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 08, 2005  
Iraq: The Real Election

By Mark Danner
The New York Review of Books
Volume 52, Number 7 ·
April 28, 2005

Blog editor's note: Given that students in my War, Peace and the Mass Media course are reading Danner's El Mozote book, the following piece dealing with Iraq's elections may be of particular interest. Some observers are describing this analysis as the best, most clear-eyed reportage available on the Iraq elections and what they portend for the future. Certainly, Danner's work provides a valuable example of thematic reporting, as opposed to the episodic sort that dominates mainstream news. Danner is author, most recently, of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror [New York Review of Books]

"The essence of any insurgency, and its most decisive battle space, is the psychological. [It's] armed theater: you have protagonists on the stage but they're sending messages to wider audiences. Insurgency is about perceptions, beliefs, expectations, legitimacy, and will. Insurgency is not won by killing insurgents, not won by seizing territory; it's won by altering the psychological factors that are most relevant."[1]

Just past dawn on January 30, Iraq's Election Day—the fourth of the US occupation's "turning points," after the fall of Baghdad, the capture of Saddam Hussein, and the "handover of sovereignty"—I stood at the muddy gates of Muthana Air Base outside Baghdad watching the sun rise, pink and full, into a white-streaked sky; then, feeling a sudden tremor beneath my feet, I started abruptly: the explosion was loud and, judging by the vibrations, not far off.

To read the full text, see New York Review of Books

7:54 AM

Monday, April 04, 2005  
Miller's UN Reporting

The Nation
[from the April 18, 2005 issue]

The editorial page of the New York Times recently led with a justifiably outraged condemnation of George W. Bush's choice for United Nations ambassador--John Bolton, a famously outspoken anti-UN and antimultilateral ideologue. How ironic, then, that the Times's news editors had previously dispatched to the UN a reporter tight with the same Boltonite unilateralist clique--a reporter who has written about alleged wrongdoing at the UN in such an exaggerated way as to cast the organization and its leadership as almost beyond redemption.

When she began her work at the UN, Judith Miller was still under a cloud for her starring role in the Iraq Invasion Follies, in which she hyped Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda ties--claims that greatly buttressed the White House case for war but that ultimately proved unfounded [see Baker, "'Scoops' and Truth at the Times," June 23, 2003]. The Times, which has since published a series of mea culpas, placed Miller in a quasi quarantine, according to insiders at the paper. Yet she re-emerged, amazingly, still writing about Iraq--now from an oblique angle: the UN's alleged mismanagement of the Iraqi Oil for Food program.

To read the full text, see The Nation

10:25 AM

Sunday, April 03, 2005  
You Can’t Handle the Truth

By Joseph Cirincione
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 2, 2005

Blog editor's note: This vitally important story has been almost entirely eclipsed by saturation coverage of the death of Terry Schiavo and the Pope john Paul II. At least so far, it appears as if the Bush administration has dodged yet another responsibility.

The president’s commission on intelligence delivered half a report. Like the general played by Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men," the commission acted as if America can’t handle the truth. The commissioners would have us believe that those who provided the false intelligence were solely to blame, and the senior political leaders who ordered and presented the claims to the public were passive victims. Conservative pundits have quickly declared, "case closed," and urge us to focus on rearranging the deck chairs on the intelligence ship. But buried deep inside the report is evidence that contradicts the commission’s own conclusions and raises serious questions about their recommendations. Most damning is the tale of two CIA analysts who were removed from their positions for "causing waves" when they questioned the reliability of the defector known as "Curveball."

This story only appears 200 pages into the report. It is at the very end of the Iraq section (pg. 192) after Conclusion 26 that finds no evidence of politicization of the intelligence.

An analyst with WINPAC (the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center) was in Iraq in the summer and fall of 2003 and reported serious doubts about the reliability of Curveball’s claims that Saddam built mobile biological labs and conducted biowarfare experiments. We now know that the analyst was correct. Curveball lied. There were no mobile biolabs or bioweapons of any kind. The commission reports that in late 2003, the CIA did not want to admit that "Curveball was a fabricator…because of concerns about how this would look to the ‘Seventh Floor’ and to "downtown.’" Instead, says the commission, the analyst was "read the riot act’ by his office director who accused him of ‘making waves’ and being ‘biased.’" He was kicked out of WINPAC. The same punishment was meted out to a chemical weapons analyst in Iraq who pressed for a reassessment of the CIA’s claims of a large-scale CW program. He, too, was forced to leave WINPAC.

To read the full text, which also includes links to the report itself and a number of sources that corroborate Cirincione's thesis, see Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

2:52 PM

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