Buying the War

Aug 30, 2023 | Media, Videos

The Bush administration led the United States into a war seemingly without proper preparation and execution, which quickly morphed into a complete catastrophe. Despite decades of research and analysis of the immense ramifications of this misstep, one factor often goes unexplored: the role that the media played in helping to propagate misinformation and encourage further involvement in this conflict.

Two weeks before his order to attack Iraq, President Bush held a press conference to rally public support for removing Saddam Hussein from power. He leveraged nearly every available opportunity to link Iraq with 9/11 in an effort to legitimize a so-called “deterrent attack” on a country that had not even attacked America.

At that time, media organizations across the country were just beginning to grapple with the terror of 9/11, dealing with such an unthinkable tragedy by responding with unity and shared understanding. It seemed nearly inconceivable for any member of the press to challenge or critique what was being said as military action was taken against terrorists, leading Walter Isaacson (then Chairman and CEO of CNN) to send his staff a memo urging balance between images and stories of civilian casualties in Afghanistan with reminders of September 11th.

What can we learn from all this? That it is immensely important for news organizations—and us as citizens—to remain vigilant when it comes to truth-seeking and fact-checking so as not to fall prey to government manipulation or false information campaigns. This is also why it’s vital that we continue discussions about and revisit these events; only then can we truly understand how dangerous unchecked political rhetoric can be.

For those who are looking for more insight into how media outlets may have been used in furthering US involvement in Iraq, be sure to check out The Media’s War — A Documentary on How U.S. Media Sold Us The War On Iraq (2009). It offers an eye-opening look at how major news networks were mobilized by those in power, leading many Americans down an uncertain path that continues even today. With its exploration into topics like false reporting, intimidation tactics, self-censorship and more, this documentary serves as both an unsettling reminder of our past mistakes as well as a valuable tool for educating ourselves about critical issues going forward.

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David B