Commentary and links relating to media coverage of war; both before, during, and after.

William A. Dorman is Professor of Government at California State University, Sacramento, and has taught a course in War, Peace and the Mass Media since 1970.

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War, Peace, and the Mass Media
Monday, April 30, 2007  
Tenet: You should have resigned
Open Letter from former CIA Officers

Blog editor's note: Six former CIA officers write an open letter to George Tenet in which they argue (a) that there was no strong consensus among intelligence professionals that Iraq had WMDs, and (b) that Tenet was just as much at fault as the rest of the Bush administration for transforming shaky intelligence into an air-tight case for war. It is moments such as these, when important people such as Tenet begin covering their respective backsides, that the general public finally gets a glimpse into the halls of power.

Dear Mr. Tenet:
We write to you on the occasion of the release of your book, At the
Center of the Storm. You are on the record complaining about the
“damage to your reputation”. In our view the damage to your
reputation is inconsequential compared to the harm your actions have
caused for the U.S. soldiers engaged in combat in Iraq and the
national security of the United States. We believe you have a moral
obligation to return the Medal of Freedom you received from President
George Bush. We also call for you to dedicate a significant percentage
of the royalties from your book to the U.S. soldiers and their families
who have been killed and wounded in Iraq.

We agree with you that Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush
administration officials took the United States to war for flimsy
reasons. We agree that the war of choice in Iraq was ill-advised and
wrong headed. But your lament that you are a victim in a process you
helped direct is self-serving, misleading and, as head of the
intelligence community, an admission of failed leadership. You were
not a victim. You were a willing participant in a poorly considered
policy to start an unnecessary war and you share culpability with Dick
Cheney and George Bush for the debacle in Iraq.

To read the rest of this letter, see

12:37 PM

Sunday, April 29, 2007  
Iraq a mistake - ex-Army big

The Associated Press
Sunday, April 29th 2007

WASHINGTON - President Bush is "squandering" American lives in Iraq and should sign legislation to begin pulling out U.S. troops on Oct. 1, retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom said yesterday.

"I hope the President seizes this moment for a basic change in course and signs the bill Congress has sent him," Odom said, delivering the Democrats' weekly radio address.

Odom, an outspoken critic of the war who served as the Army's top intelligence officer and headed the National Security Agency during the Ronald Reagan administration, delivered the address at the request of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). He said he has never been a Democrat or a Republican.

The general accused Bush of helping Iran and Al Qaeda by invading Iraq.

"The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place," he said.

"He [Bush] lets the United States fly further and further into trouble, squandering its influence, money and blood, facilitating the gains of our enemies."

8:42 AM

Wednesday, April 11, 2007  
'Your Iraq plan?' is a pointless question
Candidates should acknowledge that Bush's war is a failure and look beyond Iraq.

By Andrew J. Bacevich
Los Angeles Times
April 9, 2007

Blog Editor's note: In this opinion piece, Bacevich gives a crystal clear view of what journalists should be asking presidential candidates about American foreign policy. He is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He is the author of "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War."

For today's presidential candidates, the question is unavoidable: What is your plan for Iraq?

In interviews and town hall meetings, on talk shows and at fundraisers, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Rudolph W. Giuliani and all the others aspiring to succeed President Bush confront a battery of Iraq questions: Are you for the surge or against it? If the surge fails, what's your Plan B? How will you help the troops win? How will you get the troops out?

However sincere, such questions are also pointless. To pose them is to invite dissembling. The truth is that next to nothing can be done to salvage Iraq. It no longer lies within the capacity of the United States to determine the outcome of events there. Iraqis will decide their own fate. We are spectators, witnesses, bystanders caught in a conflagration that we ourselves, in an act of monumental folly, touched off.

The questions that ought to be asked now — but so far have not been — are of a different order.

To read the full text, see Los Angeles

8:13 AM

Tuesday, April 10, 2007  
Reporter recalls the layers of truth told in Iraq
After 41/2 years 'in country,' The Times' Borzou Daragahi looks back on what it took each day to get to the story and get out alive.

By Borzou Daragahi
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

April 10, 2007

Baghdad — THE young man with the AK-47 at a checkpoint in the Triangle of Death ordered us out of the car the moment he realized I was a foreigner. A flat gray sky closed in. Dust and diesel exhaust filled the hot air. He led us into the desert, over scrub brush and cigarette butts, toward a grizzled man in a wooden hut.

"And who is he?" the older man asked my Iraqi colleague and interpreter, Raheem.

I had repeatedly promised my bosses, my colleagues, my family and my wife, Delphine, that I wouldn't take big risks. But here I was in the early summer of 2006 in the middle of a lawless desert between Baghdad and Najaf that had swallowed up hundreds of Iraqis and not a small number of foreigners. I was speaking to a man who acted like a cop but looked like he could have been an insurgent commander, the head of a kidnapping ring or a death squad leader.

To read the full text, see Los Angeles

7:54 AM

Monday, April 09, 2007  
Sweet Little Lies

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
Monday 09 April 2007

Blog editor's note: Krugman's analyis does not just apply to members of the public, in my view. It also contributes to the credulity of mainstream journalism.

Four years into a war fought to eliminate a nonexistent threat, we all have renewed appreciation for the power of the Big Lie: people tend to believe false official claims about big issues, because they can't picture their leaders being dishonest about such things.

But there's another political lesson I don't think has sunk in: the power of the Little Lie - the small accusation invented out of thin air, followed by another, and another, and another. Little Lies aren't meant to have staying power. Instead, they create a sort of background hum, a sense that the person facing all these accusations must have done something wrong.

For a long time, basically from 9/11 until the last remnants of President Bush's credibility drowned in New Orleans, the Bush administration was able to go big on its deceptions. Most people found it inconceivable that an American president would, for example, assert without evidence that Saddam and Al Qaeda were allies. Mr. Bush won the 2004 election because a quorum of voters still couldn't believe he would grossly mislead them on matters of national security.

Before 9/11, however, the right-wing noise machine mainly relied on little lies. And now it has returned to its roots.

To read the full text, see

2:14 PM

Friday, April 06, 2007  
Levin Releases Newly Declassified Pentagon Inspector General Report on Intelligence Assessment Activities of the Office of Under Secretary of Defense Doug Feith

Press Office
Sen. Carl Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee
April 5, 2007

Blog editor's note: More evidence of how the Bush administration ignored the intelligence community's consensus and substituted its own view of things to justify a war with Iraq comes in this report that was declassified yesterday. For an account of another dimension of the Administration's "faith based" intelligence, see an excerpt in the Washington Post on Monday from the newly published book, "The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Case for War in Iraq." The book is authored by two veteran investigative journalists, Peter Eisner and Knut Royce. See see Washington

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today released the newly declassified report [PDF] of the Department of Defense Inspector General on its "Review of the Pre-Iraqi War Activities of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy." The report was declassified at Levin's request.

In releasing the report, Levin said: "It is important for the public to see why the Pentagon's Inspector General concluded that Secretary Feith's office 'developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al-Qaeda relationship,' which included 'conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community,' and why the Inspector General concluded that these actions were 'inappropriate.' Until today, those details were classified and outside the public's view."

The Feith office alternative intelligence assessments concluded that Iraq and al Qaeda were cooperating and had a "mature, symbiotic" relationship, a view that was not supported by the available intelligence, and was contrary to the consensus view of the Intelligence Community. These alternative assessments were used by the Administration to support its public arguments in its case for war. As the DOD IG report confirms, the Intelligence Community never found an operational relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda; the report specifically states that,"the CIA and DIA disavowed any 'mature, symbiotic' relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida."

To read the full text, see Levin Press Office

8:04 AM

Wednesday, April 04, 2007  
ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran

ABC News
April 03, 2007 5:25 PM
Brian Ross and Christopher Isham Report

Blog editor's note: What's interesting about this report is not the revelation itself. The U.S., like most major powers, has a long history of sponsoring or encouraging operations such as this. What's worthy of note is that ABC news thought to run the story. Of course, mainstream media could have reported on this subject at least a year ago. For one thing, scholars have long been aware of such activities. For another, the alternative news service Inter Press Service did a similar story a month ago. The important question is why mainstream journalists didn't pursue this story long before yesterday's report.

A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News.

The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.

It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.

To read the full text, see ABC News

8:01 AM

Tuesday, March 27, 2007  
The Public Editor's Journal:
Finding Trustworthy Translators

New York Times
March 19, 2007

Blog editor's note: The following email exchange gives a revealing glimpse into how a major news organization approaches the problem of using translators and/or stringers in covering an extraordinarily dangerous environment, i.e. Iraq.

The question from Mark Schroeder, a Times reader in New York, was a good one. “How can someone who does not speak the language of the people involved quote them and determine an accurate set of facts for an article?” he asked in a Feb. 23 e-mail.

I asked Andrea Kannapell, a staff editor on the foreign desk, to respond to Mr. Schroeder’s message. Her response explained the care that Times correspondents take in recruiting and using translators in reporting that must be done in a foreign language. I think her explanation will be of interest to many readers of the paper.

To read the full text, see New York Times

9:02 AM

Sunday, March 11, 2007  
Another Grim Week in Iraq

The New York Times
March 10, 2007

On Sunday in Basra, British troops stormed an Iraqi intelligence office and found about 30 prisoners, some of them tortured. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki was outraged — not at the torture, but at the raid that halted it. Soon British troops will be leaving Basra, leaving Mr. Maliki and his security forces free to do as they please.

On Monday in Baghdad, a suicide bomber attacked a row of bookstores, killing 20 people. The White House insists that Baghdad is growing more secure, as the extra infusion of American troops ordered by President Bush begins to take up positions in threatened neighborhoods. And on it went. On Tuesday, sectarian attacks killed at least 118 Shiite pilgrims. Then on Thursday, The Times reported that the day-to-day commander of American forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, was recommending that those extra 21,500 combat troops — plus the 7,000 support troops Mr. Bush somehow forgot to mention — stay on into next year. On the same day, General Odierno’s boss, Gen. David Petraeus, said that even more American troops could be needed in the near future.

Anyone who wanted to believe that all Mr. Bush was seeking was a short-term security push — as part of a larger strategy to extricate American troops from this unwinnable war — now needs to face up to a far less palatable reality. What is under way is a significant and long-term escalation. The Army cannot sustain these levels for more than another few months. And as long as Iraq’s leaders refuse to make significant political changes, the civil war will continue to spin out of control.

To read the full text, see The New York Times

8:45 AM

Thursday, March 08, 2007  
Who Cares

"On the Media"
March 02, 2007

Heads are rolling in the wake of The Washington Post’s expose of deplorable conditions at Walter Reed. But Salon's Mark Benjamin has been writing variations on the Post’s story for years. He discusses the media’s newfound interest in wounded vets.

On Friday, the Secretary of the U.S. Army resigned. It was the latest shoe to drop in the wake of The Washington Post's expose two weeks ago about the breakdown in outpatient care at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The article depicted an overloaded system, where soldiers with serious injuries must fend for themselves in a nightmarish bureaucracy with substandard facilities.

The Post may have made the biggest splash, but in recent weeks the plight of the wounded also sparked major pieces in Newsweek, The New York Times, The Boston Globe and NPR, among others. This week, ABC's Bob Woodruff hosted a special on vets with traumatic brain injuries, the signature injury of the roadside bomb, the injury he sustained last year.

It's clear why ABC latched onto that story, but why the sudden interest across the media? We put the question to a reporter who's been covering the stories of wounded Iraq war vets probably longer than anybody else. That's Mark Benjamin, of the online magazine Salon. He suggests that editors may be more willing to go after these stories partly because the public is more receptive to bleak news about the war.

To read the full text, see

8:23 AM

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