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, November 19, 2005  
It's Your War Now: Part III

Did America witness a "Cronkite moment" today? Newspaper editorials have long lagged far behind reader sentiment on Iraq, and now even pro-war members of Congress are speaking out. Today, Rep. John Murtha, the hawkish ex-Marine, delivered a surprising call for withdrawal that opinion-makers must address.

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher

(November 17, 2005) -- For months, media watchers have wondered if we would any time soon witness another “Cronkite moment” -- some sort of dramatic statement by a mainstream media figure that would turn hearts and minds against an ill-advised war, for good. It hasn't happened. But perhaps a not-very-famous, 73-year-old gentleman named John Murtha will be the new Cronkite.

Last weekend, when I started this three-part column (see links on this page) about editorial page timidity on the subject of a phased U.S. pullout from Iraq, I could not have imagined what has happened this week, and I'm not talking about Bob Woodward starring in Deep Throat II. I'm referring to the possible seismic shift in the so-called debate over withdrawal. A few days ago, newspaper editorial pages were merely trailing their readers on this issue. Now they are even behind Congress.

To read the full text, see Editor & Publisher

8:00 AM

After Murtha 'Pullout' Call: Will Editorials Confront War?

E&P Staff
November 18, 2005

NEW YORK In the wake of the newly-charged debate over the Iraq war, sparked on Thursday by the call of hawkish Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) for the beginning of an American withdrawal, will newspapers in their editorials take a strong stand one way or the other? All weekend we will be posting the results in this space.

While many newspapers have fully backed the war since its start, many others have been critical of how it has been conducted and expressed concerns for future success. Yet few of those papers expressing doubts have advocated even a phased pullout. As recently as Thursday, just hours before Murtha's announcmement, The New York Times, while extremely critical of President Bush, once again came out against withdrawal or any kind timetable for exiting.

To read the full text, see Editor & Publisher

7:57 AM

'Wash Post' and Knight Ridder Clash Over Woodward

E&P Staff
Editor & Publisher
November 19, 2005 10:00 AM ET

NEW YORK While famed reporter Bob Woodward's sudden entanglement in the Plame/CIA leak has been big news all week, few editorials weighed in on the matter, until now. On Saturday, Woodward's home paper, The Washington Post came to his defense, while an editorial published in many Knight Ridder papers had a largely different view.

The Knight Ridder editorial began: "The revelation that acclaimed journalist Bob Woodward sat on information in the CIA leak case for two years is difficult to defend even by 'mainstream' journalists who have admired his work for more than three decades."

To read the full text, see Editor & Publisher

7:53 AM

Wednesday, November 16, 2005  
Woodward's Dis
Watergate-era hero reporter on plamegate story? He can put it down

by Sydney H. Schanberg
Village Voice
Press Clips
November 15th, 2005 11:51 AM

Blog editor's note: In my judgment, Schanberg raises some excellent points about Woodward and the kind of journalism he has come to practice.

. . . a media marketplace that long ago concluded having access to power is more important than speaking truth to it. —Newsweek's Christopher Dickey, October 2005 essay

Bob Woodward rightly became a beacon in the journalism world for the groundbreaking shoe-leather reporting he and Carl Bernstein did on the Watergate scandal in 1972 for The Washington Post. Since then he has become known for his books gleaned from rarely given interviews with presidents and other powerful people in Washington's high places. He appears often on television talk shows, giving inside looks at major stories as well as orotund comments on the practice of good journalism.

On October 27, Woodward appeared on CNN's Larry King Live and pronounced that the current Plamegate scandal in the White House was really much ado about nothing...Is this the same Bob Woodward whose Watergate scoops were dismissed by Richard Nixon's press secretary, the late Ron Ziegler, as piddling stories about a "third-rate burglary"? Doesn't Woodward remember the reaction by many in the White House press corps, who initially sneered at the story and brushed it off as the fevered product of two lowly cityside reporters covering crime and the courts—which is what Woodward and Bernstein were at the time?

To read the full text, see The Village Voice

10:19 AM

Woodward Was Told of Plame More Than Two Years Ago

By Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post
November 16, 2005; A01

Blog editor's note: There are two important dimensions to this story, journalistically speaking. The first is the matter of Woodward's witholding such vital information, even from his editors. My guess is that his colleagues at the Post are not too happy about his conduct. The second is why Woodward doesn't think much of the Plame story in the first place. On this critical issue, see the following item by Sydney Schanberg, himself a journalist of high reputation.

Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed.

In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday.

To read the full text, see The Washington Post

10:13 AM

Tuesday, November 15, 2005  
Decoding Mr. Bush's Denials

The New York Times
November 15, 2005

To avoid having to account for his administration's misleading statements before the war with Iraq, President Bush has tried denial, saying he did not skew the intelligence. He's tried to share the blame, claiming that Congress had the same intelligence he had, as well as President Bill Clinton. He's tried to pass the buck and blame the C.I.A. Lately, he's gone on the attack, accusing Democrats in Congress of aiding the terrorists.

Yesterday in Alaska, Mr. Bush trotted out the same tedious deflection on Iraq that he usually attempts when his back is against the wall: he claims that questioning his actions three years ago is a betrayal of the troops in battle today.

It all amounts to one energetic effort at avoidance. But like the W.M.D. reports that started the whole thing, the only problem is that none of it has been true.

Mr. Bush says everyone had the same intelligence he had - Mr. Clinton and his advisers, foreign governments, and members of Congress - and that all of them reached the same conclusions. The only part that is true is that Mr. Bush was working off the same intelligence Mr. Clinton had. But that is scary, not reassuring. The reports about Saddam Hussein's weapons were old, some more than 10 years old. Nothing was fresher than about five years, except reports that later proved to be fanciful.

To read the full text, see The New York Times

3:13 PM

WHAT COULD THEY HAVE KNOWN AND WHEN COULD THEY HAVE KNOWN IT: Bush, Miller and the “How Could We Have Known?” Defense

Blog editor’s note: Given the recent claims by President Bush and Judith Miller, the reporter who “retired” last week from The New York Times, that they were the victims of lousy intelligence in believing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it is useful to examine their defense in light of what information was readily available BEFORE the decision to wage war in March of 2003 was taken. Nathaniel Hurd, a New York-based consultant on Iraq, has compiled a set of links to various materials that should/would have given considerable pause to a reasonable person who wasn’t already totally committed to regime change in Iraq.

The Fourth Freedom Forum has two 2003 reports that organize some of the "publicly available information on Iraq's weapons programs [that was] systematically ignored in the months preceding the war."

David Cortright, Alistair Millar and Linda Gerber, 26 March 2003, "Contested Case: Do the Facts Justify the Case for War in Iraq?"

David Cortright, Alistair Millar and Linda Gerber, June 2003, Unproven: The Controversy over Justifying War in Iraq

See also Glen Rangwala's Claims and evaluations of Iraq's proscribed weapons; and Joseph Cirincione, Jessica Tuchman Mathews, George Perkovich and Alexis Orton, January 2004, WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications

For information about who said what and when they said it in justification of the war in Iraq, see Devon M Largio "Uncovering the Rationales for the War on Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration, Congress, and the Media from September 12, 2001 to October 11, 2002", and Dipali MukhopadhyayIntelligence on Iraq--The Bush Administration on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Capabilities

Finally, see Hurd’s own essay, which appears as one of several on a particularly valuable web page dealing with the justifications for the Iraq War: "Security Council Resolution 1441 and the Potential Use of Force Against Iraq", 6 December 2002 . For the reader’s convenience, Hurd has highlighted key public statements made by administration officials.

10:11 AM

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