Friday, July 22, 2005

Iraq and the U.S. Press

The weekly peace vigil in front of San Francisco's Federal Building was a jolly affair on Thursday. Two pairs of European tourists, one from Scotland and another from Italy, happened to walk by and decided to join the group.

The shameless cheerleading and dispensing of Bush Administration lies by the majority of the U.S. press in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion is a pretty well-known story. What is possibly more disturbing is how the major television and print press suppresses any information that would help make any sense of all the mendacity.

The best example is the "Downing Street Memo," where the head of M16 (the British equivalent of the CIA) told a meeting of British leaders in 2002 after a trip to the United States that the Bush Administration had decided to "fix" the intelligence so they could invade Iraq, no matter what any evidence or non-evidence of weapons of mass destruction might show.

On a wonderful website called TomDispatch run by Tom Englehardt, there is a fuller explanation:

On May 15, Tomdispatch posted a piece Mark Danner wrote for the New York Review of Books on the Downing Street Memo, the first of a string of secret documents leaked to the Times of London from the upper reaches of the British government, which cumulatively offered an unprecedented look inside the Bush administration as it was preparing, 8 months ahead of time, to prosecute a war against Iraq. By the time Danner wrote his piece, the memo, released by the London Times on May 1, had already sped around the Internet, but had still not seen the print light-of-day in the United States. Neither the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, nor the Washington Post thought the notes of a meeting of Tony Blair's war cabinet in which the head of M16, the British equivalent of the CIA director, discusses recent high-level private talks in Washington, a memo with a classic line -- "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." -- was fit enough to print or even highlight on their front pages.

Englehardt then reprints from the The New York Review of Books (prior to publication on August 8th) a great exchange between Michael Kinsley, the editor of the "Los Angeles Times," and Mark Danner, a brilliant writer and professor of journalism at UC Berkeley, where Kinsley defends not printing the memo and Danner disagrees. As James Wolcott wrote, "Kinsley comes off rather the worse in the exchange, if I may deploy a rare bit of understatement." For the entire exchange, click here.

Here in San Francisco, we suffer under the yoke of the "San Francisco Chronicle," which has long competed for the title of Worst Major Morning Daily in the World. Somehow, when the Hearst Corporation took it over about six years ago with Phil Bronstein, the ex-Mr. Sharon Stone as editor, the newspaper actually managed to get considerably worse, which frankly had seemed impossible. Their two "Chronicle Washington Bureau" writers are a couple of mealy-mouthed reactionaries named Marc Sandalow and Carolyn Lochhead (whose name I can't help but change to Blockhead in my brain every time I see it). I would give you links to some of their typical blatherings, but there's already enough stupidity and darkness in the world, so I will not.

The best stuff in the "Chronicle" is always buried somewhere, as the above chart taken from AP demonstrates. It was on page A9 last Friday, the 15th, and actually has a cute little chart showing it's "civilians" who are bearing the brunt of all the mayhem in Iraq.

I don't think the U.S. press is ever going to recover from its lies and omissions about Iraq. If you didn't trust them before, the last four or five years have been a real eye-opener.


the Witch said...

Agreed, Mike.

Melissa McEwan said...

Great post. I just love your blog.