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Linda McQuaig says pliant American press behaving like Pravda in coverage of the U.S. president
Toronto Star, Canada
If clear evidence emerged showing George W. Bush had written in his diary that he had lied to the American people to justify his invasion of Iraq, would the U.S. media even consider that a story?
I'm not sure any more. To an astonishing extent, the U.S. media have avoided scrutinizing this U.S. president, even after it became clear he'd launched a war in the name of disarming Iraq of weapons that didn't exist.
The Bush administration and the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee blamed this on "faulty intelligence," an explanation the media have largely parroted.
The Senate committee promised last summer to probe what role the White House may have played in concocting the faulty intelligence — but only after the presidential election.
Once the president was re-elected last fall, the Senate committee chairman, Republican Pat Roberts, simply cancelled the promised investigation of the White House's role, insisting it would be "a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further."
Replow it further? How about plowing it once?
Roberts's decision to let the administration off the hook on Iraq was barely covered in the media.
Recently, some top-secret British government memos, leaked to the British press, have revealed that America's chief ally believed Bush's case for war was fabricated. Still, the U.S. media have barely stirred.
The British memos reveal the Bush administration had decided by April 2002 — a year before the invasion — to use military force against Saddam. This contradicts Bush's insistence that war was only a last resort.
One memo, detailing a secret meeting chaired by British Prime Minister Tony Blair in July 2002, shows the Blair government considered that Bush's case about the dangers of Saddam's weapons "was thin" and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
The memo also shows the Blair government realized invading Iraq would be illegal and hoped Saddam could be provoked into doing something to justify war against him. One plan was for U.S. aircraft patrolling southern Iraq (officially to protect ethnic minorities from Saddam) to drop bombs in the hopes that Saddam would fight back.
The memo noted that "spikes of activity" by U.S. aircraft had already begun "to put pressure on the regime." British figures show that between May and August 2002, ten tonnes of bombs a month were dropped on Iraq. Still, Saddam failed to be lured into war.
In a televised address last week, Bush portrayed U.S. actions in Iraq as defensive, as necessary to protect America from another 9/11.
I saw no mention in the TV coverage of what the British memos reveal: that those with inside knowledge knew Saddam's arsenal posed no danger, that the intelligence was being "fixed" and that the U.S. dropped bombs to try to provoke a war — while insisting it was doing everything it could to avoid one.
Instead, the media kept their focus on what the president said in his speech. Pravda, covering a Soviet leader's speech, would have been similarly respectful.
Linda McQuaig is a Toronto-based author and commentator. firstname.lastname@example.org