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Against the Grain: Media Coverage of War Planning

By Jim Wittebols

Buffalo, NY – In the run-up to yet another war, the national news media continue to toady along with an Administration which has talked out of both sides of its mouth, whose belligerence continues to alienate a good chunk of the rest of the world and whose ability to direct and maintain media attention to its concerns is unparalleled in modern politics. This month's segment from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting exposes some of the U.S. government hypocrisy the media reflect with increasingly regularity.

Please click the "listen" icon to hear the FAIR segment.

Since the September 11 commemorations and the so-called masterful speech given at the UN, the media have presented reports which give the impression that Congress and the UN have moved closer to the Bush position on Iraq. This is an absurd position given Cheney and Rumsfeld, the real power in this Administration, were arguing less than a month ago (and more or less continue to argue) that congressional and UN approval of their invasion of Iraq is not necessary. Such double talk is indicative of an Administration which really doesn't believe in or want a multilateral approach which may avoid a war.

Tragically, despite the horrific loss of 3,000 U.S. citizens one year ago, I have not seen one report which has addressed the vast number of Iraqis who will perish as a result of Bush's bloodlust. And, despite all the concern about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, a little noticed change in policy on U.S. use of weapons of mass destruction goes unmentioned and unexplored. This new policy could possibly serve as a U.S. justification for using nuclear weapons against the people of Iraq.

So, with an uncritical media aboard the war machine, we can expect more planted stories--remember the story about babies dumped from incubators by Iraqi soldiers during the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 which was later proved utterly false. And then there were the satellite photographs allegedly showing Iraqi troops massing on the Saudi border which were proved doctored and false after the conflict. Get ready for more of the same and be patriotic by thinking and reading rather than goose stepping behind a Potemkin village president. Using the internet and the few shows which are presenting critical perspectives like the Phil Donahue show, you can get a distinctly different perspective than that pushed by the Administration.

America is a very confused place to be right now thanks to our media system. We confuse bravado and machismo with patriotism and we confuse military might with virtue and right. This world will only survive if we manage to cast these delusions aside and begin to engage with the world rather than dictate to it. The media have a role to play in this, but I am not all that hopeful it can overcome its interest in the high ratings wars bring and the comfortable relationship it has with the those who have planned and will prosecute this war.

Against the grain, I'm Jim Wittebols.

Jim Wittebols is a professor of Communications Studies at Niagara University.