Anyone who was on my old FOIB list knows that I was an outspoken opponent of America’s two excursions in Iraq. Bill Moyers recently produced a documentary called “Buying the War” which should be mandatory viewing for hawks and doves alike. In it, Moyers exposes a complicity in the American Press that vectors into boosterism. In particular he discusses CNN chief Walter Isaacson’s memo instructing his reporters to balance negative news from Afghanistan with reminders of 9/11, so that the viewing public saw these in context of the fear and loathing inspired by September 11th:
“You want to make sure people understand that when they see civilian suffering there, it’s in the context of a terrorist attack that caused enormous suffering in the United States.”
Isaacson later claimed that he was buckling under pressure from CNN’s corporate interests, which exclaimed that the news was “too negative”. Failing to understand his own irony, he also later stated that he didn’t want CNN to be used “as a propaganda platform.” In actual context, the number of deaths occurring on September 11th pales by comparison to those civilians who’ve paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan, to say nothing of Iraq (which now accounts for as many as 70,000 civilian deaths).
Much more disturbing, the mainstream US Media bought and then massively resold the administration’s link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda without any hard evidence and without any further in-depth investigation. While even reporters, editors, and producers themselves were disinclined to believe the US Administration’s line they reported it breathlessly regardless of their concerns. Bushists and their army then descended upon the media to repeat the phrase “but we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” which was an obvious manipulation of the public’s fear of a bigger, badder 9/11 — they were given a virtually infinite quantity of air time as a podium to sell the war, and very little in the way of counterpoint. In the history of mankind, there has rarely been such an abject failure of the Fourth Estate.
But today I’m not writing to indict the Bushists. Of far greater concern to me are the millions of born-again Hawks who channeled the anger, pain, and shock from the 9/11 attack into a seething, raging vengeance. Insodoing they allowed themselves to be manipulated by the dubious aims of an administration bent on war and naively seeking U.S. dominance of the Middle East (as though that is even a feasible goal).
Many of these faux-hawks (I’m attempting to hijack the phrase for comedic effect here) are now, with the benefit of hindsight, claiming that they were “lied to” and “manipulated”, as though that warrants immediate exoneration. This is the problem.
Why was I able to form an opinion, amid the froth of propaganda following 9/11 and leading up to the wars, that there was no link between Al Qaeda and Saddam, that there was likely no nuclear program in Iraq, and that there was no real justifiable reason to invade Iraq? Am I smarter than everyone else? Surely not.
The answer is simple. While I watched CNN and occasionally Faux News, I also read other articles, such as this one from Knight-Ridder. I’d also read a few books on Middle-Eastern and specifically Iraqi recent history to understand the longer-term context, and I did a hell of a lot of Googling. I read newspapers from around the world, I read and watched opposing viewpoints, and I discussed the issue with friends. I read the back pages of the NY Times and Washington Post, to where most of the cautionary reporting was relegated. In essence, I sought out perspective, and through no matter of luck I found it, and it turns out to have been the correct one.
This is the job of every citizen of a democracy — I would hazard to say every citizen of the world. I cannot forgive those who merely lapped up that which was spoon-fed to them, who were entirely governed by their emotions, and who abandoned their responsibility as citizens and voters by failing to protest — loudly — the march to war. Through inaction, and this is at times the worst crime in a civilized society, they permitted a culture which has survived for thousands of years in the birthplace of humanity to endure its most trying disparagement.
A hockey coach of mine once said that the hardest-working player on the ice should always the guy who just screwed up. That rule also applies here. If you succumbed to the rhetoric of the Bush sycophants and joined the march (to send other people) to war only to realize your mistake later, you owe more to your fellow man than to simply claim you were lied to. You need to, at last, take action to stop the injustice in which you were complicit.
Paint a sign, write a blog post, march in a parade, or simply raise the quality of your discourse among friend. Do anything to combat this blunder and make up to your fellow patriots and world citizens alike. No President or Congress can instigate a war without the support of the population. So whose fault is the current Iraqi debacle?
Well, maybe it’s yours.