Swanson: War Lies And Journalistic Constipation
War Lies And Journalistic Constipation
By David Swanson
Sirota recently documented instances of what he called
He described this sort of reporting as "based on reporters and pundits simply pulling stuff right out of their ass."
examples are good and his argument important. All sorts of
nonsense is peddled as fact in the U.S. media every day.
But the larger problem, I would argue, is Journalistic
Constipation, the failure of the media to mention at all
some of the most important news stories that come along.
Last year I catalogued many of these stories, related to
labor, the workplace, the election, and the war:
But this week I came upon a glaring example. Or, rather, my colleague Jon Schwarz did. Everyone knows by now that the New York Times sat on a story of illegal spying until after the illegal spy in chief was "re-elected." (We refer to him as having been re-elected, because journalistic constipation blocked the story of election fraud.)
We know that the
New York Times published the spying story because one of its
reporters, James Risen, was about to publish it himself in a
book. What we don't know is that the same book contains
other major stories that neither the New York Times nor any
other corporate media outlet has yet touched.
One of these stories, as Jon discovered, relates to the Downing Street Memo. In May of 2006, the Downing Street Memo was a huge story in Europe. A lot of us worked hard to make it a story in the US by June. The original memo (accompanied by another seven important documents) is the minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting at which Richard Dearlove, head of British intelligence, reports to Prime Minister Tony Blair on what he's recently learned in Washington.
What he'd learned was devastating: Bush had decided on war many months before telling Congress or the UN or the American people, and had determined to "fix" the evidence of WMDs and ties to 9-11 to "fit the policy" of war.
But no one knew for sure with whom Dearlove had met, and that was one excuse the media gave for its constipation on this story. Michael Kinsley wrote in the Washington Post that Dearlove might have talked to "the usual freelance chatterboxes." Later, in an exchange with Mark Danner, Kinsley indicated that Dearlove might have simply been talking about the "mood and gossip of 'Washington.'" (The Post eventually gave some coverage to the Downing Street Minutes, more than the New York Times ever has.)
Fox News offered these words of wisdom last spring:
KONDRACKE: And this is the key controversial sentence. "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Now, does that mean that we are being jimmied, we are being -- that intelligence was being cooked?
HUME: But this guy that said this based this on his conclusion on discussing this with national security aides surrounding President Bush, right?
KONDRACKE: Right, right.
HUME: Not policymakers?
KONDRACKE: Right, and the adversaries of the policy are fastening on this sentence to say, "Aha!"
Not to be outdone by Fox, CNN brought on John Fund to opine:
"[T]he memo is best characterized as a British aide's impressions of what his cabinet minister's impressions were in a meeting with U.S. officials who were unnamed, and the source of course is anonymous. And not conclusive."
Dick Cheney added:
"The memo is just wrong. In fact, the president of the United States took advantage of every possibility to try to resolve this without having to use military force."
So, what would we have to think if we were to discover that the New York Times has been sitting on a story about who it was that Dearlove met with – and that it was not "national security aides"? In fact, Risen's book reveals that:
• Dearlove was in part reporting on a CIA-MI6 summit he attended with other top MI6 officials at CIA headquarters on Saturday, July 20, 2002
• According to "a former senior CIA officer," the meeting was held "at the urgent request of the British"; CIA officials believe "Blair had ordered Dearlove to go to Washington to find out what the Bush administration was really thinking about Iraq"
• During the day-long summit, Dearlove met privately with CIA head George Tenet for an hour and a half
While the comments from Kinsley, Hume, Kondracke,
Fund, and Cheney above are some of the dumber ones called to
account by these latest fog facts (Larry Beinhart's term for
information that is neither secret nor widely known), far be
it from me to let them twist in the wind alone. Let's bring
back from the mists of last spring's constipated journalism
some of the worst of the worst of the noncoverage of the
Downing Street Memos.
Most Machiavellian Award:
A Fort Worth Star-Telegram op-ed dismissed the Downing Street documents, arguing that Bush had good secret reasons for war that the public was too simple-minded to understand, so we had to be lied to, and we should be grateful for it.
Slickest Hypocrisy Award:
The Washington Post's Editorial Board published an unsigned editorial defending the Post's refusal to report on the Downing Street memos: "The memos add not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration's prewar deliberations. Not only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002."
As I've previously documented at some length, what may have been known to the Post's editors was never printed in its pages:
The Post's editorial continues: "[T]he memos provide no information that would alter the conclusions of multiple independent investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, which were that U.S. and British intelligence agencies genuinely believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and that they were not led to that judgment by the Bush administration."
Well, there was THIS part of the memo: "C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." C is another name for Dearlove. We know now where Dearlove got this information, but only because we look for our news outside of the Washington Post.
Best Pseudo-Democratic Apologia for Fascism Award:
A Philadelphia Inquirer columnist argued that because Bush had been "reelected" it didn't matter if he had lied us into a war, and Americans didn't mind it in the least: "The plain fact is that an amazing percentage of Americans just don't care about the facts on the Iraq war. They don't care that the WMD case collapsed like the house of cards it was, that the dark talk about mushroom clouds and Saddam-Osama links was hoohah. After Sept. 11, people were angry and they were scared. They wanted a leader who would not dither, who would just go out and kick some butt. Bush was that guy, in spades. If it turns out he kicked the wrong butt, then screwed up the aftermath to a bloody fare-thee-well, well, to many people that matters less than how he made them feel when they were reeling."
Funniest False Promise Award:
Fox News provided this illuminating commentary, which ended on a false note:
KONDRACKE: It's going to be all about the Downing Street memo, you know, which alleges...
KONDRACKE: ... you know, alleges that Bush had planned the, the war way in advance...
BARNES: Yes, yes, right.
KONDRACKE: ... and was, was using weapons of mass destruction...
KONDRACKE: ... just as a, as a, as a talking point.
BARNES: You know what? That's a dry hole.
KONDRACKE: Yes, well, it's going to get, it's going to get explored.