Opinion: The Iraq struggle twentieth anniversary additionally marks a colossal failure of the mainstream media
Twenty years in the past, President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, toppling the despot Saddam Hussein and fomenting a form of hell that Iraq remains to be grappling with at present.
Twenty years in the past, this nation’s mainstream media — with one notable exception — purchased into phony Bush administration claims about Hussein’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, serving to cheerlead our nation right into a battle that ended the lives of hundreds of Americans and lots of of hundreds of Iraqis. The struggle — together with criminally poor post-war planning on the a part of Bush administration officers — additionally unleashed horrible sectarian strife, led to the emergence of ISIS and displaced greater than 1 million Iraqis.
That unhappy chapter in American historical past produced its share of jingoistic buzzwords and phrases: “WMD,” “the axis of evil,” “regime change,” “yellowcake uranium,” “the coalition of the willing,” and a tacky however terrifying chorus, repeated advert nauseam by Bush administration officers equivalent to then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice: “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” (The memorable metaphor was dreamed up by the late Michael Gerson, a Bush speechwriter on the time.)
Of course, there was by no means any smoking gun, mushroom-shaped or not.
Iraq’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed in 1991 after Iraq invaded Kuwait and was crushed again by a coalition of 35 nations led by the United States. The United Nations Security Council had additionally required Iraq to finish its organic and nuclear weapons applications.
This is to not say that Hussein was a defanged tiger; he was not.
But neither was he the menace he was portrayed to be. Misleading a public that had been shaken to its core by the 9/11 terrorist assaults turned out to be a comparatively simple activity for the warmongering neocons of the Bush administration. They foolishly believed they may impose democracy on a nation with no historical past of it.
Bush officers additionally manufactured phony hyperlinks between Iraq and the 9/11 assaults orchestrated by Islamist militant Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group Al Qaeda. To his lasting mortification, the late Secretary of State Colin Powell assured the world in a speech to the United Nations simply earlier than the invasion that the struggle was utterly justified by the hazard Iraq posed to the world.
“My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources,” mentioned Powell. “These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.” His statements, he later acknowledged, have been patently false, lots of which have been supplied to U.S. intelligence by unreliable sources — exiles equivalent to Ahmad Chalabi, an Iraqi opposition chief who dreamed of ousting Hussein and taking the reins of energy in Iraq.
Powell’s statements are amongst these documented in 2008 by the Center for Public Integrity, which compiled the lots of of lies advised by Bush and his high officers as a part of a marketing campaign geared toward persuading the American public to help the invasion of Iraq “under decidedly false pretenses.”
Most of the media, mentioned the middle, “was largely complicit in its uncritical coverage of the reasons for going to war.” There was a evident exception to that complicity. Three reporters and an editor in Knight-Ridder’s Washington bureau have been alone among the many main information organizations in questioning the administration’s narrative about WMD. Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel and Joe Galloway, with their editor John Walcott, threw water on a lot of what the mainstream media was reporting. The drama was captured in “Shock and Awe,” a 2017 characteristic movie by Rob Reiner, who performs Walcott.
In 2013, on the tenth anniversary of the invasion, Walcott advised me his group was pushed by skepticism, journalism’s most valuable useful resource.
“Most of the administration’s case for that war made absolutely no sense, specifically the notion that Saddam Hussein was allied with Osama bin Laden. A secular Arab dictator allied with a radical Islamist whose goal was to overthrow secular dictators and reestablish his caliphate? The more we examined it, the more it stank.”
Also, he mentioned, quite than depend on high-ranking administration officers, they sought out lower-level employees who weren’t political appointees and fewer apt to parrot the president to remain in his good graces.
Knight-Ridder turned out story after story undercutting the administration’s (and the New York Times’, Washington Post’s and Los Angeles Times’) model of Hussein’s capabilities. Some of Knight-Ridder’s personal newspapers — amongst them, the Philadelphia Inquirer — refused to run the tales, for worry of being contradicted, particularly by the New York Times, which defined its credulous protection of the WMD challenge about 15 months after the invasion.
“It is still possible that chemical or biological weapons will be unearthed in Iraq,” wrote Times editors, “but in this case it looks as if we, along with the administration, were taken in.”
Of course, there was sturdy opposition to the invasion of Iraq within the U.S. and world wide, although within the first few months of the battle, a majority of Americans polled have been supportive.
It didn’t take lengthy for disenchantment to set in. After all, the place have been all these Iraqis that Vice President Cheney had promised would greet American troopers as “liberators”?
Cheney has by no means apologized for his function within the Iraqi blunder (so far as I can inform, he’s nonetheless defending it). Neither has Bush, though he lately, if by accident, admitted the reality.
In a speech final May on the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, he mentioned it was “the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq, I mean, Ukraine.”
He winced, then nearly beneath his breath, added: “Iraq too.”