Magwitch, who is currently interning at the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), has completed a review of the media coverage of the leadup to the war just in time for the 4th anniversary of Shock and Awe. "Iraq and the Media: A Critical Timeline" is horrifying to read - as it reminds us how the hand-wringing regarding "if I knew then what I knew now" is so utterly insincere. What we knew then, really, is that there was no convincing evidence that Saddam presented an imminent threat to the US; and that there was no convincing evidence that he had weapons of mass destruction. But what we also knew is that raising questions about the march to war meant you would be tagged as a collaborator or worse.
Distortions and even bald-faced lies, intended to scare mainstream America into suppressing any doubts they might have about a war of choice, we trotted out onto such venues as Oprah. From the timeline:
October 9, 2002Then, of course, was the slim defining of the public discourse so that the only acceptable debate was whether we attack Iraq sooner or later.
—Kenneth Pollack, the influential and heavily cited war advocate at the Brookings Institution, appears on the Oprah show to discuss the impending war. "Does he have the ability to attack us here in the United States?" Oprah Winfrey asks. "He certainly does," Pollack explains. "He has biological and chemical agents that he could employ, but he'd have to use terrorist means to do so, which he's done in the past.... Right now, his capabilities to do so are fairly limited. The problem is that we know that he is building new capabilities as fast as he can.
For those who actually were protesting, mainstream media outlets found that if accusations of treachery couldn't shut them up, perhaps lies aimed at achieving their dismissal would:
October 14, 2002
—Illustrating the limited range of debate in the corporate media, Time magazine pairs a supposedly dovish piece by Wesley Clark, headlined "Let's Wait to Attack," with a hawkish article by Kenneth Adelman headlined, "No, Let's Not Waste Any Time."
October 26, 2002And then, there is the worst lie of all - one that the White House and Pentagon could not have possibly believed, or knew at least they'd never be held to account for:
—Reporting on a massive anti-war march in Washington, DC, NPR's Nancy Marshall claims that the event is "not as large as the organizers of the protest had predicted. They had said there would be 100,000 people here. I'd say there are fewer than 10,000." The next day, the New York Times reports that "thousands" attended the protest, "fewer people attended than organizers had said they hoped for." The report is under 500 words and appears on page 8 of the paper. The next day (10/28/02), FAIR issues an action alert challenging the reporting of the New York Times and NPR. Thousands of emails later, the Times re-reported the story (10/30/02), admitting that the protest "drew 100,000 by police estimates and 200,000 by organizers', forming a two-mile wall around the White House." On the same day, NPR airs a correction.
November 14, 2002Well, now we're heading into year number 5, and the party line now is that critics of the surge haven't "given it time to work."
—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appears on a special national radio call-in on Infinity Radio affiliates, where he says the war will be brief: "Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that."
How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? When will we even admit that it was a mistake, and that we didn't have to make it, and that we need to make sure not to make a similar one again?
Are we even anywhere near the end?