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, February 11, 2006  
'The Biggest Secret'

By Thomas Powers
New York Review of Books
February 23, 2006 Issue

A Review Essay of
State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration
by James Risen
Free Press, 240 pp., $26.00

Blog editor's note: This review essay of a new book by James Risen of the New York Times is by one of this country's preeminent experts on intelligence. He addresses some of the most pressing questions facing Americans today, and provides answers that are troubling, to say the least. It is a great companion piece to the preceding item.

The challenges posed to American democracy by secrecy and by unchecked presidential power are the two great themes running through the history of the Iraq war. How long the war will last, who will "win," and what it will do to the political landscape of the Middle East will not be obvious for years to come, but the answers to those questions cannot alter the character of what happened at the outset. Put plainly, the President decided to attack Iraq, he brushed caution and objection aside, and Congress, the press, and the people, with very few exceptions, stepped back out of the way and let him do it.

Explaining this fact is not going to be easy. Commentators often now refer to President Bush's decision to invade Iraq as "a war of choice," which means that it was not provoked. The usual word for an unprovoked attack is aggression. Why did Americans —elected representatives and plain citizens alike—accede so readily to this act of aggression, and why did they question the President's arguments for war so feebly? The whole business is painfully awkward to consider, but it will not go away. If the Constitution forbids a president anything it forbids war on his say-so, and if it insists on anything it insists that presidents are not above the law. In plain terms this means that presidents cannot enact laws on their own, or ignore laws that have been enacted by Congress.

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

6:04 PM

Ex-CIA Official Faults Use of Data on Iraq
Intelligence 'Misused' to Justify War, He Says

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post
February 10, 2006; A01

Blog editor's note: One of the questions that has mystified me for some time is how it is that so many Americans can still believe in the face of so much evidence that the Bush Administration did not "cook" the intelligence books in the run-up to the 2003 war with Iraq. The most recent evidence comes from a former CIA official in an article in the prestigious journal, Foreign Affairs. It will be interesting to see how much coverage this article receives in the mainstream press.

The former CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until last year has accused the Bush administration of "cherry-picking" intelligence on Iraq to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, and of ignoring warnings that the country could easily fall into violence and chaos after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Paul R. Pillar, who was the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, acknowledges the U.S. intelligence agencies' mistakes in concluding that Hussein's government possessed weapons of mass destruction. But he said those misjudgments did not drive the administration's decision to invade.

"Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war," Pillar wrote in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Instead, he asserted, the administration "went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."

"It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized," Pillar wrote.

To read the full text of Pincus' news account , see Washington Post

To read the full text, see Foreign Affairs

9:22 AM

Wednesday, February 08, 2006  
The Art of Saying Nothing

The New York Times
February 8, 2006

We thought President Bush's two recent Supreme Court nominees set new lows when it came to giving vague and meaningless answers to legitimate questions, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made them look like models of openness when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday about domestic spying. Mr. Gonzales seems to have forgotten the promise he made to the same panel last year when it voted to promote him from White House counsel to attorney general: that he would serve the public interest and stop acting like a hired gun helping a client figure out how to evade the law.

The hearing got off to a bad start when Senator Arlen Specter, the Republican who leads the committee, refused to have Mr. Gonzales testify under oath. Mr. Gonzales repaid this favor with a daylong display of cynical hair-splitting, obfuscation, disinformation and stonewalling. He would not tell the senators how many wiretaps had been conducted without warrants since 2002, when Mr. Bush authorized the program. He would not even say why he was withholding the information.

To read the full text, see New York Times

12:15 PM

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