Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Impact of the Media's War Coverage

I don't really favor the idea of mass conspiracies. The notion of various factions working in secrete, in concert, and on a mass scale in order to bring some dastardly plan to fruition just seems infeasible. It seems that the more people who are in on a secret plan, the less likely it is to remain a secret. Therefore, because the number of people required to carry out a mass conspiracy has to be vast, the likelihood of all of these people being able to keep the conspiracy secret is so remote as to be hardly ascertainable. That being said:

Has the media conspired with war detractors in order to keep the American people in the dark about the situation in Iraq? From ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the AP, Reuters, BBC, etc., etc., etc... the "news" from Iraq has consistently read like anti-war propaganda and political talking points. This is NOT a problem as long as the media is being TRUTHFUL; unfortunately, the one-sided approach to the portrayal of the war, and the consistent lack of honesty and truth in the Iraq war coverage leaves me with the belief that there is a problem, a huge problem, and the impact has not yet been realized.

One could speculate on end as to the impact the media has had on promoting the continued violence on the ground in Iraq. By painting a picture of the US in a war they cannot win, in which "the people" supposedly want the troops removed immediately, from the "quagmire" which is "engulfed in sectarian violence" and on "the brink" if not actually engaged in "civil war," the media presents a picture that inspires and emboldens the enemy. If the enemy continues the battle for one more month, one more week, one more day... if they hold on long enough, the media, with the help of the new Democrat controlled Congress, could "Vietnimize" Iraq and finally grasp defeat from the jaws of victory.

One could speculate on end as to the impact the media has had on the political landscape in America. Granted, the Republicans had a few minor scandals, and did little if anything to reward or inspire the American people to keep them in office; however, the Iraq war was a major issue in the 06 elections. The war is unpopular primarily because of how it has been presented to the American people. The American public is not aware of the truth. Not the "truth" as I see it, but the actual and real truth. The reality of the situation.

One could indeed speculate on end as to the impact the media has made and is currently making with their coverage of the Iraq war, but for this post I would like to conduct a case study and see how the media's war coverage has affected one man. A soldier, who like the American public, supported the reasons for going to war with Iraq and deposing Saddam, and who, like the prevailing majority of Americans, no longer supports the Iraq war.

For those of you who have not yet heard of him, I would like to introduce you to First Lt. Ehren Watada, a 28 year old war detractor who is currently on trial for refusing to deploy to Iraq on the grounds that the Iraq war is illegal. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the impact of the media coverage of the Iraq war. I have excerpted the following sections of the article which I will comment on:

WATADA: ... in March of 2003 when I joined up, I, like many Americans, believed the administration when they said the threat from Iraq was imminent — that there were weapons of mass destruction all throughout Iraq; that there were stockpiles of it; and because of Saddam Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorist acts, the threat was imminent and we needed to invade that country immediately in order to neutralize that threat.

I don't think any "educated" American with a keen interest in news and current events could fault Lt. Watada. The press has been highly critical of the Bush administration. Articles and stories which read like editorials but which purport to be objective news pieces can be found in every major media outlet espousing the same sort of disinformation Lt. Watada has.

1) I'm not sure the media is to blame for the assertion that Bush claimed that and Iraqi threat was imminent. However, the press has claimed we rushed into the war without a plan, so maybe they are a bit to blame for this. Regardless it isn't true. If the Bush administration stated that the threat was imminent and required immediate action, why waste all the time taking the diplomatic route via the UN? Bush gave the UN one last chance to get Saddam to give up his WMD's. The UN continued it's long history of failing miserably. Only after many months invested in the diplomatic route did Bush put an end to the diplomatic effort and invade Iraq.

2) From the moment the US invaded, the press has been asking the question, where are the WMD's? As if they should be found on every street corner in large piles, in plain view. It did not take very long at all for the press to conclude that there were no WMDs. Follow the WMD link. This *could* be just the tip of the iceberg. For some reason, the Bush administration does not feel the need to declassify information which vindicates his position. Bush actually did not want evidence of what we have found made public.

3) Neither Bush nor his administration ever claimed that Saddam or Iraq were in any way responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The claim was that there were links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. This was a broad assertion. The narrow assertion that Bush supposedly claimed a link between Saddam and 9/11 has no factual support. I challenge anyone to find a transcript in which Bush actually claims Saddam offered any support whatsoever for the 9/11 attacks. The assertion that Bush claimed a link between Saddam and 9/11 began as an attack from Bush's political opposition and has been repeated erroneously in the media for years now. The assertion is false. I encourage anyone who disagrees with this statement to visit the White House news archives. They are free to the public and contain the transcripts of Bush's speeches.
Since then I think I, as many, many Americans are realizing, that those justifications were intentionally falsified in order to fit a policy established long before 9/11 of just toppling the Saddam Hussein regime and setting up an American presence in Iraq.


All of it is in the mainstream media. .... The Iraq Survey Group came out and said there were no weapons of mass destruction after 1991 and during 2003. The 9/11 Commission came out and said there were no ties with Iraq to 9/11 or al-Qaeda. The president himself came out and said that nobody in his administration ever suggested that there was a link.

And yet those ties to al-Qaeda and the weapons of mass destruction were strongly suggested. They said there was no doubt there were weapons of mass destruction all throughout 2002, 2003 and even 2004. So, they came out and they say this, and yet they say it was bad intelligence, not manipulated intelligence, that was the problem. And then you have veteran members of the CIA' that come out and say, "No. It was manipulated intelligence. We told them there was no WMD. We told them there were no ties to al-Qaeda. And they said that that's not what they wanted to hear."

The media is largely to blame for the belief that no WMD's were found. The media was quick to judge. The administration is also to blame. Much of what has been found remains classified information. What is amazing, though, is that the idea that no WMDs were ever found persists even now that we know that a large number of WMD's were found.

Regarding the idea that there were no links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, this is largely the result of deliberate misreporting by media sources. The day after the 9/11 report was issued, the American media loudly declared: No link between Iraq, Al Qaeda. This is in part lazy reporting, and in part deliberate deception. The following quips are taken directly from the 9/11 Commission Report

In building this Islamic army, he [Bin Laden] enlisted groups from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Oman, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Somalia, and Eritrea. (Page 58)

Bin Ladin was also willing to explore possibilities for cooperation with Iraq, even though Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had never had an Islamist agenda—save for his opportunistic pose as a defender of the faithful against “Crusaders” during the Gulf War of 1991. Moreover, Bin Ladin had in fact been sponsoring anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan, and sought to attract them into his Islamic army.

To protect his own ties with Iraq,Turabi reportedly brokered an agreement that Bin Ladin would stop supporting activities against Saddam. Bin Ladin apparently honored this pledge, at least for a time, although he continued to aid a group of Islamist extremists operating in part of Iraq (Kurdistan) outside of Baghdad’s control. In the late 1990s, these extremist groups suffered major defeats by Kurdish forces. In 2001, with Bin Ladin’s help they re-formed into an organization called Ansar al Islam.There are indications that by then the Iraqi regime tolerated and may even have helped Ansar al Islam against the common Kurdish enemy.

With the Sudanese regime acting as intermediary, Bin Ladin himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995. Bin Ladin is said to have asked for space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but there is no evidence that Iraq responded to this request.(page 61)

There is also evidence that around this time Bin Ladin sent out a number of feelers to the Iraqi regime, offering some cooperation. None are reported to have received a significant response.According to one report, Saddam Hussein’s efforts at this time to rebuild relations with the Saudis and other Middle Eastern regimes led him to stay clear of Bin Ladin. In mid-1998, the situation reversed; it was Iraq that reportedly took the initiative.

In March 1998, after Bin Ladin’s public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence.

In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin’s Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. ....

Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban. According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq. Bin Ladin declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative. The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides’ hatred of the United States.(page 66)

Keep in mind that the 9/11 Commission report should not be viewed as the end-all report on all links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The 9/11 Commission was researching links with Iraq for the purpose of determining whether they directly played a hand in the 9/11 attacks. Other evidence of support may have been overlooked and not included. There very well may be volumes of classified materials evidencing the links between Iraq and Al Qaeda which cannot be made public at this time without undermining our ability to gain future intelligence.

...we have one branch of government that intentionally deceives another branch of government in order to authorize war, and intentionally deceives the people in order to gain that public support, that is a grave breach of our constitutional values, our laws, our checks and balances, and separation of power.

.... We cannot have people in power that are irresponsible and corrupt and that keep on going that way because they're not held accountable to the people.

... we all have that duty, that obligation, that responsibility to do something when we see our government perpetrating a crime upon the world, or even upon us. And I think that the American people have lost that, that sense of duty. There is no self-interest in this war for the vast majority of the American people. And because of that the American soldiers have suffered.

This is the impact of the media's reporting. We actually have members of the military falling prey to the media's distortions. This unfortunate Lt. is facing six years in prison. Can we really blame him for his misguided understanding of the war? There was a time when educated, conscientious, GOOD Americans who cared about the world in which they lived turned to the American press for the truth. We now live in the disinformation age. Giving casual attention to the evening news or reading over the NYT's used to be evidence of a slightly higher IQ and a concern over world events. Now it is evidence that your like your news served predigested, biased, spun, and unfortunately for most Americans riddled with inaccuracy.

I believe this Lt. is and should be found guilty of the charges against him. I hope he enjoys his likely 6 year sabbatical. But I am deeply, deeply saddened, though, that his clearly erroneous beliefs come as a result of the media's portrayal of the Iraq War. In my mind the press is guilty of the greater crime in all of this. In America our freedoms are our greatest resources; unfortunately they are also the source of our greatest weakness... and they are being used against us. We need to remain vigilant.

How many times have we heard, "To hell with the lawyers!" I think we ought to revise it. To hell with the press!

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