Opinion: The Iraq war 20th anniversary also marks a colossal failure of the mainstream media

Twenty years in the past, President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, toppling the despot Saddam Hussein and fomenting a type of hell that Iraq continues to be grappling with at present.

Twenty years in the past, this nation’s mainstream media — with one notable exception — purchased into phony Bush administration claims about Hussein’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, serving to cheerlead our nation right into a battle that ended the lives of hundreds of People and lots of of hundreds of Iraqis. The battle — together with criminally poor post-war planning on the a part of Bush administration officers — additionally unleashed horrible sectarian strife, led to the emergence of ISIS and displaced greater than 1 million Iraqis.

Opinion Columnist

Robin Abcarian

That unhappy chapter in American historical past produced its share of jingoistic buzzwords and phrases: “WMD,” “the axis of evil,” “regime change,” “yellowcake uranium,” “the coalition of the keen,” and a tacky however terrifying chorus, repeated advert nauseam by Bush administration officers equivalent to then-Nationwide Safety Advisor Condoleezza Rice: “We don’t need the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” (The memorable metaphor was dreamed up by the late Michael Gerson, a Bush speechwriter on the time.)

In fact, there was by no means any smoking gun, mushroom-shaped or not.

Iraq’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed in 1991 after Iraq invaded Kuwait and was crushed again by a coalition of 35 nations led by america. The United Nations Safety Council had additionally required Iraq to finish its organic and nuclear weapons packages.

This isn’t to say that Hussein was a defanged tiger; he was not.

However neither was he the menace he was portrayed to be. Deceptive a public that had been shaken to its core by the 9/11 terrorist assaults turned out to be a comparatively straightforward job for the warmongering neocons of the Bush administration. They foolishly believed they might impose democracy on a nation with no historical past of it.

Bush officers additionally manufactured phony hyperlinks between Iraq and the 9/11 assaults orchestrated by Islamist militant Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group Al Qaeda. To his lasting mortification, the late Secretary of State Colin Powell assured the world in a speech to the United Nations simply earlier than the invasion that the battle was utterly justified by the hazard Iraq posed to the world.

“My colleagues, each assertion I make at present is backed up by sources, strong sources,” stated Powell. “These should not assertions. What we’re giving you’re information and conclusions based mostly on strong intelligence.” His statements, he later acknowledged, have been patently false, a lot of which have been offered to U.S. intelligence by unreliable sources — exiles equivalent to Ahmad Chalabi, an Iraqi opposition chief who dreamed of ousting Hussein and taking the reins of energy in Iraq.

Powell’s statements are amongst these documented in 2008 by the Heart for Public Integrity, which compiled the lots of of lies instructed by Bush and his prime officers as a part of a marketing campaign geared toward persuading the American public to assist the invasion of Iraq “beneath decidedly false pretenses.”

A lot of the media, stated the middle, “was largely complicit in its uncritical protection of the explanations for going to battle.” There was a obvious exception to that complicity. Three reporters and an editor in Knight-Ridder’s Washington bureau have been alone among the many main information organizations in questioning the administration’s narrative about WMD. Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel and Joe Galloway, with their editor John Walcott, threw water on a lot of what the mainstream media was reporting. The drama was captured in “Shock and Awe,” a 2017 function movie by Rob Reiner, who performs Walcott.

In 2013, on the tenth anniversary of the invasion, Walcott instructed me his staff was pushed by skepticism, journalism’s most valuable useful resource.

“A lot of the administration’s case for that battle made completely no sense, particularly the notion that Saddam Hussein was allied with Osama bin Laden. A secular Arab dictator allied with a radical Islamist whose objective was to overthrow secular dictators and reestablish his caliphate? The extra we examined it, the extra it stank.”

Additionally, he stated, somewhat than depend on high-ranking administration officers, they sought out lower-level employees who weren’t political appointees and fewer apt to parrot the president to remain in his good graces.

Knight-Ridder turned out story after story undercutting the administration’s (and the New York Instances’, Washington Put up’s and Los Angeles Instances’) model of Hussein’s capabilities. A few of Knight-Ridder’s personal newspapers — amongst them, the Philadelphia Inquirer — refused to run the tales, for concern of being contradicted, particularly by the New York Instances, which defined its credulous protection of the WMD challenge about 15 months after the invasion.

“It’s nonetheless doable that chemical or organic weapons might be unearthed in Iraq,” wrote Instances editors, “however on this case it seems as if we, together with the administration, have been taken in.”

In fact, there was sturdy opposition to the invasion of Iraq within the U.S. and round the world, although within the first few months of the battle, a majority of People polled have been supportive.

It didn’t take lengthy for disenchantment to set in. In spite of everything, the place have been all these Iraqis that Vice President Cheney had promised would greet American troopers as “liberators”?

Cheney has by no means apologized for his function within the Iraqi blunder (so far as I can inform, he’s nonetheless defending it). Neither has Bush, though he lately, if by chance, admitted the reality.

In a speech final Could on the Bush Presidential Heart in Dallas, he stated it was “the choice of 1 man to launch a completely unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq, I imply, Ukraine.”

He winced, then nearly beneath his breath, added: “Iraq too.”