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Corporate Media Must Widen Iraq-Gate Investigation

From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release July 31, 2003

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Corporate Media Must Widen Iraq-Gate Investigation Beyond the "16 Words"

Interview with Steve Rendall, senior analyst with Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Listen in RealAudio:

Sixteen words in President Bush’s State of the Union Address last Jan. 28, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” are becoming as well-known as the 18-minute gap in former President Nixon’s White House tape made famous in the Watergate scandal. Whether the latest questions on Bush’s Iraq policy will lead down the path of impeachment or resignation is far from clear. One critical element in the evolution of the Watergate scandal was the lead role of the mainstream press, some of whose reporters pursued the story with dogged determination and provided the public with critical details about the lies and coverup coming from the White House.

But the U.S. media has undergone dramatic changes over the past three decades with just a handful of conglomerates now controlling virtually all television networks, newspapers and magazines. Instead of journalism being the primary mission in many newsrooms, profit for shareholders is now the bottom line. In the current media climate, very few corporate reporters are willing to ask the tough questions that helped topple a president. Over the last few weeks the press has, however, focused on the Africa uranium story in great detail. In an interview recorded on July 14, Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Steve Rendall, senior analyst Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting or FAIR, about what the media should be looking at in this unfolding scandal.

Steve Rendall: Well, it’s sort of a good news, bad news thing. The good news is, we’re seeing good, hard-hitting critical reporting. We’re hearing reporters in mainstream, corporate media asking tough questions of the White House in a way that we really haven’t seen going back into the ’70s during the Watergate time. However, if you just focus on the Niger uranium hoax, you miss the wider, bigger picture, the pattern of deception that has gone on, as far as the White House is concerned. You miss this sort of history going back months and months of the White House stretching evidence about weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, biological and missiles. I would also add to that, the so-called link between Saddam Hussein or Baghdad and al Qaeda. So this is a pattern of deception that should be covered as a pattern and not just as one issue.

Back in September and October, the Bush and the Blair governments pointed to several sites, several locations in Iraq, 13 to be exact. The so-called 13 sites of concern that both the Bush and Blair governments claimed at which there were activities taking place were proof-positive that the Hussein regime was reconstituting its nuclear, its biological and its banned missile programs. Now remember, this was October and September of last year, in 2002. The UNMOVIC U.N. weapons inspectors returned to Iraq. I don’t think that the Bush and Blair governments knew that the inspectors would be back in Iraq as early as a month or two later in November, and when they got there, they went straight to these 13 sites and guess what, they found nothing. They found nothing at these sites. Now that’s a very interesting story. It’s a very interesting story that most U.S. citizens don’t know about. This was in November when it came out, so it was still three months before Colin Powell’s famous presentation at the U.N. Security Council. I would submit that if the media had played up the failure in the case of those 13 sites of concern that the context surrounding Secretary of State Colin Powell’s (speech) at the U.N. Security Council should have been a lot different … instead of going in there as the big megastar, the big diplomat, and coming out and receiving gushing reviews from the press -- the press couldn’t get enough of him, “he was so convincing,” Andrea Mitchell said on NBC. I think there may have been somme tougher scrutiny of Colin Powell’s presentation there which, by the way, I think the media should be looking at very carefully now.

Let’s remember he pointed his finger at mobile weapons labs that British intelligence is now saying were not weapons labs –- they’re confirming more or less what (former UN weapons inspector) Scott Ritter has been saying all along, that those tractor trailer units are really for producing helium for weather balloons that are used by artillery so that they can gauge the speed of winds and weather.

In another case, Colin Powell held up pictures -- they were not photographs, they were drawings of so-called drones, unmanned gliders –- that some in the administration sugggested were going to make it all the way from Iraq to the U.S. and were going to somehow wreak some “weapons of mass destruction” terror on us. Well, they found those gliders and those gliders have a range of five miles. They’re like overgrown children’s remote-controlled airplanes. The operator has to be within eyesight of these drones in order to operate them, and certainly they couldn’t get very far from the borderline of Iraq.

So far there’s been nothing turned up that comes close to approaching, either the biological weapons labs that Colin Powell suggested were there or these deadly long distance gliders.

Between The Lines: What do you think is the appropriate response from the media to other current claims that may or not be directly related to Iraq? For example, last week there was a report that the Iranian military was moving across the border into Iraq. As far as what I heard there was no real explanation from where they got that information, it was more like an assertion from the government. And after what’s been going on with the information about Iraq, it makes me wonder at least, well, where’s that coming from and how accurate is it?

Steve Rendall: Well, people should not only be skeptical of everything that comes out of the administration, but also everything that comes out of our mainstream news media and alternative media. People should be skeptical in general. They should draw from a broad variety of sources and they should make up their own minds.

Call FAIR at (212) 633-6700 or visit their website at

Visit our website at http://www.btl080103.html/#1hed for related links:

- “Kucinich: Cheney Must Explain Role in African Uranium Scandal," by Malia Rulon, The Associated Press, July 22, 2003

- "The Next Debate: Al Qaeda Link," by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The New York Times, July 20, 2003

- "16 Questions for President Bush," by Howard Dean, July 18, 2003

- "Democrat Eyes Potential Grounds for Bush Impeachment," by John Milne, Reuters, July 17, 2003


Melinda Tuhus is a producer with Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines (, for the week ending Aug. 1, 2003.

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