Is the Media to Blame?
Snow claims that the news about Iraq isn't balanced, focusing on roadside bombings and kidnappings. In a flight of rhetorical flourish, Snow said, "Our soldiers may be in the crosshairs every day, but it is the American voter who is a real target, and it is the media that carries the message back each day across the airwaves."
A similar case has been made by columnist Jim Pinkerton. Pinkerton is a generally reasonable man, despite a bit of unbalanced libertarianism, and was opposed to the war initially.
According to Pinkerton, "the press turned on the Iraq war several years ago" and now frames the war in one of two ways. "One is, the U.S. military is evil," said Pinketon, and two, "the U.S. military needs to be carefully restrained with legal rules and procedures."
So is the media coverage of the Iraq war providing "aid and comfort to the enemy," an allegation heard from many on the "right?"
In an interview with Foreign Policy, former Newsweek Baghdad bureau chief Rod Nordland discussed the ways that the military is controlling and managing the news.
According to Nordland, the movement of journalists is severely restricted and circumscribed by the military. Moreover, the Pentagon has started censoring many embed reporting arrangements: "Before a journalist is allowed to go on an embed now, [the military] check[s] the work you have done previously. They want to know your slant on a story—they use the word slant—what you intend to write, and what you have written from embed trips before. If they don’t like what you have done before, they refuse to take you. There are cases where individual reporters have been blacklisted because the military wasn’t happy with the work they had done on embed."
Nordland reports that conditions in Iraq are rapidly deteriorating, and yet Americans aren't being told. "Living conditions have gotten so much worse, violence is at an even higher tempo, and the country is on the verge of civil war. The administration has been successful to the extent that most Americans are not aware of just how dire it is and how little progress has been made. They keep talking about how the Iraqi army is doing much better and taking over responsibilities, but for the most part that’s not true."
Another unnamed producer for Reuters said, "I was a mouthpiece for the American military." During 45 days in Baghdad, she was given full cooperation when writing a piece sympathetic to the imperial project, but when she asked to leave the compound to independently verify reports of attacks on civilians, for example, she was forbidden to exit the base on her own. "There was no balance," she said. "What we were doing wasn't real journalism."
Meanwhile, the violence proceeds unimpeded. NPR reported yesterday on the Baghdad morgue which received 1,600 bodies last month alone. During the Hussein regime, if the morgue received 5 to 7 bodies during a day it was considered unusual. Now, it isn't uncommon to receive 100.
The fact is that in an age of instant communication, it is ultimately impossible to keep the can of worms closed. Despite the best efforts to put a big smiley face on the Iraq war, on the ground it is an unmitigated disaster for the credibility of the United States.
But Neocons and administration supporters are unwilling or unable to admit to strategic errors, so instead they look for scapegoats. That the NY Times, Washington Post, NPR and rest of the media were complicit in doing administration bidding by peddling distortions about WMDs is completely forgotten in the rush to blame them for a lack of progress in Iraq when the real problem is a complete lack of sound strategic thinking on the part of war supporters.