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10 Years Since the US Invasion/Occupation of Iraq: Part I – Media & Misinformation

March 18, 2013

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This week marks the 10th anniversary of the US invasion/occupation of Iraq. This is the first of a three-part series, where we will look at the media’s role in the invasion/occupation, the imperialist nature of the US invasion/occupation and the current status of Iraq and its people.

The role the US commercial media played in the lead up to and during the US invasion/occupation of Iraq cannot be understated. Most US commercial media outlets either acted as stenographers for US policy, often championing the invasion, or they promoted misinformation and lies about what was actually happening just prior and during the ongoing US occupation of Iraq.

As is expected, there are numerous articles appearing on the 10th anniversary of the US invasion/occupation of Iraq. One excellent piece is by Greg Mitchell, who wrote a whole book about the complicity of the US media in regards to the Iraq war. Mitchell’s article looks at sixteen major media outrages that occurred in the US during the early months of the war, such as the statement from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews who said, “we are all neocons now.”

We conducted our own monitoring of Grand Rapids-based media during this time and produced a documentary and report entitled, Searching for the Smoking Gun: Local News Coverage of the US War in Iraq.

In our report of local news coverage (which included the Grand Rapids Press, WOOD TV 8, WZZM 13 and WXMI 17), we discovered that the local news media:Picture 1

  • Relied almost exclusively on US government officials and US military personnel as sources for reporting on the US invasion/occupation
  • All four news outlets acted as a conduit for the US State Department Position
  • None of the major claims by the US government or military were questioned or verified by the four local news agencies
  • All four news stations took a public supportive position on the war
  • Once the US invasion/occupation began, anti-war voices significantly diminished
  • All four local news agencies almost exclusively focused on US military casualties and rarely reported on Iraqi civilian casualties.

The overall tone and content in the local news reporting was so much in line with the US government position, one would have thought they were being told what to report. And here is the sad reality. The local news media, just like the national press, was not being told what to report, which is what makes their complicity in promoting lies and misinformation so incredible.

Of course the major lies and misinformation mostly focused around the US State Department claim that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). This was simply not true and no WMDs were ever found, despite the US administration’s constant claim to the contrary.Picture 3

This claim was completed embraced by the US media, that when former US Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the United Nations in February of 2003, they did not question his presentation that proved Iraq was in possession of WMDs. Powell himself, once out of the government, admitted his presentation was false and that it was the lowest point of his political career.

Powell’s mea culpa aside, the US media’s failure to verify and to essentially cheerlead the US invasion/occupation led to massive war crimes in Iraq, with over 1 million Iraqi civilian deaths, according to one source.

Despite the massive human rights violations committed by the US in Iraq, no major US news media outlet admitted it was consistently complicit in these crimes. The same goes for the local news agencies based on what we documented early on in the US invasion/occupation of Iraq, nor years later in the subsequent studies we conducted in 2004, 2005 and 2007.

This was and is not merely nationalistic allegiance, it is gross complicity in the massive deaths and destruction wrought from the US invasion/occupation of Iraq. The US media is indeed partly responsible for these war crimes and needs to be held accountable for that role.

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