|Toronto Sun June 15, 2003
U.S. media caved in to the Bush agenda
By Eric Margolis -- Contributing Foreign Editor
Why, readers in the U.S. keep asking me, are so many Americans
unconcerned their government appears to have misled them and Congress
over Iraq, and then waged a war with no basis in law or fact?
Why is there growing outrage in Britain over Tony Blair's equally
exaggerated or patently false warnings over Iraq, while middle
America couldn't seem to care less about George Bush's "Weaponsgate."
One answer is found in an old joke.
Greenberg is sitting in a bar. He goes up to Woo, a Chinese
gentleman, and punches him.
"Why'd you do that?" cries Woo.
"Because of Pearl Harbor," snarls Greenberg.
"But I had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor, I'm Chinese!" says Woo.
"Chinese, Japanese, it's all the same to me," answers Greenberg.
A month later, Greenberg sees Woo in the bar and apologizes to him.
The Chinese gentleman smiles, then punches Greenberg.
"Why did you do that?" cries Greenberg?
"Because of the Titanic."
"What do I have to do with the Titanic?" asks Greenberg.
"Greenberg, iceberg, it's all the same to me."
Iraqis, Iranians, Pakistanis, Saudis, Taliban, al-Qaida ... it's all
too much for many geographically challenged Americans. Don't bother
us with the details and strange names, they say, kill 'em all, God
will sort 'em out. The Muslim 'A-rabs' did 9/11 and we got revenge.
Whacking those I-raqis made us feel a whole lot better. So what if
Saddam didn't really have the weapons of mass destruction good ol'
George W. Bush said endangered the entire world? All politicians lie.
First, venting national outrage over 9/11 was one factor that helped
form this group-think.
Second, starting with Afghanistan, the Bush White House threatened
big corporate media it would be held "unpatriotic" and occasionally
hinted at unspecified reprisals if coverage did not actively support
the war effort there and in Iraq.
Big media too often caved in, sometimes sounding like a public
relations arm of the administration.
Third, there was near total domination of Iraq media commentary by
the special interest groups that helped to engineer this phony war.
Almost all of it in the lead-up to war was done by self-serving Iraqi
exiles, uninformed generals and neo-conservatives from Washington
think-tanks sometimes echoing the views of Israel's Likud party. In
short, a media lynch mob developed, endlessly repeating that
Baghdad's terrifying killer weapons were about to blitz the U.S.
I scanned the major U.S. networks for voices challenging the
distortions and bunkum coming from the White House and neo-cons.
There was virtually none.
Group-think and the big lie prevailed. The British and Canadian media
carried both pro- and anti-war views; as a result, there was far more
healthy skepticism in both nations about the war than in America.
By contrast, much of the U.S. mainstream media muffled criticism,
became part of the war effort and devoted itself to patriotic
flag-waving. Americans would have been totally misled had it not been
for such Internet sites as Antiwar.com, Bigeye and LewRockwell, and
incisive magazines such as American Conservative and Harpers.
Even the august New York Times allowed itself to be used. Right now,
the Times is hand-wringing about two cases of plagiarism and phony
reporting by staffers. It should instead be anguishing that its pages
trumpeted phony reports about Iraqi weapons and links to al-Qaida
that came from anti-Saddam exile groups and the pro-war cabal in the
Most so-called Iraqi "experts" on TV, including some colleagues of
mine, merely regurgitated what they had read in the morning's Times.
The Times and much of the major media were duped, to put it politely,
abandoning their vital role in our democratic system as tribune and
questioner of the politicians.
So, too, the Democratic party, which, as war fever was being stoked
by the Bush administration and the press, shamefully rolled over and
played dead - with the exception of that great American, Sen. Robert
Byrd of West Virginia, who long ago denounced Bush's Iraq
misadventure, and who now demands a full investigation of how
Americans and their Congress were misled.
The black comedy continues:
* Bush citing what turned out to be crudely forged documents in his
state of the union address. * "Drones of death" that turned out to be
rickety model airplanes. * The "decontamination" trucks cited by
Colin Powell that turned out to be fire trucks when inspected by the
UN. * The notorious "mobile germ labs" the British press now reports
were for inflating artillery balloons and, in fact, were sold to Iraq
by the U.K.
Some British and American intelligence officers are accusing their
governments of outright lies or absurd exaggerations.
Maybe Americans have become brain-dead from too much TV. Maybe they
don't care terrorism is surging, or that recent polls show the U.S.
is reviled, hated, or distrusted around the globe thanks to this
administration and its neo-con mentors. Maybe they don't understand
that over 288 Americans and an estimated 26,300 Iraqi civilians and
soldiers have so far died in a totally unnecessary conflict. Or that
the U.S. in now stuck in an ugly little colonial war in Iraq, its
very own West Bank and Gaza.