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, April 17, 2004  
Bush's Iraq Getaway

By Nat Parry
March 16, 2004

Blog editor's note: This is quite simply one of the best summaries I've read of how and why we got involved in Iraq. Moreover, at least so far as the mainstream press concerned, it makes painfully clear that this is hardly the "Age of Information" as pundits like to assert.

A year after the invasion of Iraq, it is increasingly clear that the pre-war “debate” was a stage-managed manipulation of the American people, aided and abetted by a U.S. press corps that was too timid to ask tough questions when it mattered most. Now, with about 560 U.S. soldiers dead along with uncounted thousands of Iraqis, the Bush administration has entered what might be called its “getaway” period.

The key now for George W. Bush is to manage a political escape from his mugging of a fundamental precept of democracy – an informed electorate – and still win a second term. To achieve that, Bush has employed some tried-and-true tactics, like hand-picking a presidential commission that will report on his use of intelligence after the November elections. But most importantly, he is still trusting that the U.S. news media is incapable of sustaining much scrutiny.

In that regard, Bush has reason for optimism. Even dramatic disclosures over the past few months have failed to attract or hold the attention of the U.S. press corps.

NSC Document

For instance, toward the end of a recent story in The New Yorker magazine, writer Jane Mayer reported the discovery of a National Security Council document dated Feb. 3, 2001 – only two weeks after Bush took office. It instructed NSC officials to cooperate with Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force, explaining that the task force was “melding” two previously unrelated areas of policy: “the review of operational policies towards rogue states” and “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.”

Before this disclosure, it was believed that Cheney’s secretive task force was focusing on ways to reduce environmental regulations and fend off the Kyoto protocol on global warming. But Mayer’s discovery suggests that the Bush administration in its first days recognized the linkage between ousting the likes of Saddam Hussein and securing oil reserves for future U.S. consumption. In other words, the Cheney task force appears to have had a military component to “capture” oil fields in “rogue states.” [For details on Mayer’s document, see The New Yorker, Feb. 16, 2004.]

The NSC document dovetails with statements by Bush’s first Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, who has described a similar early linkage between invading Iraq and controlling its vast oil reserves. In Ron Suskind’s The Price of Loyalty, O’Neill describes the first NSC meeting at the White House only a few days into Bush’s presidency. An invasion of Iraq was already on the agenda, O’Neill said. There was even a map for a post-war occupation, marking out how Iraq’s oil fields would be carved up.

O’Neill said even at that early date, the goal of invading Iraq was clear. The message from Bush was “find a way to do this,” according to O’Neill, who was forced out in December 2002. To this day, of course, the U.S. news media still joins the Bush administration in mocking as a conspiracy theory any suggestion that oil might have been a motive for the Iraq War.

Path to War

Bush’s path to war in Iraq opened after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Though there was no credible evidence connecting Saddam Hussein to Sept. 11, Bush was able to use America’s united-we-stand sentiment to turn the public toward war anywhere as long as he claimed some link to the terror attacks that killed some 3,000 people.

To read the rest of this analysis, see

11:33 AM

Friday, April 16, 2004  
Bush Asked for Iraq War Plan in Nov. 2001

Blog editor's note: This item gives a preview of Bob Woodward's new book on last year's war with Iraq. One of the most famous journalists in the U.S., Woodward's work will not be easily dismissed.

Fri Apr 16, 2004
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush asked his Pentagon chief in November 2001 to draw up a war plan against Iraq, the White House confirmed on Friday.

The admission from the White House about the early timing of a discussion about war strategy came after the administration was questioned about a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.

The revelation is sure to fire up some of Bush's critics who have accused him of being too eager to go to war against Iraq and of diverting resources from the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept 11 attacks.

The book, entitled "Plan of Attack," is not due to be released until next week but the Associated Press published some details from it after obtaining an early copy.

The book, according to the Associated Press, reveals that Bush took Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld aside on Nov. 21, 2001, and asked him to come up with a fresh war plan.

That request came less than two months after the United States launched a war on Afghanistan and a year and a half before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

To read more, see

5:48 PM

How the “NewsHour” Changed History

By Norman Solomon
FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting)
April 15, 2004

When the anchor of public television’s main news program goes out of his way to tell viewers that he’s setting the record straight about a recent historic event, the people watching are apt to assume that they’re getting accurate information. But with war intensifying in Iraq, a bizarre episode raises some very troubling concerns about the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Here’s what happened:

During a panel discussion April 7 on the NewsHour, while battles raged in close to a dozen Iraqi cities, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel referred to the American authorities’ closure of a newspaper that had served as a megaphone for the anti-occupation Shiite leader Moktada al-Sadr. “The immediate problem we have to remember is we started this...with the aggressive policies towards Sadr that came from us, shutting down his press,” Col. Sam Gardiner said.

The program’s anchor spoke next.

Jim Lehrer: “The reason we shut down his press is because it was calling for violence and anti-American--”

Col. Gardiner: “Sure.”

Lehrer: “I just want to get that on the record.”

But Lehrer’s comment-- ostensibly setting the record straight-- was at odds with the available factual record about Sadr’s newspaper. In sync with other news accounts, the New York Times had reported two days earlier that “the paper did not print any calls for attacks.”

To read the rest of this story, see FAIR

10:06 AM

Tuesday, April 13, 2004  
13 Questions for Bush
Some help for the starstruck media covering tonight's White House press conference

By John Doble
Editor & Publisher
April 13, 2004

Blog editor's note: Doble is a public opinion analyst and president of Doble Research in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

A formal press conference involving President Bush is clearly a major (almost anomalous) event -- the last one was Dec. 15, 2003 -- and given the media's recent track record for acting starstruck in the spotlight, I thought I would try to help by providing a few questions in advance:

On Sunday, April 11, when asked by Tim Russert which Iraqi leaders the U.S. planned to turn the government over to on June 30, Paul Bremer said, "That's a good question." What is your answer to that question?

Harry S. Truman said, "The buck stops here," at the president's desk. Do you feel that when it comes to taking responsibility for 9/11, the buck stops with you or that the buck stops at the desks of the directors of the CIA and FBI?

To read the rest of Dobie's questions, see Editor & Publisher

12:37 PM

Monday, April 12, 2004  
News Pools as Iraq Heats Up
Safety Concerns Force Networks to Share Images From Fallujah as Resistance Escalates

By Michele Greppi

The mounting violence in Iraq against American and coalition military forces and foreign civilians has created a dangerous situation for journalists who need to move about the embattled region. The city of Fallujah in particular has become so unsafe that network news divisions have set aside their usual competitiveness to create a pool arrangement for sharing TV images.

"It is about as tense as it's been since I've been coming here," said ABC News correspondent David Wright, who has been reporting from Iraq off and on since before the United States launched the war in March 2003.

With fiercely fought rebellion spreading swiftly from Fallujah throughout southern Iraq and insurgent militias snatching foreigners-including journalists-in broad daylight, Mr. Wright, in a phone call from Baghdad, Iraq, last week, described the situation confronting journalists as "the most dangerous" since the war began. American TV news organizations ratcheted up their security and other precautionary measures accordingly.

ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC news operations agreed to share video obtained from besieged Fallujah by a network pool that last week consisted of a CBS News crew, a Fox News producer and an ABC News uplink. The pool travels and operates under the protection of U.S. Marines who are trying to regain control of the central Iraqi city. Lourdes Navarro, a broadcast correspondent for the Associated Press, has been phoning reports of the Marines' battle for Fallujah to a number of TV outlets in the States.

To read the rest of the story, see TelevisionWeek

10:15 AM

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