Buying The War

I was listening to The Newshour the other day, and they were asking Nevada residents about the Democratic debates that were held in Las Vegas — which very few people actually watched.

What struck me, during the course of the focus group interview, was a guy who said something that makes me think the Republican media machine has done a fabulous job of branding certain untruths into the collective mind of their base.


What’s the untruth you say? Simple: The reason why we’re in a war with Iraq is because Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. The host of the focus group either didn’t catch what this guy was saying, or just let it go because she had to keep the conversation moving among the group assembled. Whatever the case, it’s kind of sad to think that despite all the evidence to the contrary, people will cling to the propaganda spewed forth by The Powers That Be because it confirms their suspicions. I should add that this is not limited to one ideological point of view.

But hey, the administration had a war to sell in 2002! And sell it they did. The “good old days” of presidential popularity and war fever were brought back to life by Bill Moyers last night on PBS. On “Bill Moyers Journal,” he had a wonderfully reported, but ultimately depressing, documentary called “Buying the War” where he takes the press to task for failing to do their job. Despite all the mild hand-slapping Moyers did when interviewing reporters who repeated the Administration’s copy points, one thing was pretty clear: the hype machine the Bush Administration put together to convince Americans that invading Iraq was payback for 9/11 was masterfully done.

Just read this clipping from the Christian Science Monitor to see that in 2003 there were some papers highlighting the marketing campaign the Bush and Co. were unleashing on the public so they would support the invasion:

March 14, 2003 edition

The impact of Bush linking 9/11 and Iraq

American attitudes about a connection have changed, firming up the case for war. | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


In his prime-time press conference last week, which focused almost solely on

Iraq, President Bush mentioned Sept. 11 eight times. He referred to Saddam Hussein many more times than that, often in the same breath with Sept. 11. Bush never pinned blame for the attacks directly on the Iraqi president. Still, the overall effect was to reinforce an impression that persists among much of the American public: that the Iraqi dictator did play a direct role in the attacks. A New York Times/CBS poll this week shows that 45 percent of Americans believe Mr. Hussein was “personally involved” in Sept. 11, about the same figure as a month ago. Sources knowledgeable about US intelligence say there is no evidence that Hussein played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, nor that he has been or is currently aiding Al Qaeda. Yet the White House appears to be encouraging this false impression, as it seeks to maintain American support for a possible war against Iraq and demonstrate seriousness of purpose to Hussein’s regime.

But that was only one paper – and a paper that despite its high standard of journalism, doesn’t really have a high readership.



During the documentary, Moyers decided to go around the horn and ask a bunch o’ Beltway reporters why didn’t report what folks outside the Beltway were reporting…namely, that 1. Hussein and the Iraqi government were not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. 2. Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and would use them if we didn’t act. 3. Iraq was building nuclear bombs and was importing uranium from Africa to use in their nuclear program.


So, what was the short answer to the question why Beltway reporters didn’t do their job? It was bad for business to report factual information on Iraq and easier to echo the Administration’s copy points. Why? Well, if you were a Beltway reporter who strayed from the “approved script,” you set yourself up to be a target the right wing media smear campaign (i.e., Talk radio, Fox News, and various hosts on other 24 hour cable news channels).


The small number of reporters who did do their jobs weren’t seen as too much of a threat by the administration because their readership was smaller and their ability to break through to the Establishment press like the NY Times, the Washington Post, or the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) was seen as minimal. And if you looked at the way Moyers framed this part of his feature, it was pretty clear that no one in the Establishment media was interested in a writings of say, The Christian Science Monitor, or Knight-Ridder reporters who basically got it right when it came to what was really going on in Iraq.

So much for the power of the “liberal media,” eh?

Anyway, if you’re interested in the Bill Moyers program, you can watch the video online HERE.

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