Reading the US media's reporting on the Iraq question is very informative. Not because the coverage is so fact-filled, but because it so clearly illustrates just how propagandized and subservient the US press has become. Headlines everywhere scream of Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction," and television talking heads endlessly repeat the word "threat," in relation to Iraq. Even the New York Times, which has been less enthusiastic about saber rattling than much of the rest of the media, offers plenty of rhetoric about alleged Iraqi "arsenals," and supposed links to terrorism. Rivers of ink have been spent hyperventilating about the supposed Iraqi threat, but how much actual evidence has been presented? Where are the facts?
Very few have been forthcoming. Rarely if ever has rhetoric so disproportionately outweighed facts in what is supposed to be an independent press. In Saturday's Times, for example, several pages of coverage were devoted to the case the Bush administration is now presenting for an unprovoked attack on Iraq. A front page headline mentioned Iraqi "Arsenals of Weapons," while an inside headline mused about why Iraq stands out in Bush's "Axis of Evil."
But if a reader was hoping to see any actual facts revealed, he was in for a letdown. After extensive quoting and paraphrasing of Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, and, to a lesser extent, Secretary of State Colin Powell, all of whom repeated the well-worn, stock accusations against Iraq and Saddam Hussein, the Times finally weighed in with the "evidence." It seems that Iraq had attempted to buy thousands of aluminum tubes. Yes aluminum tubes. Fortunately, the forces of good were able to intercede and stop the shipment before it ever happened.
Whew! Close call. I guess we better annihilate Iraq right now to make sure it doesn't happen again. I mean, one of these days Saddam might actually succeed in getting his hands on aluminum tubes, and then what? Then we'll all be up the river without a paddle, and facing certain annihilation, as the Bush team is now warning. "Imagine a Sept. 11 with weapons of mass destruction," the Times quoted Rumsfeld as saying. "It's not 3,000, it's tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children."
If you are wondering how aluminum tubes will lead to this doomsday scenario, the Bushites are happy to explain. You see those are "specially designed" aluminum tubes, which can be used as components of centrifuges, which are machines that can be used for enriching uranium. Really? Or, just maybe, as Freud might have said, sometimes an aluminum tube is just an aluminum tube.
And if that "evidence" wasn't enough to convince you, the Times followed the aluminum tubes revelation with another hard-hitting piece of journalism: Dick Cheney says there is a "credible, but unconfirmed" intelligence report that Mohamed Atta, one of the Sept. 11 hijackers had met "at least once" with a senior Iraqi intelligence official, in Prague. Now just how stupid do Dick Cheney and The New York Times think the American people are? I guess we are supposed to take this bit of innuendo at face value? From a guy whose trigger finger has been twitching in plain view for months now?
And this, in a nutshell, was the Times' big bushel of facts on the Iraqi threat: Aluminum tubes and a completely unsubstantiated report of an alleged meeting between a hijacker and an Iraqi-says Dick Cheney. In all, these "facts," took up about one inch of newsprint real estate, while several yards were devoted to the drum beating of Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest.
This says a lot about the kind of press that America now has. Even more revealing are the questions that the media have chosen to suppress. For example, why do you see hardly any mention of the ongoing air raids that the US and Britain have been inflicting on the Iraqi people for more than a decade? Is this just business as usual? And I would like to see just one article explaining the legal basis for those no-fly zones in the first place. (There is none; they have never been approved by the UN.)
Another big question that has been swept under the rug has to do with the CIA spies that were exposed as part of the last weapons inspections team. Clearly, this was a deception that should have been enough to completely discredit the entire US position on Iraq, but the whole thing was shrugged off by the media like so much confetti. In the current debate-such as it is-this inconvenient little episode is never even mentioned any more.
And what about the most crucial question of all? Is Iraq a threat, or not? The media refuses to even allow this into the debate. By not asking this question, the media is saying, in effect, "The question of Iraq being a threat is beyond debate. So let's move on to the how and when of this war."
This is completely opposite to what the objective facts in the case tell us. There is indeed much to debate as to whether Iraq poses any threat or not. Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter has brought to light key facts that point in the direction that Iraq is no threat at all. But Scott Ritter is only one man. In a truly independent-minded media, reporters would be falling over themselves to pick up this story and run with it. Thousands of questions could be asked, hundreds of sources unearthed, and dozens of revelations brought to light. The only trouble is, it might expose as so much rubbish the Bushites' entire yarn about Iraq.
And we couldn't have that could we? Not in a media culture where kowtowing to the ruling class takes precedence over honest reporting and journalistic duty.