Here we are again. We arrive at yet another anniversary of Bush’s glorious war. Why are millions of innocent people suffering for so long? His reasons for the calamitous blunder and debacle were far from the stated purposes. He cared nothing for the Iraqi people and had no proof for his WMD and al-Qaeda claims. He wanted war for power, profit, oil, and last, but not least, his insurance as “war president” to win his 2004 re-election.
How long have we been at war in Iraq? Has it been a lifetime yet? Or have we only just begun?
If you are a child about to leave kindergarten and looking forward to first grade, it has been a lifetime. If you’re John McCain, your 100 year war is just beginning to get rolling. That kindergartener will need a job in 12 or 13 years and can look forward to joining in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I’m sure we will still need him to fight the terrorists over there so we won’t have to fight them over here. And while our young American is busy staying the course, I can also imagine how grateful the surviving Iraqi children will be when they greet our young soldier as a liberator, not as an occupier.
What kind of insanity has infected our country to the point where we even consider permanent war? If someone told you ten years ago that we’d be in such a quagmire of self-deluded stupidity today, you would have suggested immediate rehab for the poor wretch.
Instead of the poor wretch in need of detox, we now have an entire nation that desperately needs rehabilitation. Something has gone drastically wrong with our common sense and collective wisdom. We are the victims of our own mass madness.
Most of us individually know what happened. We were deceived into an unprovoked war of aggression. The tyranny of a lockstep, neocon Kool-Aid drinking Republican Party, supported by quivering spineless Democrats was the formula for disaster.
We had the Powell Doctrine that would prevent a quagmire from sucking our blood and treasure. Remember the idea of never committing the military without overwhelming numbers of troops and a clear exit strategy? That got blown away when General Shinseki was brushed aside for asserting that doctrine, and when Powell turned puppet for the neocons at his UN charade.
But there was also another essential element needed in order for the foolhardy crusade to be launched. The citizens needed to support it. Dissent needed to be suppressed. An authoritarian driven propaganda campaign needed to be utilized as a tool for the war machine.
Luckily, for the government of, by and for the corporations, they had the corporate media salivating for the chance to patriotically stir up war fever across America. Not only would war be good for the armaments industry and other military industrial complex corporations, it would also prove to be an incredible windfall of profits for the media conglomerates. There’s nothing like a hyped up, sensationalized call to war to get the presses rolling and the TV viewers glued to their living room screens. And once the fighting started the jackpot would grow even bigger.
Once the media climbed aboard the Republicans’ and Democrats’ war wagon the triumvirate of treachery was complete. At first only 30% of the public bought the idea of invading Iraq. Then the scare tactics were applied full force. Saddam has ties to al-Qaeda. He has anthrax. He has biological weapons, poisonous gas, and unmanned aircraft that will bring the mushroom clouds. Remember those scary aluminum tubes?
Soon 70% of the American public would be frightened enough to buy the propaganda. Off to war!
But wait. Wasn’t it the job of journalists in the media to investigate the claims made by the Administration? Weren’t they supposed to research the arguments and tell the public the truth?
How did this vile incestuous relationship happen between the media and the Bush Administration? Weren’t the media supposed to be liberal? Maybe if the media were actually liberal, instead of corporate run, things would have turned out better. Maybe the press once had that obligation, in the land of free speech and democracy. But they sure didn’t investigate anything in Bush’s America.
The first elements of the right wing propaganda machine got its big boost when Reagan’s FCC dismantled the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting. It was now open season for conservative radio and Fox News to slant the national discourse to the right.
The press had transformed itself into neocon mouthpieces. Journalism was replaced by Fox style propaganda and Judith Miller stenographers. Remember, it was not only Fox that cheered on the Right’s war mongering. “News” programs deliberately hosted twice as many pro-war advocates than guests who questioned going to war. MSNBC fired Phil Donahue because, according to a leaked NBC memo, he "presents a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.... At the same time our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."
The New York Times’s critical faculties were short circuited by the frenzy for a victorious war that would forever displace the Viet Nam Syndrome. Judith Miller dutifully reported White House claims against Iraq as fact.
However, before this lockstep media chorus sang its war song, something interesting happened back in August of 2001.
CNN began actively courting favor with the Republican Party. According to the August 6, 2001 issue of Roll Call magazine, CNN Chairman Walter Isaacson went to Washington D.C. to meet with Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Chuck Hagel, J.C. Watts and others in order to improve relations between the cable news network and conservative Republicans. I guess that went well.
The Republicans also had right wing talk radio and internet bloggers to “catapult the propaganda”. We can thank Bush for that quaint phrase.
Here’s what former Bush insider Dan Bartlett told Texas Monthly about conservative bloggers. “That’s what I mean by influential. I mean, talk about a direct IV into the vein of your support. It’s a very efficient way to communicate. They regurgitate exactly and put up on their blogs what you said to them. It is something that we’ve cultivated and have really tried to put quite a bit of focus on.”
Regurgitate. Now there’s the operating principle of our pre-war journalism. It’s looking like media regurgitation is a tough habit to kick. We still get it all the time. How about those doctored tapes of the little Iranian speedboats “threatening” the omnipotent U.S. Navy in the Strait of Hormuz? If that had happened a few years ago, we would be at war with Iran for another phony Gulf of Tonkin incident.
Propaganda regurgitation was soon combined with additional merging of government and media. Reports emerged that CIA agents had inserted themselves into news networks. Finally, news reporters were trained to become embedded into military units for the coming invasion.
Now it was onward to victory, with the flag waving, cheerleading media circus in tow.
Let’s take a nostalgic look back at some of the delirious visions and shameless drivel from a few of the nation’s leading media personalities.
Just before the invasion Bill O'Reilly said, "If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation; I will not trust the Bush administration again, all right?"
All right, Bill. How’s your memory? We’re still waiting.
After the fall of Baghdad, MSNBC's Chris Matthews declared, "We're all neocons now."
Upon the “Mission Accomplished” carrier landing Mathews gushed, “He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.”
A few critics, indeed.
Then Mathews went totally gaga like a teenage girl with a crush. “We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple.”
Never mind Bush was a privileged coward who was AWOL from the National Guard and refused to take a physical with a urine test. And never mind that McGovern was a real combat pilot in the Second World War.
Joe Scarborough, also on MSNBC, said, "I'm waiting to hear the words 'I was wrong' from some of the world's most elite journalists, politicians, and Hollywood types."
At least Joe had the insight later to reverse his endorsement of the war, after the insurgency and civil war and all hell broke loose.
I should at least give mention to the one “journalist” who had the courage to speak truth to both the media and the president.
The press and the president got an unexpected and unprecedented dose of mockery at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in April 2006. Stephen Colbert gave it to them in his own hilarious style of “truthiness”. He likened the president’s Iraq policy to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The glower on Bush’s face was priceless.
Then, addressing the correspondents directly, Colbert said, "Let's review the rules. The president makes decisions; he's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell-check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know—fiction."
Those were the days. The most powerful militarized nation in the world, with a power mad, war mongering president, was intoxicated by mass madness induced by mass media.
And for the musical segment of our presentation, we offer Dave Dubya’s “SCAM Stupid Corporate American Media.”
Here are more participants of the March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm.