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The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, (George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, Jan. 28, 2003) the claims were quickly picked up and repeated by the media. So were claims that Iraq had nuclear weapons. "We believe [Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." (Dick Cheney, NBC's Meet the Press, March 16, 2003) Yet, after the search for chemical and nuclear weapons was eventually called off without any actual discover of such weapons, the media made startling little of the fact that Donald Rumsfeld said "I don't believe anyone that I know in the administration ever said that Iraq had nuclear weapons." (Senate appropriations subcommittee on defense hearing, May 14, 2003)
In fact, shortly thereafter "USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, echoed this fudging -- last year 'weapons,' this year 'programs' -- declaring that 'the jury's still out' on whether Iraq had WMD and that 'I am a long way at this stage from concluding that somehow there was some fundamental flaw in our intelligence.'" (Scheer et al.) similar phenomena occured with another major falsehood widely distributed in the media, albeit less vociferously insisted upon by the administration itself. Through-out the early months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, the media was filled with the idea that attacking this nation would be a reasonable part of the "war on terror," and implied that Hussein had some direct connection with the events to September 11th.
To this day, over a third of Americans continue to believe that Hussein personally arranged the hijackings.
Even after the middle pages of major newspapers had already explained that intelligence showed Hussein was not directly involved in the September 11th terror attacks, a CNN/Gallup poll reported that "42% of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. And 32% believe that Saddam Hussein personally planned the attack." (Roberts) Predictably, this has led to an environment in which a large number of people support the war on Iraq precisely because they believe that this is a direct act of retribution against those who stroke a blow to our nation. It is common to hear, in every day conversation, the assertion that Iraq started this war by its terrorist activities against America. This is despite the --much underreported fact -- that "President Bush, in a rare moment of candor, finally admitted half a year after the invasion that there was no evidence Saddam Hussein's Iraq had any links to the 9/11 attacks, undermining eighteen months of implying the exact opposite.. Yet in both of his recent big speeches... Bush again dished out the fundamental lie that the war and occupation of Iraq can reasonably be linked to the 'war on terror,'" (Scheer et al.) a theory which is continually repeated by the media to this day. Those few retractions which exist are often brushed under the carpet, a fact that major newspapers themselves admitted:
Here is the New York Times' ombudsman, Daniel Okrent, writing on May 30-14 months after the bombs began falling on Baghdad: "Some of The Times's coverage in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq was credulous; much of it was inappropriately italicized by lavish front-page display and heavy-breathing headlines; and several fine articles... that provided perspective or challenged information in the faulty stories were played as quietly as a lullaby." (Gitlin)
As if these obfuscations were not enough, there appears to be a very large degree to which American policy officially equates reporting on Iraqi casualties as pro-terrorist and anti-American activity. This happens in very quiet ways among Western media sources, as when "the prestigious scientific journal, the Lancet, of a study estimating that 100,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the Anglo-American invasion.... [a large percentage] of whom were women and children...by 2 November, the Lancet report had been ignored by the Observer, the Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Star, the Sun and many others." (Pilger)
Censorship and Support
Much could be made of the way in which the media has been carefully guided around the Iraqi war. America has sent "imbedded" reporters with the troops -- handpicked journalists who were moving with units, and depended upon them for their safety.
This has widely been construed as support for the media, but others consider it to be a form of subtle censorship. "With reporters wed to a military unit on the battlefield, the relationship would be symbiotic. Self-censorship could be expected if reporters knew that exposure of operational secrets would crank enemy artillery around their foxholes following the 6 o'clock new..." (Ridge) Meanwhile, Saddam practiced an opposite sort of content control by confining journalists to specific areas on a daily basis, and merely "escorting" them to news-sites. "We were taken all together to the bombing sites by bus. It was a real struggle to get permission to wander around the city or to visit people in their homes. I managed to do it, but under very heavy pressure and only for short periods of time. There was no access to the front line, and in the hospitals, we were only allowed to visit the civilian casualties, not the wounded soldiers." (Boulat) In both cases, it appears, the combatants attempted to channel what would be shown to the world. However, there have also been far more blatant examples of censorship on both sides of the battle.
Apparently, Paul Bremer (Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for postwar Iraq) has recently "ordered his legal department in Baghdad to draw up rules for press censorship... Two months after 'liberating' Iraq, the Anglo- American authorities and their boss Paul Bremer... have decided to control the new and free Iraqi press." (Fisk)
The new guidelines suggest that newspapers who publish "wild stories" (Fisk) which may provoke violence against America. This apparently includes religious sources which create "unrest" by being against the occupation or the introduction of American-styled morals. Far more disturbingly, the U.S. has repeatedly attempted (and often succeeded) to censor mainstream Arab news networks, most notably Aljazeera, which has also been one of the main targets of Saddam-era censorship.
America's primary problem with Aljazeera appears to be the network's insistence on publishing often graphic details regarding civilian casualties and giving air play to the messages and demands of resistance groups. Western media has been strongly discouraged from showing the bodies of dead American soldiers or Iraqi civilians -- Aljazeera has shown both, in addition to airing executions of hostages and videos from resistors. "According to medics in Fallujah, the U.S. offensive claimed the lives of at least 700 Iraqis, mostly women and children, and left up to 1,500 others injured." (Mekay) Somewhat oddly, America responded to these allegations by shutting down Aljazeera's offices in Baghdad and Iraq. Additionally, " On several occasions, the channel's correspondents have also been banned from government offices and news conferences in Iraq." (Mekay)
Aljazeera has a history of being at odds with the administration of Iraq, whether that be American or Saddamite. "During the Iraq invasion, both Iraqi Government and U.S. officials expressed dissatisfaction with Aljazeera's coverage and called it biased... Even as U.S. officials were describing Aljazeera's coverage as misleading in their press conferences, the then Iraqi information minister, Muhammad Said al-Sahaf, was threatening the station's staff with serious consequences if they continued their 'pro-U.S. reporting.'" (Janabi) This double-sided condemnation continues to this day, with the U.S. continuing to accuse Aljzeera of siding with Iraqi insurgents while many of those insurgents have been issuing death threats to Aljazeera employees and demanding that they cease their pro-U.S. coverage.
Censorship within the American and Western-International press has been less blatant, if none-the-less chilling. For example, Paul Craig Roberts, an eminent conservative writer who served in Reagen's administration, recently had his columns pulled from publication by the Heritage Foundation because he did not support the war on terror, and suggested that it betrayed libertarian and traditional conservative values. Many other journalists have had similar experiences. In America, many accounts of censorship of websites, writers, and even school children, abound. (See an entire website dedicated to the issue at (http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org)
Far more blatant than these many, yet still legally isolated cases, however, is the evidence that America is purposefully controlling the degree to which foreign news correspondents are able to work in the United States. "Officials in DHS [Department of Homeland Security] decided to revive a visa requirement, dormant since 1952, that required journalists to apply for a special visa, known as an I-visa, when visiting the United States for professional reasons. This visa requirement also applied to so-called "friendly nations" - 27 countries whose citizens do not have to apply for a visa in order to visit the U.S. For personal reasons." (Regan) This ruling has resulted in scores of professional journalists, who may not have noticed the fine print in their…[continue]
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