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 10, 2007  
Smith's death 'a real feast' for the media

James Rainey
L.A. Times Staff Writer
February 10, 2007

Blog editor's note: See the post before last for a similar assessment of media performance.

Hours after Anna Nicole Smith's death, people across the globe tried to cash in on her celebrity by listing for sale items such as bobblehead dolls and poker chips bearing her image.

But positioned to benefit the most were media outlets that tried to feed the enormous appetite of its audiences. The frenzy promised to continue into the weekend with tonight's airing of "Death of a Centerfold" on NBC's "Dateline," to be followed by Fox News' hourlong special "Anna Nicole: Tragic Beauty."

"This is just a real feast for some people out there and particularly on the Internet," said Larry Pryor, a professor of journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. "For every person in public life there is a blogger, or in this case many bloggers, behind them."

To read the full text, see Los Angeles Times

1:41 PM

The Build-a-War Workshop

The New York Times
February 10, 2007

Blog editor's note: Given its remarkable willingness too believe the Administration's assertions about WMDs in the run up to the 2003 war with Iraq, the Times' anger at the latest evidence of the Bush team's systematic efforts to manipulate intelligence is understandable. Whether the American public will also get as angry at having been gulled into a disastrous war remains to be seen.

It took far too long, but a report by the Pentagon inspector general has finally confirmed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s do-it-yourself intelligence office cooked up a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda to help justify an unjustifiable war.

The report said the team headed by Douglas Feith, under secretary of defense for policy, developed “alternative” assessments of intelligence on Iraq that contradicted the intelligence community and drew conclusions “that were not supported by the available intelligence.” Mr. Feith certainly knew the Central Intelligence Agency would cry foul, so he hid his findings from the C.I.A. Then Vice President Dick Cheney used them as proof of cloak-and-dagger meetings that never happened, long-term conspiracies between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden that didn’t exist, and — most unforgivable — “possible Iraqi coordination” on the 9/11 attacks, which no serious intelligence analyst believed.

The inspector general did not recommend criminal charges against Mr. Feith because Mr. Rumsfeld or his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, approved their subordinate’s “inappropriate” operations. The renegade intelligence buff said he was relieved.

We’re sure he was. But there is no comfort in knowing that his dirty work was approved by his bosses. All that does is add to evidence that the Bush administration knowingly and repeatedly misled Americans about the intelligence on Iraq.

To read the full text, see New York Times

12:56 PM

Anna Nicole Smith vs. false intelligence
On-air and online media go instantly into overdrive

By David Zurawik and Nick Madigan
Baltimore Sun
February 9, 2007

Blog editor's note: This sort of thing, perhaps, explains why my lower division university students can name the possible father's of the late Ms. Smith's daughter, but are unaware of the report, which had the misfortune to be released the same day as Ms. Smith's death, of the Defense Department's Inspector General dealing with "inappropriate" intelligence manufacture leading up to the 2003 Iraq war.

With the death of reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith yesterday, a ferocious barrage of Marilyn Monroe-like images and scattershot speculation was instantly loosed across the on-air and online landscape of 24-hour news.

From a former flame describing on MSNBC how she kissed, to Fox and CNN hosts stressing the "mysterious" circumstances of her death as they queried medical experts, the story lines driving the wall-to-wall coverage yesterday careened from tragic-death-of-sex-goddess to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

The one constant: The story was consistently framed in a breathless tabloid manner.

"Who's the Daddy?" one headline on Fox News Channel screamed over the images of two men - Larry Birkhead and Howard K. Stern, either of whom might be the father of the dead woman's 5-month-old daughter.

To read the full text, see Baltimore

9:57 AM

Friday, February 09, 2007  
Feith Takes the Fall

By Mark Thompson/Washington
Friday, Feb. 09, 2007

Blog editor's note: Finally, a mainstream journalist tumbles to the real story that seems to have eluded most of his colleagues: the small fish have been caught in the net while the ones really responsible swim out of harm's way.

For a person most Americans have never heard of, Doug Feith has been called terrible names by very important people. In Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward quotes General Tommy Franks — appalled at the quality of intelligence about Iraq — railing that Feith, then the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, was "the f---king stupidest guy on the face of the earth." Today, there was another bad review. Feith got publicly slapped by the Defense Department's inspector general for developing pro-war intelligence on Iraq — outside of official channels — that now seems plainly wrong. The IG concludes that Feith's office, on a free-lance basis, made claims "that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community." The report said that Feith's shop exaggerated the purported links between Saddam Hussein's government and al Qaeda. "That was the argument that was used to make the sale to the American people about the need to go to war," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the armed services committee. He said the Feith's work, "which was wrong, which was distorted, which was inappropriate ... is something which is highly disturbing."

Feith may have been one of the Bush Administration's most fervent supporters of war with Iraq but, in truth, he was only a bit player. Indeed, he is the third bit player in the Iraq fiasco to be paying for the sins of his superiors recently.

To read the full text, see

8:47 PM

Pentagon aide's prewar work faulted
A Defense report says the ex-official alleged links between Al Qaeda and Iraq that didn't reflect intelligence.

By Julian E. Barnes
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 9, 2007

Blog editor's note: For anyone who still doubts that elements of the Bush Administration didn't "cherry pick" or, in this case, practically fabricate intelligence to justify taking the war option against Iraq, this report should settle the matter (but, of course, it won't.) Two other observations: note the role played by the Vice President's office, and note as well that all of the players--Feith, Wolfowitz, Cheney--have only been rewarded by the Administration, not admonished. The report, according to my understanding of the law, correctly concludes that Feith, et al, did nothing illegal--even if it was "inappropriate." At the same time, it's fascinating to me that people can manufacture intelligence (which in my book is lying) that as much as anything convinced most Americans to support a war, particularly one that's turning out to cost as much as this one in both material and human terms, and merely be guilty of "inappropriate behavior." Perhaps there will be a political cost. One can only hope so. One can also only hope that the death of Anna Nicole Smith doesn't dump the story into the dim, distant backwash of the day's news. )

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon official who was a prime architect of Bush administration policies that led to the Iraq war presented policymakers with allegations of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda that did not accurately reflect the views of U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a Defense Department investigation disclosed Thursday by a senior Senate Democrat.

The report concluded that the official's actions were inappropriate, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said.

The report by the Pentagon's inspector general examined the activities of Douglas J. Feith, an influential undersecretary to former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. An unclassified summary of the report will be released today.

Its findings lend credence to charges by White House critics that Feith, who has since left the department, was out of line when he sought to discredit analyses by CIA intelligence officials that discounted alleged ties between Al Qaeda and then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Feith, in responding to the investigation, defended his actions and said he was pleased that the report found he had done nothing illegal.

To read the full text, see Los Angeles Times

8:31 AM

Monday, February 05, 2007  
4th Anniversary of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Address to the U.N. Security Council on Iraq's WMDs, which as much as anything else paved the way for the 2003 war

February 5, 2003
Transcript provided by The White House

Blog editor's note: Today (Feb. 5) is the fourth anniversary of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's testimony before the United Nations in which he famously remarked, "What you will see [today] is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behavior... Indeed, the facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction..." It is instructive to review his testimony, given that history has shown he was not dealng with facts at all. At the same time keep in mind that at least one study showed almost a 30-point swing in public opinion toward the war option following his remarks. Ironically, the transcript will be found on a White House web page headlined, "Iraq: Denial and Deception."

POWELL: This council placed the burden on Iraq to comply and disarm and not on the inspectors to find that which Iraq has gone out of its way to conceal for so long. Inspectors are inspectors; they are not detectives.

I asked for this session today for two purposes: First, to support the core assessments made by Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei. As Dr. Blix reported to this council on January 27th, quote, ``Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it,'' unquote.

And as Dr. ElBaradei reported, Iraq's declaration of December 7, quote, ``did not provide any new information relevant to certain questions that have been outstanding since 1998.''

POWELL: My second purpose today is to provide you with additional information, to share with you what the United States knows about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as well as Iraq's involvement in terrorism, which is also the subject of Resolution 1441 and other earlier resolutions.

To read the full text, see White

7:52 AM

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