Walter Lippmann"The news and truth are not the same thing."Mon Apr 23, 2007 01:11
"The news and truth are not the same thing." Walter Lippmann
The Record of All The Bush Administration's Iraq War Lies To Air
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 on PBS. - A MUST SEE FOR EVERYONE
By David Swanson, TruthOut, Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Bill Moyers has put together an amazing 90-minute video documenting the
lies that the Bush administration told to sell the Iraq war to the American
public, with a special focus on how the media led the charge.
I've watched an advance copy and read a transcript, and the most
important thing I can say about it is: Watch PBS from 9:00 to 10:30 PM
on Wednesday, April 25.
Spending that 90 minutes will actually save you time because you'll
never watch television news again -- not even on PBS, which comes in for
its own share of criticism.
While a great many pundits, not to mention presidents, look remarkably
stupid or dishonest in the four-year-old clips included in "Buying the
War," it's hard to take any spiteful pleasure in holding them to
account, and not just because the killing and dying they facilitated is
ongoing, but also because of what this video reveals about the mindset
of members of the DC media.
Moyers interviews media personalities, including Dan Rather, who clearly
both understand what the media did wrong and are unable to really see it
as having been wrong or avoidable.
It's great to see an American media outlet tell this story so well, but
it leads one to ask: When will Congress tell it? While the Democrats
were in the minority, they clamored for hearings and investigations,
they pushed Resolutions of Inquiry into the White House Iraq Group and
the Downing Street Minutes.
Now in the majority, they've gone largely silent. The chief exception is
the House Judiciary Committee's effort to question Condoleezza Rice
next week about the forged Niger documents.
But what comes out of watching this show is a powerful realization that
no investigation is needed by Congress, just as no hidden information
was needed for the media to get the story right in the first place. The
claims that the White House made were not honest mistakes. But
neither were they deceptions. They were transparent and laughably
absurd falsehoods. And they were high crimes and misdemeanors.
The program opens with video of President Bush saying "Iraq is part of
a war on terror. It's a country that trains terrorists. It's a country that can
arm terrorists. Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to
Was that believable or did the media play along? The next shot is of a
press conference at which Bush announces that he has a script telling
him which reporters to call on and in what order. Yet the reporters play
along, raising their hands after each comment, pretending that they
might be called on despite the script.
Video shows Richard Perle claiming that Saddam Hussein worked with
al Qaeda and that Iraqis would greet American occupiers as "liberators."
Here are the Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal, William Safire
from The New York Times, Charles Krauthammer and Jim Hoagland from
The Washington Post, all demanding an overthrow of Iraq's government.
George Will is seen saying that Hussein "has anthrax, he loves biological
weapons, he has terrorist training camps, including 747s to practice on."
But was that even plausible? Bob Simon of "60 Minutes" tells Moyers
he wasn't buying it. He says he saw the idea of a connection between
Hussein and al Qaeda as an absurdity: "Saddam, as most tyrants, was
a total control freak. He wanted total control of his regime. Total control
of the country.
And to introduce a wild card like al Qaeda in any sense was just
something he would not do. So I just didn't believe it for an instant."
Knight Ridder Bureau Chief John Walcott didn't buy it either. He
assigned Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay to do the reporting and
they found the Bush claims to be quite apparently false.
For example, when the Iraqi National Congress (INC) fed The New York
Times's Judith Miller a story through an Iraqi defector claiming that
Hussein had chemical and biological weapons labs under his house,
Landay noticed that the source was a Kurd, making it very unlikely he
would have learned such secrets. But Landay also noticed that it was
absurd to imagine someone putting a biological weapons lab under his
But absurd announcements were the order of the day. A video clip shows
a Fox anchor saying, "A former top Iraqi nuclear scientist tells Congress
Iraq could build three nuclear bombs by 2005." And the most fantastic
stories of all were fed to David Rose at Vanity Fair Magazine. We see a
clip of him saying, "The last training exercise was to blow up a full-size
mock-up of a U.S. destroyer in a lake in central Iraq."
Landay comments: "Or jumping into pits of fouled water and having to
kill a dog with your bare teeth. I mean, this was coming from people who
are appearing in all of these stories, and sometimes their rank would
Forged documents from Niger could not have gotten noticed in this stew
of lies. Had there been some real documents honestly showing something,
that might have stood out and caught more eyes.
Walcott describes the way the INC would feed the same information to the
vice president and secretary of defense that it fed to a reporter, and
the reporter would then get the claims confirmed by calling the White
House or the Pentagon. Landay adds:
"And let's not forget how close these people were to this
administration, which raises the question, was there coordination? I
can't tell you that there was, but it sure looked like it."
Simon from "60 Minutes" tells Moyers that when the White House claimed
a 9/11 hijacker had met with a representative of the Iraqi government in
Prague, "60 Minutes" was easily able to make a few calls and find out
that there was no evidence for the claim.
"If we had combed Prague," he says, "and found out that there was
absolutely no evidence for a meeting between Mohammad Atta and
the Iraqi intelligence figure. If we knew that, you had to figure the
administration knew it. And yet they were selling the connection
between al Qaeda and Saddam."
Moyers questions a number of people about their awful work, including
Dan Rather, Peter Beinart and then Chairman and CEO of CNN Walter
Isaacson. And he questions Simon, who soft-pedaled the story and
avoided reportingthat there was no evidence.
Landay at Knight Ridder did report the facts when it counted, but no
enough people paid attention. He tells Moyers that all he had to do was
read the UN weapons inspectors' reports online to know that the White
House was lying to us. When Cheney said that Hussein was close to
acquiring nuclear weapons,
Landay knew he was lying: "You need tens of thousands of machines
called 'centrifuges' to produce highly enriched uranium for a nuclear
weapon. You've got to house those in a fairly big place, and you've got to
provide a huge amount of power to this facility."
Moyers also hits Tim Russert with a couple of tough questions. Russert
expressed regret for not having included any skeptical voices by saying
he wished his phone had rung. So Moyers begins the next segment by
saying, "Bob Simon didn't wait for the phone to ring," and describing
Simon says he knew the claims about aluminum tubes were false
because "60 Minutes" called up some scientists and researchers and
asked them. Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post says that skeptical
stories did not get placed on the front page because they were not
Moyers shows brief segments of an "Oprah" show in which she has on
only pro-war guests and silences a caller who questions some of the
White House claims. Just in time for the eternal election season, Moyers
includes clips of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry backing the war on the
basis of Bush and Cheney's lies. But we also see clips of Robert Byrd
and Ted Kennedy getting it right.
The Washington Post editorialized in favor of the war 27 times, and
published in 2002 about 1,000 articles and columns on the war. But the
Post gave a huge anti-war march a total of 36 words. "What got even less
ink," Moyers says, "was the release of the National Intelligence Estimate."
Even the misleading partial version that the media received failed to fool a
Landay recalls: "It said that the majority of analysts believed that
those tubes were for the nuclear weapons program. It turns out though,
that the majority of intelligence analysts had no background in nuclear
weapons." Was Landay the only one capable of noticing this detail?
Colin Powell's UN presentation comes in for similar quick debunking. We
watch a video clip of Powell complaining that Iraq has covered a
test-stand with a roof. But AP reporter Charles Hanley comments, "What
he neglected to mention was that the inspectors were underneath watching
what was going on."
Powell cited a UK paper, but it very quickly came out that the paper had
been plagiarized from a college student's work found online. The British
press pointed that out. The U.S. let it slide. But anyone looking for
the facts found it quickly.
Moyers's wonderful movie is marred by a single line -- the next to the
last sentence -- in which he says, "The number of Iraqis killed, over
35,000 last year alone, is hard to pin down." A far more accurate figure
could have been found very easily.
THE PREMIERE OF BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, "BUYING THE WAR"
The premiere of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, "Buying the War," explores
the role of the press in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, including how
the government's claims about weapons of mass destruction and terrorist
ties to Saddam Hussein were largely accepted at face value by the
mainstream media and cheer-leaded by the "partisan press."
The marketing of the war has been much examined, but BILL MOYERS
JOURNAL looks at how key elements of the media bought into the
"Buying the War" features interviews with Dan Rather, formerly of CBS;
Tim Russert of "Meet the Press"; Bob Simon of "60 Minutes"; Walter
Pincus of the Washington Post; Walter Isaacson, then president of CNN;
editor at large of The New Republic and author Peter Beinart; talk show
host Phil Donahue; and James Wolcott, Jonathan Landay and Warren
Strobel of Knight Ridder, which was acquired by the McClatchy Company
in 2006. Virtually alone, Knight Ridder asked for the hard evidence to back
up the president's justification of the war.
"Wečre sending young men and women, and nowadays not so young men
and women, to risk their lives. And everyone wants to be behind them. And
everyone should be behind them," says James Walcott, Washington bureau
chief of Knight Ridder.
"The question for us in journalism is, are we really behind them when we
fail to do our jobs?"
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