April 3, 2013

Iraq All Over Again...?



I was in my sophomore year of college when the U.S. launched the Iraq War. I remember watching President George W. Bush’s U.N. address where he presented the dubious “evidence” concerning Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction.”

Even then, I was skeptical of the rationales for the invasion. I remember getting into heated debates with fellow students over the war. And I will never forget how even many of the campus liberals bought, hook, line and sinker, the bogus allegations of Iraq’s stockpiles of WMDs—how they too, waved the American flag in favor of war. Many of those same liberals have, in the years since the war’s start, naturally changed their tune. Some will even claim that they too, opposed the war from the start. But I was there. I know better.

In the ten years since the start of the Iraq War—an illegal, unjustified invasion based entirely on lies and deliberate fabrications of evidence—it is frustrating to watch the U.S. media repeat the same uncritical, stenographic reporting that helped launch the war. Indeed, recent news coverage of Iran and Syria—replete with renewed claims of both countries’ alleged nuclear and chemical weapons—suggest the corporate media have learned quite little.

The press’s failure to debunk—or even offer the remotest of skepticism—to the Bush administration’s bogus war rationales has been well documented.

In fact, it was the supposedly “liberal” outlets (The New York Times, MSNBC, CBS News) that campaigned the hardest for the war. (And yet the baseless “liberal media”myth nonetheless persists.)
Even the celebrated Bill Moyers was reprimanded by PBS (that’s right: the “non-commercial,” Public Broadcasting Network) for his critical coverage in the lead-up to the invasion. And MSNBC famously pulled the plug on Phil Donahue’s popular news show when he dared to feature critics of the impending war. As Donahue explained in a recent appearance on Democracy Now!, “I had to have two conservatives for every liberal on the show. I could have [neoconservative Bush consultant] Richard Perle on alone but not Dennis Kucinich.”

Now the saber-rattling media have turned their sights on Syria and Iran.

Reports of Syria’s government using chemical weapons on rebel fighters in the country’s ongoing civil war could lead to a more pronounced U.S. involvement in the conflict. Speaking in Israel last month, President Obama called the use of chemical weapons a “game changer,” according to The New York Times (03/21/13). With Israel now expressing concerns over Syria’s alleged chemical weapons, some fear a broader American commitment in Syria may be on the horizon.

Anybody else feeling a sense of deja vu, here?

As with Iraq, there is reason to doubt the media’s claims of chemical weapons in Syria—as indicated, perhaps inadvertently, by the NYT story itself. Reporters Mark Landler and Rick Gladstone make clear two paragraphs into the front-page article:

“American officials reiterated that they did not have independent evidence that chemical weapons had been used…”

Any logical person, after reading this sentence would, one imagines, wonder what accounts for the article’s remaining 23 paragraphs. If there is no actual evidence of chemical weapons use, then what is the story, here…? Well, in typical both-sides-are-valid-facts-be-damned, “objective”reporting, the story is that Israeli government officials, despite the complete lack of tangible, verifiable evidence, nonethelesscontend Syria possesses chemical weapons.

The report goes on:

“Two senior Israeli officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak, said that Israel was sure that chemicals were used, but did not have details about what type of weapons were used, where they came from, when they were deployed, or by whom.”

Well, that pretty much satisfies the five reporting “W”s. What is most curious about these anonymous “senior Israeli officials,” is their remarks seem to contradict those of Israeli cabinet ministers, Tzipi Livni and Yuval Steinetz. The story notes how both leaders have taken to the airwaves recently, claiming to have “credible evidence” of Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

“Ms. Livni, the new Israeli justice minister, said in an interview with CNN, ‘It’s clear for us here in Israel that it’s [chemical weapons] being used,’ adding, ‘This, I believe, should be on the table in the discussions.’”

This sort of “he-said-she-said” reporting essentially leaves it up to the reader to decide what the truth is. Regardless, it is pretty clear which side is really gunning for a U.S. invasion, here. Israel already launched an air attack on Syria earlier this year. According to Jason Ditz of Antiwar.com (03/17/2013),

Israel’s government is keen to move from the air strikes against Syria to a more full-scale offensive, with the possibility of seizing more Syrian territory as a “buffer zone” being raised, even though Israel already took a buffer zone in 1973 and never gave it back.

It is worth reminding readers of Israel’s role in pressuring the Bush administration to invade Iraq—an often overlooked aspect to the run-up to the war. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in September, 2002 titled, “The Case for Toppling Saddam.”

As for the U.S. and Israel’s next potential target,Iran, again the media seems determined to repeat the mistakes of Iraq. Despite what you may have heard on mainstream television news, there is actually zero evidence that Iran is currently developing a nuclear weapon. Last year, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta publicly admitted as much. The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz even conceded the lack of evidence in a 2012 story. The article states: “The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week… indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb” (01/18/2012). And a 2011 reportissued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) offered the same conclusions.

Have the U.S. media learned nothing from the last ten years? Sad to say, but drumming up support for unnecessary, immoral and illegal wars seems to be one of the few things the corporate media can be counted on for.


Adam Marletta is a writer, activist and coffee-fiend. He is the former chair and current secretary of the Portland Green Independent Committee and editor of the political commentary blog, Guerrilla Press. He lives in Portland, Maine and supports all things Green Party.