attacked his current employer,
The New York Times,
for calling for "still more discussion" before attacking Iraq.

[Paragraph numbers are added.]

Given the current tragedy in Iraq--hell, given the past five years--you would think the many pundits who agitated for an attack on that country, largely on false pretenses, would have take the opportunity of the arrival of the fifth anniversary of the war (or the 4000 dead milestone) to drop to their knees, at least in print, and beg the American public for forgiveness.

With more than 60 percent of their fellow Americans now calling the war a “mistake” and agitating for troop withdrawals--and the president’s approval rating still heading south, thanks to their war--it would seem to be the right thing to do. We won’t even mention the maiming of more than 20,000 young Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

You can probably name your favorite candidate. Let’s take David Brooks of The New York Times, for example, and what he wrote exactly five years ago. He hasn’t bothered to revisit his errors in judgement lately. At least Richard Cohen, another favorite whipping boy of antiwar critics, has accepted responsibility for some of his lapses.

Brooks is among those who have long argued that they actually got the war right, but Donald Rumsfeld made it wrong. In other words, war good, Rummy bad. He has emphasized that he and many of his fellow pundits had it right at the time in urging more boots on the ground. They were “prescient,” he relates. But Rumsfeld and his crowd “got things wrong, and the pundits often got things right.”

He never cites any of his own views at the time, obviously hoping that readers will place him among those pundits that “got things right.” And also: please forget that he was a strong supporter of the invasion to start with.

In fact, he bears special blame -- or shame, if you will -- not only for his writing, but for serving as senior editor of the most influential (inside the White House) pro-war publication, The Weekly Standard, headed by Bill Kristol, who has been even more consistently wrong on the war, yet rewarded with a prestigious New York Times slot.

Come to think of it, Brooks got the same reward -- two for the price of two!

Brooks may want you to forget what he wrote five years ago, but here’s a trip down memory lane with Our Mr. Brooks.

From his column in The Weekly Standard, March 10, 2003:
“The American commentariat is gravely concerned. Over the past week, George W. Bush has shown a disturbing tendency not to waffle when it comes to Iraq. There has been an appalling clarity and coherence to his position. There has been a reckless tendency not to be murky, hesitant, or evasive. Naturally, questions are being raised about President Bush’s leadership skills.

“Meanwhile, among the smart set, Hamlet-like indecision has become the intellectual fashion. The liberal columnist E. J. Dionne wrote in The Washington Post that he is uncomfortable with the pro- and anti-war camps. He praised the doubters and raised his colors on behalf of ‘heroic ambivalence.’ The New York Times, venturing deep into the territory of self-parody, ran a full-page editorial calling for ‘still more discussion’ on whether or not to go to war.

“In certain circles, it is not only important what opinion you hold, but how you hold it. It is important to be seen dancing with complexity, sliding among shades of gray. Any poor rube can come to a simple conclusion--that President Saddam Hussein is a menace who must be disarmed--but the refined ratiocinators want to be seen luxuriating amid the difficulties, donning the jewels of nuance, even to the point of self-paralysis.

“But those who actually have to lead and protect, and actually have to build one step on another, have to bring some questions to a close. Bush gave Saddam time to disarm. Saddam did not. Hence, the issue of whether to disarm him forcibly is settled. The French and the Germans and the domestic critics may keep debating, which is their luxury, but the people who actually make the decisions have moved on to more practical concerns . . .”

From his Weekly Standard column two weeks later:
“The president has remained resolute. Momentum to liberate Iraq continues to build. The situation has clarified, and history will allow clear judgments about which leaders and which institutions were up to the challenge posed by Saddam and which were not.

“Over the past 12 years the United States has sought to disarm or depose Saddam--more forcefully since September 11 than before. Throughout that time, France and Russia have sought to undermine sanctions and fend off the ousting of Saddam. They opposed Clinton’s efforts to bomb Saddam, just as they oppose Bush’s push for regime change. Through the fog and verbiage, that is the essential confrontation. Events will show who was right, George W. Bush or Jacques Chirac.

“What matters, and what ultimately sprang the U.N. trap, is American resolve. The administration simply wouldn’t let up. It didn’t matter how Hans Blix muddied the waters with his reports on this or that weapons system. Under the U.N. resolutions, it was up to Saddam to disarm, administration officials repeated ad nauseam, and he wasn’t doing it. It was and is sheer relentlessness that has driven us to where we are today.

“Which is ironic. We are in this situation because the first Bush administration was not relentless in its pursuit of Saddam Hussein. That is a mistake this Bush administration will not repeat.”

Miscellaneous Columns and Articles


Under Peter Beinart, a New New Republic
by Howard Kurtz
Washington Post, 2003-02-24

The New Republic sees the Democratic Party these days as
an assortment of duplicitous, racially hypersensitive war wimps.

“You guys are doing Karl Rove's work for him,”
one Democratic strategist recently groused to Editor Peter Beinart.

The 31-year-old Yale graduate seems to welcome the criticism.
“The Democratic Party has returned to some of its bad habits. . . .
We want to be the place that pushes back,” he says.

That aggressive posture has forged a new role for the liberal magazine that strongly backed Al Gore, a longtime friend of owner Marty Peretz, against George Bush.
On foreign policy, says Beinart
“Bush has turned out to be a better president than I thought.”

As if to certify the new era, the latest issue features a design facelift.
“This is now Peter's magazine,” Peretz declares.

Beinart is a full-fledged, talon-baring hawk on Iraq,
a stance that has led him to assail, among others,
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and the New York Times editorial page.

He lambastes the Times, which has urged the Bush administration
to build an international consensus for military action against Iraq,
as a symbol of
“the intellectual incoherence of the liberal war critics,”
whose real position, he contends, is “abject pacifism.”


As one sign of a right-left convergence,
[in support of war with Iraq;
why is it not relevant that
so many of the people who converged from across the political spectrum
to support this misguided war
were Jews?]

New Republic staffer Lawrence Kaplan has co-authored a new book,
The War Over Iraq,
with the Weekly Standard's conservative editor, Bill Kristol.

“In the ‘90s we took on the House Republicans on foreign policy
when they were becoming neo-isolationist,
and it’s great to see the New Republic taking on the Democrats,” Kristol says.
One result, he says, is that
“you lose a few subscribers and you get some nasty letters
and people who used to be nice to you start grumbling about you.
But why else run a magazine?”

Not everyone at the New Republic embraces the bomb-Baghdad line,
sparking some strong internal discussions.
“They know I go on TV and express different opinions and they don’t care,”
says Senior Editor Michelle Cottle.
“I have pitched a fit about how badly I think the Bush people
will handle the aftermath [of Iraq]
and how badly they’ve handled the politics of it.”

Another dissenter is Senior Editor John Judis,
who writes in the American Prospect that
people are “genuinely perplexed” over Bush’s war policy.
“I never get suppressed,” Judis says.
“We have debates in the meetings. Beinart’s been fine to me.”

Beinart sees these arguments as a return
to the famously fractious New Republic of the 1980s,
whose support of aid to the Nicaraguan contras
and opposition to affirmative action
sparked very public battles.
In fact, he’s been reading some of those old pieces for inspiration.

“We’re not for an era of tranquillity and harmony in the Democratic Party,”
Beinart says.
“We’re for a big ideological fight.”

Peretz calls it “our struggle for the soul of the party.
It’s a direct extension of what we did
with the contras, with Bosnia, with Jesse Jackson and race. . . .
I say this is our mission, to keep the party honest.”

Copyright The Washington Post Company Feb 24, 2003


TV Blowhard Barks at Iran: Let’s Hold CNN Accountable
By Jeff Cohen
Commondreams.org, 2006-11-27

[After reading this, the question is:
Why is the media so much in favor of starting wars with Muslim countries?
I think you know the answer to that.
(Hint: It isn't Bush.)]

The Abominables of The New Republic
Getting away with murder
by Arthur Silber
Antiwar.com, 2006-11-29

I offer the following comments
about the Symposium of Wise People offered by The New Republic
only as an exercise in what perhaps should be called
the sociology of the banality of evil.
These are the Wise People
who make murderous catastrophes of this kind possible.
Even at this late date,
they are incapable of acknowledging and admitting what they have done.

Inside TV News: We Were Silenced by the Drums of War
By Jeff Cohen
Truthout.org, 2006-12-26

[An excerpt; emphasis and some comments are added.]

Everything about my nine-month stint at cable news channel MSNBC
occurred in the context of the ever-intensifying war drums over Iraq.
The drums grew louder as D-Day approached,
until the din became so deafening
that rational journalistic thinking could not occur....

For 19 weeks, I had appeared in on-air debates almost every afternoon -
the last weeks heavily focused on Iraq.
I adamantly opposed an invasion.
I warned that it would
"undermine our coalition with Muslim and Arab countries
that we need to [help us] fight Al Qaeda"
and would lead to "quagmire."

In October 2002, my debate segments were terminated.
There was no room for me after MSNBC launched Countdown: Iraq -
a daily show that seemed more keen on glamorizing a potential war
than scrutinizing or debating it.
The show featured retired colonels and generals resembling boys with war toys
as they used props, maps and glitzy graphics to spin invasion scenarios.
They reminded me of pumped-up ex-football players doing pregame analysis.

It was excruciating to be silenced
while myth and misinformation went unchallenged.
Military analysts typically appeared unopposed;
they were presented as experts, not advocates.

But their closeness to the Pentagon
often obstructed independent, skeptical analysis.


Besides military analysts, each news network featured "weapons experts" -
usually without opposition or balance -
to discuss the main justification for war: weapons of mass destruction.
The problem for US media was that
there was wide disagreement among WMD experts,
with many skeptical about an Iraqi threat.
The problem only worsened when UN inspectors returned
and could not confirm any of the US claims.

How did MSNBC and other networks solve the problem?
Management favored experts who backed the Bush view -
[more accurately - the view pushed by
Commentary, the Weekly Standard, and the Washington Post;
i.e., by Jewish-controlled media]

and hired several of them as paid analysts.
Networks that normally cherished shouting matches
were opting for discussions of harmonious unanimity.
This made for dull, predictable TV.
It also helped lead our nation to war, based on false premises.


Not every weapons expert had been wrong.
Take ex-Marine and former UN inspector Scott Ritter.
In the last months of 2002,
he told any audience or journalist who would hear him
that Iraqi WMDs represented no threat to our country.
"Send in the inspectors," urged Ritter.
"Don't send in the Marines."

It's telling that in the run-up to the war,
no American TV network hired any on-air analysts
from among the experts who questioned White House WMD claims.

None would hire Ritter.

Inside MSNBC in 2002,
Ritter was the target of a smear
that he was receiving covert funds from Saddam Hussein's government.
[And just who in MSNBC was circulating that smear?
Why would people in the media wish to promote the war?
Were they for Big Oil or for Bush?
Fat chance.
Far more likely it's the Zionist conspiracy
(not that all Jews are insanely pro-Israel (note the current author),
just all too many of them).]

The slur was obviously aimed at reducing his media appearances.
It surfaced like clockwork at MSNBC
when we sought to book Ritter as a guest on "Donahue."


It's says a lot about TV news that
people like Phil Donahue, who correctly questioned the Iraq war,
have been banished from the system.
I'm unaware of a single TV executive, anchor, pundit or "expert"
who lost his job for getting such a huge story so totally wrong.

[In America, it's impossible to be too pro-Israel.]
I do know of a hawkish host on MSNBC who was taken off the air -
he was kicked upstairs to become the general manager of the channel.

Many in the media
who were the loudest and most dramatically wrong about Iraq
have not relinquished their war drums.
Today, they target Iran and argue vociferously against withdrawal from Iraq.
In corporate media, few are held accountable.


The War and the New York Times
CounterPunch, 2007-01-06

The war in Iraq,
one of the most disastrous military enterprises in the history of the Republic,
has the New York Times’ fingerprints all over it.
The role the newspaper played in fomenting the 2003 attack
is now one of the best known sagas in journalistic history,
as embodied in the reports of Judy Miller,
working in collusion with Iraqi exiles and US spooks
to concoct Saddam’s imaginary arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

But so fixated have many Times critics been on the WMD/Miller saga,
that they have failed to notice that across the past sixth months
the Times has been waging an equally disingenuous campaign
to escalate American troop levels in this doomed enterprises.

The prime journalistic promoter of the escalation ­-
it is time to retire the adroitly chosen word “surge” --
now being proposed by the White House is Michael Gordon,
the Times’ military correspondent,
a man of fabled arrogance and self esteem.

Gordon’s has been the mouthpiece for the faction--led by Gen. David H. Petraeus-- inside the U.S. military in Iraq that has been promoting the escalation.
As Gordon himself triumphantly announced in the New York Times this weekend,
Gen. Petraeus has been picked by Bush
to lead the open-ended escalation of the war
that Petraeus has long campaigned for.

Throughout his time in Iraq Gen. Petraeus himself has been very adroit
at fostering good relations with carefully selected reporters, like Gordon.
That strategy has been vindicated by the steady stream of stories in the Times--not just by Gordon--
reflecting his views.


Just as it seemed beyond the realm of possibility a month ago
that the US could contrive a situation
in which Saddam Hussein would be resurrected as a martyr,
so now it still seems incredible that
two months after an election on November 7
in which the voters punished Bush for the Iraq disaster
by giving Congress back to the Democrats,
Bush should be pressing for an escalation,
backed by almost daily doses of crackpot realism in the New York Times.


I have discussed here more than once
the strenuous efforts over the past few months
of the Times’ military correspondent, Michael Gordon,
to promote a hike in US forces in Iraq.

A long piece on January 2,
under the byline of Gordon, John Burns and David Sanger,
made these promotion efforts particularly clear.
The piece was a prolonged attack on Gen. George Casey,
top military commander in Baghdad,
depicted in harsh terms as espousing a defeatist plan of orderly withdrawal.

Finding favor in the reporters’ eyes
was the military/policy-making faction
urging the escalation ceaselessly promoted by their tool, Gordon.

Gordon managed to dodge the fall-out from the WMD debacle
he played a major part in contriving.
For example, he co-wrote with Miller
the infamous aluminum tubes-for-nukes story of 2002-09-08,
that mightily assisted the administration in its push to war.
In the latter part of 2006 he became
the prime journalistic agitator for escalation in troop strength.

On 2006-09-11, the Times ran a Gordon story under the headline,
“Grim Outlook Seen in West Iraq Without More Troops and Aid”.
Gordon cited a senior officer in Iraq saying
more American troops were necessary to stabilize Anbar.
A story on 2006-10-22 emphasized that
“the sectarian violence [in Baghdad]
would be far worse if not for the American efforts.”
There were of course
plenty of Iraqis and some Americans Gordon could also have found,
eager to say the exact opposite.

When John Murtha -- advocate of immediate withdrawal --
was running for the post of House majority leader in the new Democratic-controlled Congress,
Gordon rushed out two stories, both front-paged by the New York Times.
In “Get Out Now? Not So Fast, Some Experts Say” (2006-11-14)
Gordon sought out the now retired General Anthony Zinni and others, who “say the situation in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq is too precarious to start thinning out the number of American troops,” while “some military experts said that while the American military is stretched thin, the number of American troops in Iraq could be increased temporarily”

The next day, November 15, 2006, a second Gordon story was headlined “General Warns of Risks in Iraq if GIs Are Cut” Gordon cited Gen. Abizaid’s warnings that phased withdrawal of troops would lead to an increase of sectarian violence, and that more troops might be necessary temporarily.
At the start of December, the infighting in Washington rose to feverish intensity. With Baker and Hamilton about to issue thneir bipartisan Iraq Study Group report, the White House--as the New York Times’ Jan 1 story acknowledged--was desperate to have a “victory” strategy ready to counter the gloomy assessment of Baker and Hamilton. This is what Gordon and the Times had helped provide.

On December 4, with the Iraq Study Group about to issue its report, Gordon returned to General Zinni. In a story headlined, “Blurring Political Lines in the Military Debate” Gordon gave warm, supportive coverage to Gen. Zinni’s plan for temporary increase of troops on the grounds that they are needed to offset Iranian influence. The story promoted the line that any precipitate withdrawal would destabilize Middle East and leave Iraq in chaos.

On December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, Gordon was at it again, flailing away at Baker and Hamilton’s Report. Headline: “Will it Work on the Battlefield?” Lead: “The military recommendations issued yesterday by the Iraq Study Group are based more on hope than history and run counter to assessments made by some of its own military advisors.” Precipitous withdrawal, Gordon charged, would leave Iraqi armed forces unprepared to take over security burden.

Reporter with a propaganda mission can always find the mouthpieces to say what they want. Gordon’s “troop surge” campaign has been politically much more influential than the mad-dog ravings of the right-wing broadcasters.

One of the most famous lines in the history of journalism is William Randolph Hearst’s 1897 cable to his artist, Frederic Remington, in Cuba, who was complaining there no war for him to draw pictures of. “You furnish the pictures,” Hearst cabled his man.” I’ll furnish the war.”

The Times helped furnish the 2003 U.S. attack on Iraq. Now it has played a major role in furnishing a likely escalation. There is blood on its hands, and grieving mothers like Cindy Sheehan have as much cause to demonstrate outside its offices as outside Bush’s ranch in Crawford.

Not just wrong, but all wrong
by Paul Campos
Rocky Mountain News, 2007-01-16

Twenty years ago, in its pre-season baseball issue,
Sports Illustrated predicted the Cleveland Indians
would finish with the best record in the major leagues.
Cleveland went on to finish with the worst record.
Statistical guru Bill James pointed out that this represented
an example of what might be called Maximum Possible Error.

When it comes to the Iraq war,
some of our most prominent pundits have achieved similar results.
Perhaps the most spectacular example is provided by William Kristol.

Since the start of the war, Kristol has claimed that
  • “there’s almost no evidence”
    Iraqi Shiites wouldn’t be able to get along with Sunnis;
  • it was a mistake to worry that Iraq
    “would fracture into feuding clans and unleash a bloodbath”;
  • the January 2005 Iraqi elections represented “a genuine turning point,” comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall;
  • the situation in Iraq wouldn’t get worse in 2006,
    and thus opposition to the war
    would prove to be an electoral disaster for Democrats; and
  • the Iraqi response
    to the bombing of the Samarra mosque this past February was
    “evidence of Iraq’s underlying stability
    in the face of attempts to undermine it.”
This is just a sample of the many things Kristol has said about Iraq
that turned out to be not merely wrong, but
the exact opposite of the truth.
They represent nothing less than the Maximum Possible Error
on all these matters.

And what has been the result of this astonishing performance?
Have Kristol’s employers fired him for gross incompetence?
Has he been exiled from the national media
for having been completely wrong, over and over again,
about the most important issue facing America today?

Far from it!
Kristol has just been hired by Time, America’s leading news weekly,
to write a column.
This is the journalistic equivalent of
handing the former captain of the Exxon Valdez
a case of whiskey and the command of a fully loaded supertanker.
The nation’s elite media continue to be in denial about the fact that
most of America’s most prominent pundits were wrong about Iraq.
(Admittedly not all of them were as wrong as Kristol.
The average pundit couldn’t manage to be as wrong as Kristol if he tried.)

One symptom of this denial
is the bizarrely upward trajectory of Kristol’s career path.
Another is how the fact that a number of commentators
who were every bit as right about Iraq as Kristol has been wrong
(modesty forbids me from noting I was among them)

These people pointed out that
  • it was quite unclear
    whether Saddam Hussein still had any weapons of mass destruction;
  • in any case, Iraq presented no military threat to the United States;
  • invading the country could well trigger
    factional bloodshed which would last many years;
  • fighting terrorism by trying to install democracy at gunpoint in Iraq
    made no sense; and
  • the whole project was likely to end in disaster.

At best, these dissenters were dismissed as “unserious” semi-pacifist hippies,
who didn’t understand how “9/11 changed everything.”
Often, their patriotism was slandered
by supposedly respectable commentators like law professor Glenn Reynolds,
who in the tradition of Joe McCarthy
made ominous claims about how
critics of the war were actively pro-terrorist, or at the very least
were “acting unpatriotically” and “hurting our troops abroad.”

And so it goes.
For example, the terribly serious New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman,
who just six weeks ago declared that the only rational alternatives in Iraq
were a 150,000-troop escalation or a phased withdrawal,
has now announced he’ll support President Bush’s 21,000-troop escalation -
but only if Bush proposes a massive tax hike
and does some other things that are as likely to happen as
Saddam Hussein and John Belushi showing up to co-host
next week’s episode of Saturday Night Live.

If chutzpah was a crime, these guys would be serving life sentences.

Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado.
He can be reached at paul.campos@colorado.edu.

[The incredible media/political force field
that is constantly sucking America into war
with more and more of the Muslim world (up next, Iran)
is proof positive
of the overwhelming devotion of that media/political elite
to the well-being of Israel as opposed to that of the United States.
Surely only a moron
or someone trying to hide the power of the Israel Lobby
could believe that “Big Oil” or the evangelicals
have the clout over, say, elite media outlets
to keep those outlets from treating the arguments for that war
with the skepticism and disdain that they deserve.]

War Backer’s Gambling Debt
By Jeff Cohen
TomPaine.com, 2007-02-08

[An attack on Jonah Goldberg, containing the following observation:]

Not only does Tribune syndicate [Jonah] Goldberg’s column,
it was Tribune’s Los Angeles Times
that added the analytically impaired Goldberg to its columnist roster
in November 2005,
at the same time as it fired renowned columnist Robert Scheer,
whose Iraq analysis had been breathtakingly accurate.


[I]t’s time to hold media corporations like Tribune responsible
for elevating the Goldbergs and their reckless predictions—
as they strangle newspapers and silence serious journalists like Bob Scheer.

Washington Post Liars Caught!
by Scott Horton
Antiwar.com Blog, 2007-04-10

Atrios (Via Lew Rockwell) has caught the Washington Post
attempting to lie you into another war....

A Media Role in Selling the War?
No Question.

By Tom Shales
Washington Post, 2007-04-25

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Pressures subtle and blatant were brought to bear.
Phil Donahue’s nightly MSNBC talk show
was virtually the only program of its type
that gave antiwar voices a chance to be heard.
Donahue was canceled 22 days before the invasion of Iraq,

Moyers says.
The reason was supposedly low ratings,
but the New York Times intercepted an in-house memo
in which a network executive complained:
“Donahue represents a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.
At the same time, our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”

Dissent was deemed not only unpatriotic, Donahue recalls,
but—perhaps even worse—
“not good for business.”

[“[N]ot good for business”?
Why not?
Was the general public so pro-war that they were shunning companies
that sponsored programs that questioned the value of the war?
I don’t think so.
In fact, the strongest advocacy for the war
was coming from a segment of America
that happens to have great influence over both the media and business:
the Israel Lobby.]

Most of Moyers’s report involves serious, respected journalists
who let themselves be swept up in war fever
who were manipulated by
the administration sources who had cozied up to them.

[How self-serving, so typical of the WP.
Who was manipulating whom?
Were Bush, Cheney and Company
so intrinsically desirous of war with Iraq
that they were manipulating the media,
or were key segments of the media part of a larger movement,
motivated by the clearly and explicitly stated desires of Israel
that Saddam be disarmed and deposed (for the benefit of Israel),
which manipulated the Bush administration into its war fever?
In other words, who was the manipulator and who was the manipulatee?

As to the phrase “swept up in war fever,”
such medical metaphors only avoid
the fundamental questions about why the media behaved as it did.]

Instead of
investigating administration claims about al-Qaeda and WMDs and such,
cable news offered up hours and hours of talking-head television.

[In the first place, no investigation was necessary to discover alternative views,
even in the unclassified world.
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and several of his colleagues
were issuing press releases before the war
(e.g., 2003-02-08 and 2003-03-15),
claiming the intelligence was faulty,
which the MSM was studiously ignoring.
Their group, calling itself the VIPS, was no shrinking violet.
It was frantically trying to get the attention of the MSM,
claiming explicitly that the intelligence was cooked.
But the MSM, even McGovern’s home-town newspaper, the WP,
pointedly and deliberately ignored them.

Now the WP compounds its sins.
Not only did they ignore the VIPS before the war,
now they ignore their earlier ignoring.
What a deceptive propaganda organization Donald Graham has formed,
manifestly dedicated to the interests of Israel.

In the second place,
forget about the issues of what the benefits of invading Iraq might be.
What about the costs of invading Iraq?
One didn’t need an SCI clearance to assess those.
One only needed to consult some history books, or contact an academic expert (not one of Israel’s agents in America posing as an American)
who could tell you what those costs were likely to be.
But, surprise, surprise,
the MSM didn’t make the slightest effort to inform America
of the costs and risks of invading Iraq.
Instead we got rosy stories about how grateful the Iraqis would be.

For a (not quite mainstream) media organization
which did an admirable job of providing early warning about
the problems and pitfalls of a Mesopatmian involvement,
see the 2002 and 2003 issues of The American Conservative.]

Former CNN president Walter Isaacson tells Moyers:
“One of the great pressures we’re facing in journalism now is,
it’s a lot cheaper to hire thumb-suckers and pundits
and have talk shows on the air
than actually have bureaus and reporters.”

Dan Rather ... tells Moyers:
“The substitute for reporting far too often has become
‘Let’s just ring up an expert.’ ...
This is journalism on the cheap, if it’s journalism at all.”

[The media is claiming that (all) the experts were wrong.
That is simply false, and most probably a lie.
See, for example, the prescient advice
in a prewar advertisement by 33 recognized foreign policy experts:

Is it not interesting that even the Chinese are well aware of that advertisement
(see the footnote quoted in the above reference)
but America’s media would have us believe that
the experts were unanimous in support of the war.]

Our Captive Media
By Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-04-27

Bill Moyers indicts media reporting in the run-up to war

How Did We Get Here?
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-10-24

You have the “mainstream” media to thank for the Iraqi quagmire

The War in the Media
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-10-26

The Iraq war and dueling narratives

The War Expert
By Michael Massing
Columbia Journalism Review, 2007-11/12

Wrong, wrong, wrong again. But the media still want Ken Pollack


The Very Annoying Washington Post
By Robert Parry
Consortiumnews.com, 2008-04-11

One of the many annoyances about living in George W. Bush’s Washington
is to read the commentaries about the Iraq War
on the editorial pages of the Washington Post.
Possibly never in modern times has a major newspaper been
more wrong, more consistently with more arrogance
than has the Post on this vital issue.

Was Press a War ‘Enabler’? 2 Offer a Nod From Inside
New York Times, 2008-05-30

[Emphasis is added.]

In his new memoir, “What Happened,”
Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, said
the national news media neglected their watchdog role
in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq,

calling reporters “complicit enablers”
of the Bush administration’s push for war.

Surprisingly, some prominent journalists have agreed.

Katie Couric, the anchor of “CBS Evening News,” said on Wednesday that
she had felt pressure
from government officials and corporate executives
to cast the war in a positive light.

Speaking on “The Early Show” on CBS, Ms. Couric said
the lack of skepticism shown by journalists
about the Bush administration’s case for war
amounted to
“one of the most embarrassing chapters in American journalism.”
She also said

she sensed pressure from
“the corporations who own where we work
and from the government itself
to really squash any kind of dissent
or any kind of questioning of it.”

At the time, Ms. Couric was a host of “Today” on NBC.

Another broadcast journalist also weighed in.
Jessica Yellin, who worked for MSNBC in 2003 and now reports for CNN,
said on Wednesday that
journalists had been “under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly,
to make sure that this was a war presented in a way
that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation.”

On Thursday, she clarified her comments in a blog post,
writing that her producers at MSNBC
had wanted their coverage to reflect the patriotic mood of the country.

A spokeswoman for General Electric,
which owns NBC and MSNBC through its division NBC Universal,
declined to speak about the specifics of the comments but said,
“General Electric has never, and will never,
interfere in the editorial process at NBC News.”

The opinions of Ms. Couric and Ms. Yellin were hardly universal among journalists.
Ms. Couric made her comments
in an unusual on-camera tour of network morning programs —
along with her two evening news competitors,
Brian Williams of “NBC Nightly News” and
Charles Gibson of “World News” on ABC —
to promote a cancer research telethon.

“I think the questions were asked,”
Mr. Gibson, who was a host of “Good Morning America” before the war began,
said in response to Ms. Couric.
“It was just a drumbeat of support from the administration.
It is not our job to debate them.
It is our job to ask the questions.”
[What bullshit.
On issues where the media opposes the government position,
the media makes sure that the countervailing arguments are presented.
That did not happen here, not in the MSM.]

Mr. Williams, who was an anchor on MSNBC at the time,
emphasized the climate of “post-9/11 America.”
In the early days of the war, he said, he would hear from the Pentagon
“the minute they heard us report something they didn’t like.”
Since when does the news media take orders from the Pentagon?
And why?]

For five years, antiwar activists and media critics have claimed that
the national news media failed to keep the White House accountable
before the invasion.
Andrew Heyward, who headed CBS News in 2003,
said in an interview on Thursday that
the trauma of the Sept. 11 attacks and
the ensuing sense of patriotism
might have muted press skepticism about the war.

Greg Mitchell, the author of “So Wrong for So Long,”
a book about press and presidential failures on the war,
argues that some media organizations have yet to come to terms with their role.
Even at the fifth anniversary of the war last March, he said,
“in the orgy of coverage of what had happened,
there was almost no media self-assessment.”

NBC and CBS would not make executives available for interviews on the subject.