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April 21, 2008

How the media duped Americans: Iraq(n)

In many ways, the American public was duped in the days leading up to the war in Iraq. Specifically, we were duped into believing that the threat posed by Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” was so grave that it warranted a preemptive attack.

Sound familiar? It should. In recent months, the Bush administration has used a similar argument to pressure Americans into supporting a US-Iran war.

Sunday’s New York Times exposè, Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand, informed the American public of a covert effort by retired military officers turned “analysts” and the US government to shower American news stations with “favorable coverage” of the Iraq war.

The article has enraged many Americans—and rightfully so—who were shocked to learn of the government’s well-oiled propaganda machine and its many takers: retired Col. Ken Allard, retired Gen. Wayne Downing, and retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, to name just a few.

“Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show,” the article reported. “In turn, members of this group [analysts] have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated.”

As sad as it was for me to read about our government’s covert efforts, even at the highest levels, as a journalist, I was sadder to learn of the media’s involvement.

It’s a long laundry list. The analysts interviewed in the article have been featured on NBC, Fox News, CBS, ABC, and CNN on some of the most prestigious news shows, including Tim Russertt’s “Meet the Press.”

The records found by the New York Times “reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.”

As talk of the war in Iraq turns into pressure for a war with Iran on our airways, it is important for Americans to remember that you can’t always believe what you hear, especially now. Let’s not allow the media, an institution so obviously a mouthpiece for the Bush administration, blindly dupe Americans into another war.

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