6). At home, though, the media can often be co-opted by being made to feel that public opinion would be against it if it reported something other than the prevailing public sentiment. After't he 9-11 attacks, the public wanted the perpetrators and their leaders punished, so the war in Afghanistan had the support of the public. By extension, the idea of the war on terror also had support, though the parameters of that war were never clearly defined and were certainly not explained to the public. The Bush Administration made use of this support when it decided to invade Iran and suggested in many ways that this was a continuation of the war on terror and even that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11. The news media did not do its job as well as it should and did not question most of these assertions until some time had passed. In the early period, the media served more as a conduit for Administration claims and for the continuing drumbeat of right-wing analysts and pundits about the need for this war right now to avoid another attack and a worse attack. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was explicit in this regard when she referred to the possibility of a mushroom cloud over an American city, fostering the false idea that Iraq had nuclear weapons and would use them on the U.S.
Gary Kamiya writes, "It's no secret that the period of time between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq represents one of the greatest collapses in the history of the American media. Every branch of the media failed, from daily newspapers, magazines and Web sites to television networks, cable channels and radio" Kamiya para. 1).
Kamiya says that the lies fostered by the Bush Administration were not challenged or were actively promoted, and he then states that "the press's most notable failure was its inability to determine just why this disastrous war was ever launched" (Kamiya para. 2). This failure is seen as all the greater because the decision to go to war requires more information for the public than other decisions because of the nature of the consequences: "To answer this, we need to look at three broad, interrelated areas, which I have called psychological, institutional and ideological. The media had serious preexisting weaknesses on all three fronts, and when a devastating terrorist attack and a radical, reckless and duplicitous administration came together, the result was a perfect storm" (Kamiya para. 4). Kamiya admits that deciding what is an appropriate action is hard to define and may change under different circumstances, but he also says that in this case it is more clear that the media should have raised more questions and should not have promoted false information that it had not even tried to verify.
One problem may be that the long-term problems in the Middle East are difficult for many in the news media to sort out, given the long and complex history of the region and of U.S. involvement in the region. The U.S. has had a presence in that part of the world for decades and has an ongoing interest first because of the importance of oil from the Middle East and second because of support for Israel and the protection of that country and its people. The U.S. role has become more active in some ways since the 1990s, with military actions twice in Iraq, first with the Gulf War and now with the ousting of Saddam Hussein. The U.S. has also had an ongoing conflict with Iran and close ties to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Role in the Israel and Palestinian peace process has given the U.S. The role of mediator, a difficult position when two such intractable foes are facing off and are so resistant to accommodation.
The U.S. involvement in Iraq extends back decades and at first was supportive of the regime of Saddam Hussein because Hussein was seen as an ally. Later, the actions taken by Hussein were seen as a threat to world order. This was apparent in the Gulf War in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait to take over the Kuwaiti oil fields, causing the United States and several other countries to join together to expel the Iraqis from Kuwait and restore the balance of power in the region.
In the fall of 1990 the United States, in conjunction with a number of other nations, including several Middle Eastern states, launched an offensive against Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein, in response to the Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait. This offensive was the first direct involvement of American troops in the Middle East since World War II. At the outset, there were fears that this might become another Vietnam, a war on enemy territory which would drag the United States into an extended conflict and prove to be a drain on the economy and the national will. These fears had been expressed before as the U.S., hesitated to become involved in Latin American disputes, among others. The war was declared over within the prescribed 100 hours, with a military victory declared by the United States and her allies. Yet, within a short time, there were also criticisms leveled because the victory was not more decisive, since Saddam Hussein was still in power. The stated goal of removing Iraqi forces from Kuwait had been achieved, however.
The war did not make the region safer and arguably made it less safe. It was noted that there was an increase in the world arms trade during the seventies and eighties:
Much of the arms supplied went to the oil-rich Middle Eastern states, fueling a regional arms race between, on the one hand, Israel and the 'militant' Arab states, and on the other hand, between Gulf states such as Iran and Iraq. (Stiles and Akaha 372-373)
The major suppliers were the United States and the Soviet Union, followed by France and Great Britain. Iraq was a nation that imported civilian nuclear technology, with a view to developing nuclear weapons. Israel often engaged in preemptive bombing precisely to prevent this development from taking place, and the Gulf War was at least in part an attempt to curtail the power of Saddam Hussein in order to assure that he did not develop nuclear weapons.
This argument was raised again for the current war in Iraq, with disputed claims that the Iraqis were producing weapons of mass destruction, and that Iraq had a nuclear program that was about to produce a nuclear weapon, though this also has not been found. This came after the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a terrorist attack that took thousands of lives and altered the perception of Americans about their relative safety in the world. This was not the first terrorist attack on American soil, but it was the largest and most costly and came from an audacious plan that if fully successful would have been much more damaging. This attack led immediately to the war in Afghanistan as the United States sought to punish the terrorists who had supported the attacks and the state that had supported the terrorists. The war in Iraq was seen as a continuation of this effort, with some believing that Iraq had been behind the 9-11 attacks (though there is no evidence of this at all) and others seeing Iraq as the next source of terrorism and as a threat to her neighbors and to the West. The news media could have and should have asked more questions before the war started and should not have been so quick to accept the claims of the Administration or to support not just the troops but the war itself.
Boylan, James. "When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina." Columbia Journalism Review, Volume 46, Issue 2 (July-August 2007), 59.
Kamiya, Gary. "Iraq: Why the Media Failed." Salon.com (10 April 2007). July 22, 2008. http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2007/04/10/media_failure/.
Kellner, Douglas. "Bushspeak and the Politics of Lying: Presidential Rhetoric in the 'War on Terror.'" Presidential Studies Quarterly, Volume 37, Issue 4 (2007). July 22, 2008. http://www.questia.com/read/5024109830?title=Bushspeak%20and%20the%20Politics%20of%20Lying%3a%20Presidential%20Rhetoric%20in%20the%20%22War%20on%20Terror%22.
Payne, Kenneth. "The Media as an Instrument of War." Parameters, Volume 35, Issue 1 (2005). July 22, 2008. http://www.questia.com/read/5011208618?title=the%20Media%20as%20an%20Instrument%20of%20War.Smith, Sylvia a. "Media Faulted on War's Lead-up." Outside Cab le News (12 March 2008). July 22, 2008. http://outsidecablenews.blogsome.com/2008/03/12/media-faulted-on-wars-lead-up/.
Solomon, Norman. "Media Sham for Iraq War -- it's Happening Again." CommonDreams.com (5 Dec 2000). July 22, 2008. http://www.commondreams.org/views06/1205-24.htm.
Stiles, K. And T. Akaha. International Political Economy: A Reader. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.