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
Saturday, March 27, 2004  
A Critic and His Critics: Massing vs. the New York Times
Did the Press Botch the WMD Story?

Blog editor's note: A major storm has erupted over press critic Michael Massing's critique in the New York Review of Books (Feb. 26, 2004) of how during the run-up to the war the elite press covered the question of whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. An exchange in the letters-to-the-editor column of the NYRB continues between Massing and some of the journalists he took to task. In my view, and based on my own research, Massing comes out on top.

To read the most recent exchange of letters between Massing and Michael Gilbert of the New York Times as well as one from Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, see New York Review of Books

8:44 AM

“The News Media and Iraq Since War’s ‘End’”

William A. Dorman
Prof. of Government
Calif. State Univ., Sacramento
Forum: The Iraq War--A Year Later
March 23, 2004

Blog editor's note: What follows is the beginning of a panel presentation I recently gave. If you wish to receive the text of the complete talk, email me at and I'll send it to you as an attachment.

I spend much of my time in the classroom considering the difference between belief and knowledge. If you stop and think about it, they are not the same thing, and we confuse the two at our peril. For instance, many students believe there is a weeklong grace period for parking without a sticker in faculty lots at the beginning of the semester. Were more students actually to know what the policy is, there would be many fewer tickets issued, and I could more readily find a parking spot.

It is precisely this distinction between belief and knowledge that interests me about the results announced last week by a highly respected polling organization. It indicated that fully 62 per cent of the American public believes the Iraq war a year ago “helped the war on terror.”

This is about the same percentage last June, I must remind you, which was found by another polling organization to believe one or more of three mistaken impressions: The first being that U.S. forces actually found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the second that there is clear evidence that Saddam Hussein worked closely with Sept. 11 terrorists, and the third that Iraq had used weapons of mass destruction against American forces. None of these things, of course, do we know to be true.

It’s not my purpose this afternoon to belittle the American people for believing things that are not so. Rather, it is to explore some reasons for why this might occur.

To read the rest of these remarks, email me for a copy at

8:12 AM

Sunday, March 21, 2004  
Fears Impacted U.S. Reporting on Iraq

March 20, 2004

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Competitive pressures and a fear of appearing unpatriotic discouraged journalists from doing more critical reporting during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, according to reporters and others at a conference on media coverage of the war.

The journalists on the panels at the University of California at Berkeley this week blamed the Bush administration for leaking faulty information, but said the media also has itself to blame for not being more skeptical about the case for war.

For the rest of the story, see New York Times

9:06 PM

A War's Woeful Results

The Los Angeles Times | Editorial
20 March 2004

  The first anniversary of the war in Iraq provides an inevitable and appropriate time for reflection. The Bush administration deployed its top officials this week to argue its case. President Bush on Friday took his turn, telling diplomats from scores of countries gathered in the East Room of the White House that Iraqis are better off now and that the world at large is safer than it was a year ago.

  At least the president might score a debatable point in asserting that life in Iraq is far better without Saddam Hussein. But he's the president of the United States and leader of the free world. So it's fair to ask whether the war has made life better for this nation and its allies. In our assessment, it has not. Although ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction was the administration's major selling point for the war, it is now clear that Hussein's regime no longer possessed those weapons. And European allies, including Poland — which Bush on Friday used as a post-communist model of how Iraq could evolve — feel misled and more worried than ever about their security.

For the rest of the editorial, see Los Angeles Times

9:01 PM

Ex - Adviser Blasts Bush's Terror Response

New York Times
March 21, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, ``looked skeptical'' when she was warned early in 2001 about the threat from al-Qaida and appeared to never have heard of the terrorist organization, according to Bush's former counterterrorism coordinator.

``Her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard the term before,'' wrote Richard A. Clarke in a new book -- ``Against All Enemies'' -- that is scathingly critical of Bush's response to the 2001 terror attacks against New York and Washington. The Associated Press obtained a copy of Clarke's book before its Monday publication.

Clarke said Rice, who previously worked for Bush's father, appeared not to recognize post-Cold War security issues and effectively demoted him within the national security council. He said Rice has an unusually close relationship with Bush, which ``should have given her some maneuver room, some margin for shaping the agenda.''

Clarke, expected to testify Tuesday before a federal panel investigating the attacks, recounted his meeting with Rice as support for his contention that the Bush administration failed to recognize the risk of an attack by al-Qaida in the months leading to Sept. 11, 2001. Clarke retired in March 2003 after three decades in the U.S. government.

To read the rest of this story, see New York Times

8:59 PM

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