5 Years of Covering Iraq

Friday, March 21, 2008


On the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War, the death toll for U.S. soldiers approaches 4,000 and the cost moves past a half-trillion dollars. Press coverage, however, is at an all-time low.

::: :: : OTM'S IRAQ WAR TIMELINE : :: :::

OTM takes a look at the crucial role of media in the evolution of this war. Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher and author of So Wrong for So Long, takes us back to the early days of combat.

Comments [30]

ed dannenhoffer from NY and NH

I just heard someone on wnyc say that "we" believe that there no other radio station that even comes close to them(WNYC). I can't agree with that statement! I spend most of my time in NH, but I usually come to NY about once a month,and when I do, I listen to WNYC AND WBAI. Lately I have heard the latter discussing two very important issues-
the winter soldiers and the "other side" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I was very impressed at what they had to say. I have never heard these issues discussed by WNYC. Why is this?? Are the issues too hot?Can someone please explain to me what the consequences would be for WNYC if it did discuss these important subjects???

May. 15 2008 04:53 PM
Kevin Hales from Durham, NC

That's the point, dolt: despite the fact that examining things from a careful, nuanced perspective is obviously the best policy in general, sometimes "paralysis by analysis" can occur. Sometimes moving toward the usually deficient, simplistic "good guys vs bad guys" paradigm is--unfortunately--the best response to a given situation. This was the case during WWII, and it may be the case at other times.

I hope that your utter incapability to understand that concept doesn't indicate that it's also lost on other readers.

Apr. 01 2008 12:51 PM
War On War Off from Austin, Texas

Okay, I'm done arguing with the child. Good guys vs. bad guys? Um, nuance much?

Apr. 01 2008 12:01 PM
Stephanie Phillips from North Carolina

I think Kevin Hales is dreamy.

If you guys want to oppose his argument at least do it in a way that makes sense.

Mar. 31 2008 03:46 PM
Kevin Hales from Durham, NC

"Chimpy mouthpiece", huh. Brilliant rebuttal.

If you think real hard, you'll see that Prescott Bush's business connection to WWII is actually a good example of the point I'm making: that (as I said elsewhere) "the WWII-era US and UK were FAR, FAR more nationalist/jingoist, more propagandizing, more war-mongering, more racist, more imperialist, more accepting of opponents' civilian deaths, more tolerant of our own soldiers' deaths, more willing to make deals with the devil (cough cough Stalin), and more self-serving than they are now--but virtually everyone agrees that we had the moral authority to fight that war tooth and nail."

And my point, again, is this question: if we could justify seeing things as "good guys versus bad guys" then--a justification which virtually everyone accepts, despite our having lots of "bad guy" stuff ourselves at that time--and recognize that it was vital for the world that we did so, then what might that say about the situation today?

Mar. 31 2008 03:32 PM
War On War Off from Austin, Texas

"Read up on WWII, Mr. I'm Patriotic Because My Dad Was A Military Officer."

You FUNNY! But you know who was against going to war with Germany? Prescott Bush, chimpy's granddaddy. Because he was profiting from Nazi Germany war crimes:


Mar. 31 2008 10:38 AM
War On War Off from Austin, Texas

Hey, great job OTM in getting the chimpy mouthpiece Kevin Hales on the air in such a fair & balanced way! (Despite the fact that the *majority* of the other posters here were aghast at the propaganda described in your program.) Good on you for making sure we get "the other side of the story!"

Mar. 31 2008 10:33 AM
George from White Plains, New York

Can anyone out there tell me what it means, to "win" a war.
What is worth sacrificing our most valuable resource-- our children?

Mar. 29 2008 08:50 PM
Kevin Hales from Durham, NC

I wondered how long before the stream of melodramatic attacks came out. It's so predictable.

Read up on WWII, Mr. I'm Patriotic Because My Dad Was A Military Officer. That was also a "war of choice," and there was a small but significant segment--read some of the New York Times editorials from that era--who offered the SAME EXACT arguments against fighting that war that you hear today about this war. Yeah, I know the Japanese attacked a base we had way out on an island the Pacific (and remember, Hawaii wasn't even a state yet), and I know we had the convenient technicality of actual nations declaring war on us.

I shouldn't really engage with you, though, because my point here is to get reasonable, open-minded people who are against this war merely to CONSIDER that the arguments they use are often precisely the same as those that were argued against our fighting in WWII (as well as the those against the difficult, costly years and years of rebuilding Germany and Japan after the war). I want folks to think about why, despite our country's myriad severe problems at that time, it was still right for us then to take the simplistic position that we were the good guys, and they were the bad guys, and we've got to beat them.

Mar. 28 2008 12:26 PM
War On War Off from Austin, Texas

"A huge part of our society took the virtue of self-criticism to a level where it became self-destructive, like a self-examining person who makes a wrong turn toward irreversible self-hatred."

I grew up as a military dependent, and my father served three tours of duty as an officer in Vietnam. How dare you impugn my patriotism and the patriotism of others who question your fascist notions of all war, all the time. Look, bud, a nation only goes to war if it HAS to. Once you unleash the dogs of war all hell breaks loose, as is the case currently. You can whine and blame other Americans all you like, but the fact remains this was a war of choice (unlike WW II), and now our military is broken and in tatters, with less security, not more. And that YOUR FAULT, and the fault of your drunken, inept preznit chimp, whose arrogance and ignorance are destroying America.

Mar. 28 2008 10:03 AM
Kevin Hales from Durham, NC

Just further illustration of my point: the debilitating, ideological, pathological US-abasement throughout the American left that grew throughout the last half of the 20th century--taking hold sometime between the Korean and Vietnam wars--has effectively destroyed the US's ability to win any major war. A huge part of our society took the virtue of self-criticism to a level where it became self-destructive, like a self-examining person who makes a wrong turn toward irreversible self-hatred.

Again, I ask you to imagine what our morale, our quest for victory, our patriotism would have been like in the 1930s and 1940s if we'd looked at our own country with the same unbalanced hyper-criticism that has gripped the country since the 1960s. How would you folks have viewed the following in the 1930s and 1940s?

The endless super-jingoistic, racist, inaccurate, fear-mongering propaganda; the firebombing of Berlin; the Japanese-American internment; the celebrated pursuit of the most destructive weapon ever created by man; the thousands of American soldier deaths (again, 300,000 in 4 years). Never mind the continuing severe statutory oppression of blacks in the US at the time, the recent Great Depression, the isolationist position that "it's their problem", etc., etc.

We'd never have gotten out of the gate. We would have self-immolated as soon as possible. And would that have been better for the world?

Mar. 27 2008 01:22 AM
War On War Off from Austin, Texas

I would also urge Mr. Hales and everybody else to check out what Iraqis actually *think* about all our good works...

Here: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/03/26/iraq_debate/index.html

An excerpt:

"It's -- we have a country where the government is not functioning after five years. We have too many internal problems. And we have the violence increasing day after day.

We have a huge crisis of refugees inside and outside Iraq. We have a total failure of the -- of the civilian -- the civilian structure and what's happening inside. We have the sectarian divisions increasing. We didn't have that before. Now we have it.

So, basically, my assessment is we have a whole nation called Iraq, now it's wiped out."

Mar. 26 2008 12:01 PM
War On War Off from Austin, Texas

Kevin Hales opines:

"We all know quite well why mainstream media coverage of the Iraq war is "at an all-time low": precisely and simply because things are going well."

Well, Al Sadr is about to cut us to pieces, and the Sunnis are demanding more bloody money or they will turn against us again, but aside from that...

Mar. 26 2008 11:50 AM
Karen Stansbery

When will On the Media explain the news blackout of the Winter Soldier hearings?

Mar. 26 2008 09:46 AM

Interesting that Mr. Mitchell finds all of this so funny. Since when did journalism become activism?

Mar. 25 2008 01:53 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

I cannot help but blame we the citizenry for allowing our government and our media fall to such depths. We listened to the Who anthem and, still, we let them all pretend to fool us while we foolishly gambled with the future by willfully ignoring the truth.

It was out there.

Mar. 25 2008 01:34 AM
Matthew Isles from Oakland, CA

Incidentally, I should have also mentioned that, like Mssrs. Thurgood, Waldman, and molly who posted above, I was enormously disappointed with NPR, as well as PBS, from early 2002-2007. In fact, I was so disgusted with NPR and PBS for their poor and uncritical (or even war-mongering in the case of The News Hour and All Things Considered) coverage of the lead up to the warm and the coverage as the war morphed into an occupation, that I stopped listening-to/watching them almost altogether. There were occasional standouts of good reporting (BBC streams, certain Fresh Air interviews, On Point programs, Forum programs, This American Life programs, OTM shows, Tavis Smiley shows) and of course local NPR affiliates offer a broader range of coverage that the national programs, but on the whole, I think NPR and PBS are as culpable as the rest of the Nation's media for self-delusory coverage and complicity in war cheerleading. I should note that many of the programs carried on NPR stations which produced better-than-average coverage of the war were locally produced, syndicated shows. This would suggest that the editorial staff at NPR HQ would have had little to no influence in the best programing surrounding the war being offered by the broadcast network. Not something to be proud of. But hey, thanks to Mrs. Kroc, at least you don't have to rely as much on all us plebes to "underwrite" your broadcasts. Seriously though, I do appreciate that OTM is there.

Mar. 24 2008 02:57 AM
Matthew Isles from Oakland, CA

Great program OTM team. Really valuable. Keep up the good work. I value your service enormously, even if I sometimes think you miss things. Heh, there's alot of media out there to critique.

Matt Isles

Mar. 24 2008 02:38 AM
Kevin Hales from Durham, NC

This show and these comments would be hilariously Orwellian if they weren't so frighteningly Orwellian.

We all know quite well why mainstream media coverage of the Iraq war is "at an all-time low": precisely and simply because things are going well. Folks on the left are worried to death that Iraq is going to turn into a thriving, democratic modern-day Germany or Japan.

Truly--some of you should examine what would have happened if, during World War II, people had held the media, the military, and the US in general to the same rules of conduct that you insist upon today. Think about the dirty businesses of war that went on at the time: the propagandizing, jingoism, interrogations, civilian casualties, and American soldier deaths (nearly 300,000 killed in action in less than 4 years!).

Being a self-examining, self-critical society is vital. But holding the US to absurdly imbalanced rules of conduct to the point of self-debilitation is horribly dangerous, not only for us but for the whole world.

Mar. 24 2008 12:28 AM
Arman Thurgood from Tennessee

If you want hysterical cheerleading. go back and listen to your own Scott Simon exulting in the carnage of "Shock and Awe". It sounds like a shrieking German newsreel of the Blitzkrieg.

Mar. 23 2008 11:01 PM
Jane Meyerding from Seattle WA

Your retrospective on media coverage of the Iraq war makes it sound as if the members of the media had to find out the truth about the war all on their own. Yet there were hundreds of thousands of people -- including many reputable experts on the Middle East -- pointing out the administration's lies from well before the war began. Why doesn't OTM cover the media's failure to report on the portion of the population that has been pointing out the emperor's lack of attire for more than five years now?

Mar. 23 2008 09:43 PM

Agree w Waldman / #6. Scary then and still.

Mar. 23 2008 09:28 PM
Kathryn Hoffman from Allentown, PA

Dear OTM:

Thank you for an incisive and refreshingly trenchant history and analysis of the professional media's weakness in accessing and reporting the Iraq war--from the misleading and deceptions in the build-up to this sorry five year mark. Brooke Gladstone, Bob Garfield and all the OTM staff who assisted with it are to be congratulated. I only wish you all were on front pages and in living rooms all over the country each night. I grieve for all those who lost their lives, their families and blasted environments.

Mar. 23 2008 01:53 PM
EMarie from South Carolina

Thank you for this excellent report on five years of waste and mismanagement. Five years ago I was wakened by the report of the "invasion" of a country that was no threat to us, despite the importunate blandishments of the Bush administration. Why and how we tolerated their propaganda is something I have yet to understand. I sincerely hope your program reaches people who have yet to understand how the wool has been pulled over their eyes. Future generations will be paying for this insane "war" without getting anything but recriminations in return.

Mar. 23 2008 12:23 PM
Stuart Waldman from New York

It was good that you analyzed the, by now, well documented failings of the media in the run-up to and the early days of the war. I do, however, wish that you had engaged in a serious self-critique of NPR's coverage.
It wasn't nearly as bad as say Wolf Blitzer's imitation of a gray haired parrot but it was bad enough I was furious by NPR's cheerleading in the early days, because we depend on you to be an anti-dote to mainstream media. Listen to tapes of your Iraq anchor and I think you'll agree that NPR fell disgracefully short of its mission.

Mar. 23 2008 10:57 AM
Jon Oakes from Keene, NH

Thank you for your program this morning. Even after it is well known by everyone the lies that have been told to us by our government and a complicit media, it still takes courage to speak the truth so plainly and I commend you for it.

Mar. 23 2008 10:48 AM
molly from NYC

I was very surprised that Bob didn't push Greg Mitchell harder on the huge question of the antisceptic, carnage-lessness of our war coverage. When Bob asked Mitchell why there's such a paucity of images of the death and destruction we know is going on, Mitchell said that the Pentagon "wouldn't allow or discouraged" images of American dead. Well, there's a world of difference between not allowing and discouraging. Bob, where's that OTM insistence on clarity and accountability?

Mar. 23 2008 10:22 AM
laurie from new jersey

Awesome show, you guys. Thank you so much. Most of the U.S. media has shamed itself in its coverage of this war, they got us into this mess in the first place by not calling the Bush administration on its lies. Thank you for continuing to cover the awful coverage.

Mar. 22 2008 03:51 PM
Kyle from New York

I am sick and tired of this unjust war is their anybody out their to impeach the bush administration and his cabinet members. I was in the first gulf war and that was to me unjust still but the US policy is to go over their to put their mark in the Middle East and try to spread democracy which to me it will not work at all. Is their light at the tunnel or the demcratic candidates is all talk but no action. Please tell me how is the demcrates going to reverse what the bush administration has done for 8-years destroying the American citizens image. Thank you and I really like your programs.

Mar. 22 2008 06:18 AM
Nicholas from Amherst, MA

Congratulations to On The Media for its thorough retrospective of the Iraq War thus far. It must have been very tempting to take a segment or two to talk about Barack Obama's speech and such, but it's a much greater service to take an hour to talk about how many lies have been told, how little has been gained, and how much has been lost -- how much trust (between the media and the Administration, between Iraqis and Americans) and how many lives. The statistics on the lack of TV coverage of the war this year alone are astounding. Good for OTM to try to begin to address this imbalance.

Mar. 22 2008 01:44 AM

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