By John R. MacArthur, Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 2004.
"[W]here was the American press on September 7, 2002, a day when we sorely needed reporters? It was then that the White House propaganda drive began in earnest, with the appearance before television cameras of George Bush and Tony Blair at Camp David. Between them, the two politicians cited a �new� report from the UN�s International Atomic Energy Agency that allegedly stated that Iraq was �six months away� from building a nuclear weapon. �don�t know what more evidence we need," declared the president.
For public relations purposes, it hardly mattered that no such IAEA report existed, because almost [no] one in the media bothered to check out the story. (In the twenty-first paragraph of her story on the press conference, The Washington Post's Karen De Young did quote an IAEA spokesman saying, in DeYoung�s words, �that the agency has issued no new report,� but she didn�t confront the White House with this terribly interesting fact.) What mattered was the unencumbered rollout of a commercial for war--the one that the White House chief of staff and former General Motors executive Andrew Card had famously withheld earlier in the summer: �From a marketing point of view, you don�t introduce new products in August.� Millions of people saw Bush tieless, casually inarticulate, but determined-looking and self-confident, making a completely uncorroborated (and at that point un-contradicted) case for preemptive war...But the next day, more �evidence� suddenly appeared, on the front page of the Sunday New York Times. In a disgraceful piece of stenography, Michael Gordon and Judith Miller inflated an administration leak into something resembling imminent Armageddon: �More than a decade after Saddam Hussein agreed to give up weapons of mass destruction, Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb, Bush administration officials said today."