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
Friday, April 01, 2005  

Blog editor's Note: I was wondering how major newspaper editorialists would greet the unveiling of yesterday's Senate Intelligence Committee report. Below are two samples that indicate two decidedly different readings of the document. For what's worth, I believe the first one by The Times to have hit the bullseye and the second by WSJ to be an exercise in tortured apologetics for the Bush administration.

A Profile in Timidity

The New York Times
April 1, 2005

The president's commission on intelligence gathering could have saved the country a lot of time, and considerable paper, by not publishing its report yesterday and just e-mailing everyone the Web addresses for the searching studies already done by the 9/11 commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee. After more than a year's dithering, the panel produced some 600 pages of conventional wisdom about the intelligence failures before the war with Iraq, along with a big dose of political spin that pleased the White House but provided little enlightenment for the public.

We were not optimistic when President Bush was pressured into creating this panel in February 2004. Though bipartisan, its membership lacked stature or independence, and Mr. Bush failed to give the commission a sweeping mandate that would go beyond rehashing the distressing but well-known shortcomings of the intelligence agencies. Still, it seemed worth waiting until after the election for the results because it was hard to imagine that the panel would not ask the vital questions.

Sadly, there is nothing about the central issue - how the Bush administration handled the intelligence reports on Iraq's weapons programs and presented them to the public to win support for the invasion of Iraq. All we get is an excuse: the panel was "not authorized" to look at this question, so it didn't bother. The report says the panel "interviewed a host of current and former policy makers" about the intelligence on Iraq, but did not "review how policy makers subsequently used that information." (We can just see it - an investigator holding up his hand and declaiming: "Stop right there, Mr. Secretary! We're not authorized to know what you did.")

To read the full text, see New York Times

A Media Intelligence Failure

Wall Street Journal
April 1, 2005; Page A10

We'll need time to dig through the details in the 600-plus-page Robb-Silberman report on intelligence that was released yesterday. But one important conclusion worth noting, even on a quick reading, is that the report blows apart the myth that intelligence provided by Iraqi politician and former exile Ahmed Chalabi suckered the U.S. into going to war.

That myth was a media and antiwar favorite last year, before the U.S. and Iraq elections, and when all of Washington thought President Bush was a one-termer. CIA and State Department sources peddled the idea that an Iraqi defector code-named "Curveball" had planted bad information about Saddam's WMD. "Curveball" was widely broadcast as an agent of Mr. Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress, with the not-so-subtle implication that his intelligence was used by the Pentagon to deceive Mr. Bush into going to war.

The promoters of some version of this theory included Senator Ted Kennedy and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as such prominent journalists as NBC's Tim Russert, reporters at the Los Angeles Times, Joe Klein of Time, and Evan Thomas and Mark Hosenball of Newsweek. "The ideologues at the Defense Department were warned by doubters at the State Department and CIA that Chalabi was peddling suspect goods," declared Newsweek. "Even so, the Bushies were bamboozled by a Machiavellian con man for the ages."

To read the full text, see Wall Street Journal

3:49 PM

Wednesday, March 30, 2005  
Dear War Supporter: Since You Asked . . .

by R. J. Eskow
Common Dreams News Center
March 30, 2005
Blog editor's note: Sometimes a piece incorporating wit and irony comes along that accomplishes what no amount of sweet reason can, particularly when you are trying to persuade people who confuse their beliefs with knowledge. The essay that follows, in my judgment, is just such a piece.

 "I have to infer from that (statement) that you would be happier if Saddam Hussein were still in power."
- Paul Wolfowitz

Let's deal with this question once and for all, OK? It's the classic retort given by neocons and other war supporters when anyone questions the wisdom of the Iraq War. In this case, it was Wolfowitz's response to a student who had just said the following: "We are tired, Secretary Wolfowitz, of being feared and hated by the world. We are tired of watching Americans and Iraqis die, and international institutions cry out in anger against us."

Let's say I get disturbed by a spider crawling the garage wall. I slam the car into it at 50 miles an hour, destroying the car and causing a few thousand dollars in damage to the garage. When my wife objects, I say:

"I have to infer from that statement that you would be happier if that spider were still crawling up the wall." No, schmuck, she says, I'd be happier if we still had a car and didn't have to fork out ten thousand dollars to fix the garage.

To read the full text, see

8:47 AM

Monday, March 28, 2005

Past Arguments Don't Square With Current Iran Policy

By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post
Sunday, March 27, 2005; Page A15

Blog editor's note: The story that follows is an example of how the press can provide important historical context to a foreign policy direction IF it occurs to journalists to do so. More often than not, however, such context is missing and the average news consumer is left in the dark about, say, contradictions in U.S. policy similar to those discussed in this piece.

Lacking direct evidence, Bush administration officials argue that Iran's nuclear program must be a cover for bomb-making. Vice President Cheney recently said, "They're already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. Nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy."

Yet Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and outgoing Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz held key national security posts when the Ford administration made the opposite argument 30 years ago.

Ford's team endorsed Iranian plans to build a massive nuclear energy industry, but also worked hard to complete a multibillion-dollar deal that would have given Tehran control of large quantities of plutonium and enriched uranium -- the two pathways to a nuclear bomb. Either can be shaped into the core of a nuclear warhead, and obtaining one or the other is generally considered the most significant obstacle to would-be weapons builders.

Iran, a U.S. ally then, had deep pockets and close ties to Washington. U.S. companies, including Westinghouse and General Electric, scrambled to do business there.

To read the full text, see Washington Post

7:52 AM

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