Thursday, September 20, 2007

Weapons of mass distraction: The U.S. media and Iraq

With serious issues due to enter a decisive phase of public debate, the political atmosphere in Washington DC was expectant as the summer of 2007 gave way to the first hints of fall. Both the top U.S. military commander and the ambassador in Iraq were scheduled to depose before Congress on the state of the war that President George Bush had launched in defiance of world opinion, over four years before. Popular discontent was running high and Iraq was increasingly being perceived as the most disastrous cause the country had engaged in since Vietnam. With the electoral season due formally to kick off in a matter of months, politicians were manoeuvring to place themselves in the best position to capitalise on the popular mood.

As the politicians sought new power balances that would preserve their relative immunity from public scrutiny, Barnett R Rubin, a respected foreign policy analyst and recognised authority on Afghanistan, flung a metaphorical fire-bomb that threatened to burn away layers of subterfuge and lay bare the sordid devices through which they win popular consent for their most reckless plans. Quoting unnamed sources from within the Bush administration and the intelligence services, Rubin declared on a web-log (blog) of informed foreign policy comment, that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney had signalled close allies in the media and the think tank circuit, that the week following the Labour Day holiday would be the formal launch of war preparations against Iran.[i]

In making this forecast, Rubin referred back to an article in the New York Times (NYT) of September 7, 2002, which laid out a sequence of manoeuvres, by which the Bush administration expected to “sell” the idea of the invasion of Iraq. The strategy had been “meticulously planned” and Bush’s inner cabal of advisors had determined that they stood the best chance of winning public consent, by waiting till after the Labour Day weekend. The management philosophy for this decision was articulated by Andrew Card, then chief of staff in the White House: “From a marketing point of view,” he was quoted as saying, “you don't introduce new products in August”.[ii]

Despite this level of insight into the “marketing” strategy for war, the NYT proved all too willing to play along with the Bush administration. The very next day, on September 8, 2002, the newspaper carried an article by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller, in which it reported with breathless ardour, the Bush administration’s finding that Iraq had, “more than a decade after (President) Saddam Hussein agreed to give up weapons of mass destruction”, “stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and .. embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb”. The report went onto report in graphic detail the allegation that Iraq had “sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes”, which were “intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium”.[iii]

What followed was an epic onslaught of official disinformation. As Frank Rich observed in a recent column in the NYT, the White House that Sunday dispatched “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” headed by Vice President Cheney, with the Secretary of Defence, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor in accompaniment, to the weekend talk shows. Once there, “they eagerly pointed to a front-page New York Times article amplifying subsequently debunked administration claims that Saddam had sought to buy aluminium tubes meant for nuclear weapons”.[iv]

The rest, as they say, is history, all too recent and all too tragic.

Media interest in Iraq falling
On August 20 this year, the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), which by its own lights, is “a research organisation that specialises in using empirical methods to evaluate and study the performance of the press” and resolutely seeks to be “non-partisan, non-ideological and non-political”, published a research report on the news priorities of the U.S. media over the second quarter of 2007. It revealed a media that was trying hard to forget the unending nightmare that the country was going through. Coverage of the war in Iraq, the PEJ found after its survey of 48 news outlets across a range of media – print, broadcast, cable, and online – had fallen in the second quarter of 2007, relative to the first.

The reason was simply that coverage of the domestic political debate on Iraq had faded after the Bush administration was granted Congressional approval for its spending plans. Since winning a majority in the U.S. Congress in November 2006, the Democratic Party had insisted on a firm timetable for the withdrawal of troops as a necessary price for granting Bush his authority to spend on the war. Once that particular threat was defeated by the White House, which expectedly used the well-worn formula of “standing by the troops” as a bludgeon to beat down all dissent, media interest in the war subsided rather dramatically – from 22 percent of total time and space in the news media, Iraq coverage fell to 15 percent.[v]

The finer details of the PEJ analysis are interesting in themselves. Of the total coverage of Iraq in the first quarter of 2007, a little over 55 percent was devoted to the policy debate within the U.S. In the second quarter, this fell to just over 46 percent. Events in Iraq involving U.S. interests, merited close to 31 percent of media coverage in the first, and 43 percent in the second. The Iraq homefront, merited 14 percent of news space in the first quarter, and well under 11 percent in the second. Here too, the main priority was internal politics rather than the lives of ordinary citizens in the country that the U.S. had set out with overweening arrogance, to “liberate” from tyranny.

Perhaps it is perfectly comprehensible why the U.S. media should choose collectively to avert its eyes from the unending tragedy of Iraq. In July 2007, the U.K.-based charity, Oxfam International, released a briefing paper on the humanitarian situation in Iraq, depicting a country plumbing the depths of human misery. In a country of an estimated 25 million people – which had reached levels of welfare in the 1970s and 1980s that were the envy of the neighbourhood -- Oxfam found that no fewer than eight million were in need of emergency assistance. The figure included four million who were “food insecure and in dire need of different types of humanitarian assistance”, more than two million who were internally displaced and an equal number that had fled to neighbouring countries like Syria and Jordan and were living on the margins of subsistence.

Of the Iraqis dependent on food assistance, fewer than 60 percent had access to the government-run public distribution system, down from 96 percent in 2004. Over half the population were without work and some 43 percent of all Iraqis suffered from “absolute poverty”. Drinking water was unavailable in anything like adequate quantities for 70 percent of the population and 80 percent suffered from a complete lack of sanitation. Reconstruction had been blocked as much by endemic of violence, as by corruption and an alarming “brain drain” that had seen virtually every Iraqi with an exit option, exercising it.[vi]

For all the misery that it drew attention to, a state of national despair that the U.S. as an occupying power, necessarily bore responsibility for, the space the U.S. media devoted to the Oxfam report was derisory. NYT ran a brief story on July 31, making cursory mention of Oxfam’s findings. With little obvious relevance to the facts of the case, the NYT then reminded readers that Oxfam had “opposed the 2003 American invasion”. It then subtly sought to discredit the findings on methodological grounds, reporting that Oxfam “presents its statistics as hard facts, without acknowledging the wide margin of error that typically accompanies social research in a war zone”. Further, the aid organisation’s failure to offer any proposals on “how to root out the corruption that has hobbled the Iraqi government and international aid efforts in the past”, was deemed a significant weakness in its report, as too was its failure to “address the links between criminal militias and Iraqi government agencies, like the Ministry of Health”.[vii]

In comparison, the Washington Post carried a relatively non-judgmental report, though tucked away on page 14 of its edition of July 31. And the relatively low priority accorded to the Oxfam findings was underlined by the newspaper’s inattention to the need for an official response. The Iraqi government spokesman, it reported, was “out of the country .. and unavailable to comment on the report”. And a “spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad”, similarly, “could not be reached for comment”.[viii]

Blaming the victims
Clearly, the U.S. media would prefer not to even begin looking at the humanitarian tragedy of Iraq, far less to start assigning responsibility for it. On the rare occasions when the issue of accountability is raised, it is only to blame the victims. Thus, Charles Krauthammer, who was among the most obsessive advocates of the invasion of Iraq wrote in the Washington Post on February 2, 2007, that “Iraqis were given their freedom and yet many have chosen civil war”. It was a situation, he said, in which “you can always count on some to find the blame in America”. But “of all the accounts of the current situation, this (would be) by far the most stupid”. Dusting up his knowledge of recent history for analogies, Krauthammer asked: “Did Britain ‘give’ India the Hindu-Muslim war of 1947-48 that killed a million souls and ethnically cleansed 12 million more? The Jewish-Arab wars in Palestine? The tribal wars of post-colonial Uganda?” To argue thus was to betray a strangely skewed perspective on history and to make “infants” of the Arabs and “demons” of the U.S. Perhaps unaware in the passion of his advocacy that he was doing considerably worse than the adversaries he had targeted and tripping over his own rhetoric, Krauthammer concluded with three simple observations: “Iraq is their country. We midwifed their freedom. They chose civil war”.

Krauthammer’s locutions betray a particularly crass form of neo-colonial illogic and conceit. They speak of the overweening civilisational arrogance of a western imperial power that believes it has a divinely ordained right to march into a Third World country and dismantle its system of governance. The people who have been rudely invaded would then be expected to feel no emotion other than gratitude and to eagerly adopt a model of political organisation that the occupying power would be in a unique position to dictate.

Above all, the neo-conservative element in the U.S., Krauthammer being among its most voluble spokesmen, shows little remorse or repentance over the widely-acknowledged fact that all their prognoses about the war in Iraq have proved disastrously miscued. And in a continuing affront to the intelligence of the average media consumer in the U.S., they continue to enjoy the hospitality of media time and space, to propagate their self-serving verbiage. Much as the neo-conservative element has come in for well-deserved obloquy in recent months, their voice continues to be heard and to be decisive in critical junctures, as evidenced by the U.S. Congress’ recent capitulation on a troop withdrawal schedule. What this suggests clearly, is shared complicity. Despite the space that the war’s more consistent critics – such as NYT columnists Frank Rich and Paul Krugman enjoy – the mainstream media has been unable to thoroughly expose the patent fraud that was perpetrated by neo-conservative ideologues and unreconstructed colonialists. More than being unwilling dupes, they have been accomplices in the process. That clearly is the picture that emerges from most systematic studies of the media in the context of the war in Iraq.

Public misperceptions and the media
A research paper published within a few months of Bush’s “mission accomplished” declaration of May 1, 2003, saw certain “compelling questions” raised by the Iraq war, particularly in relation to the “capacity of the executive branch (or the U.S. federal government) to elicit public consent for the use of military force and about the role media plays in this process”.[ix]

This research paper was based upon the results of an extended series of surveys conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks (hereafter PIPA/KN). Between January and September 2003, these two organisations in concert, carried out “seven different polls that dealt with the conflict in Iraq”. It found that “in the run-up to the war …. (and) in the post war period, a significant portion of the American public had held a number of misperceptions that have played a key role in generating and maintaining approval for the decision to go to war”.[x] Among these:
Ø That Iraq was directly involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. territory and that evidence of links between Iraq and Osama bin-Laden’s Islamist group al-Qaeda had been found;
Ø That weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq after the invasion and that Iraq actually used weapons of mass destruction during the war; and,
Ø That world opinion was overwhelmingly in approval of the U.S. going to war in Iraq.

It was also found that while “in most cases, only a minority (had) any particular misperception, a large majority (had) at least one misperception.

These misperceptions in turn, showed a significant correlation – individually and collectively -- with support for the war, prior to the actual invasion. Of the sample surveyed, 30 percent suffered none of these misperceptions, while 32 percent had just one and no more, 20 percent had two and just 8 percent had all three. Going up this continuum of public misinformation: in the first category, support for the war was confined to a mere 23 percent, while 53 percent of the people with one misperception, 78 percent of those with two and 86 percent of those with all three, supported the war.

There were significant positive correlations between the incidence of these misperceptions and several other parameters, such as faith in the integrity of the person in the White House, belief in the values espoused by his party, and education levels. But for present purposes, what is most important is to understand how these misperceptions were related within the sample population, with primary news sources. Here again, the results are striking and need extensive quotation: “The extent of (U.S. citizens’) misperceptions vary significantly depending on their source of news. Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions. Those who receive most of their news from NPR or PBS (respectively the National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service) are less likely to have misperceptions. These variations cannot simply be explained as a result of differences in the demographic characteristics of each audience, because these variations can also be found when comparing the demographic subgroups of each audience”. (Words in parentheses added for clarity).

Within the total sample, 80 percent of those who identified the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News as their primary news source, had one or more misperception. The corresponding figures for other news sources are as follows:
Ø CBS 71 percent
Ø ABC 61 percent
Ø NBC 55 percent
Ø CNN 55 percent
Ø Print media 47 percent
Ø PBS/NPR 23 percent

These levels of misperception are not on account of inattention to detail in news coverage. As the PIPA/KN poll found: “While it would seem that misperceptions are derived from a failure to pay attention to the news, overall, those who pay greater attention to the news are no less likely to have misperceptions. Among those who primarily watch Fox, those who pay more attention are more likely to have misperceptions. Only those who mostly get their news from print media, and to some extent those who primarily watch CNN, have fewer misperceptions as they pay more attention”.

Summarising the findings of the study and delineating its political implications, Kull and his co-authors conclude as follows: “From the perspective of democratic process, the findings of this study are cause for concern. They suggest that if the public is opposed to taking military action without U.N. approval and the President is determined to do so, he has remarkable capacities to move the public to support his decision. This in itself is not worrisome – to the degree it is the product of persuasion, based on the merits of an argument. What is worrisome is that it appears that the President has the capacity to lead members of the public to assume false beliefs in support of his position”.

The further inferences drawn from here are also powerful cause for concern for those concerned with the integrity of the media as a public institution. “It also appears that the media cannot necessarily be counted on to play the critical role of doggedly challenging the administration”, the study points out: “The fact that viewers of some media outlets had far lower levels of misperception than did others (even when controlling for political attitudes) suggests that not all were making the maximal effort to counter the potential for misperception.[xi]

Evidently, Fox News was ideologically committed to the President’s program and also believed the invasion of Iraq justified, irrespective of the stated rationale. This made them completely inattentive to the abundance of evidence that had surfaced about the flawed case for war, and the quite deliberate effort by the Bush administration to inflate the threat from Iraq in order to justify its bellicosity. What Fox News felt at liberty to completely ignore, CNN and the other networks may have felt obliged to at least cover in a cursory manner, in accordance with a certain residual commitment to a doctrine of “fairness” in media coverage. This might have engendered some reservations in the audiences of these channels about the rush to war, especially among those who paid greater attention to news bulletins.

Similarly, as Michael Massing has pointed out in a surpassingly clear and uncompromising analysis of media failures in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, unequivocal signals were not lacking, that the case for the invasion of Iraq was rife with misrepresentations and outright concoctions.[xii] The media just failed to take these signals, to give them the public prominence they deserved, and to knit together diverse pieces of information into the compelling master-narrative of an administration intent on going to war for reasons it was unwilling to reveal. The sceptical notes did however, come through some of the cracks and crevices in the print media and the news channels. The attentive viewer of Fox News was rewarded for his pains with a greater burden of misperceptions. But as would be expected by anybody who has been told – as most have – that paying attention is the way to gain knowledge, other channels and the print media did reward the attentive audience with a relatively more authentic appreciation of reality.

The results of the PIPA/KN study also prompt a number of other questions. For instance, does the media choose its audience or does the audience choose its media? Is Fox News impelled to give its own pro-war skew to the facts because its audience tended to view the invasion of Iraq as necessary and inevitable? Or did the audience develop its fervour for the war as a consequence of watching the feverishly hyperbolic coverage that Fox News never failed to provide? Alternately, is the reality -- as in much else that has to do with the real world -- one of mutual reinforcement between the two? The channel chooses its audience just as the audience chooses its channel. And they reinforce the worst insecurities and political perversities of each other.

Downing Street Memorandum and after
Subsequent events showed how the media was failing to hold up the political leadership in the U.S. to any standard of morality and integrity, despite growing signs of public disquiet. On May 1, 2005, The Times of London published the entire transcript of a secret memorandum written by a top political aide of U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, dating from several months before the war in Iraq began. Referring to the impressions gathered during a visit to Washington by the chief of U.K. intelligence, codenamed “C”, the memorandum informed the ministers handling the top national security portfolios in the British government, that “there had been a perceptible shift in attitude” in the U.S. “Military action” against Iraq “was now seen as inevitable”.

Bush was intent on deposing the Iraqi president and stamping out his regime through military action, which would be justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD (weapons of mass destruction)”. And the British official’s professional assessment was that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”. The U.S. evidently had no patience with going through the United Nations or in making an elaborate case on the “Iraqi regime’s record” to win broad-based international approval. Yet with all the enthusiasm for unilateral military action, the memo warned, “there was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after (sic) military action”.[xiii]

The preamble to the intelligence chief’s briefing clearly suggested that the U.S. was in utter self-delusion, walking into a military quagmire. The main priority of the participants at the meeting though, was not to warn an ally to steer clear of a potentially suicidal course, or to distance themselves from its baneful consequences, but to work out a program for participating in what already seemed a likely military disaster. As the Defence Secretary remarked, “it seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided”. The case against Iraq though, was “thin”: “(Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran”. The optimal course for the U.K. then, seemed to “work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the U.N. weapons inspectors”. That might in the reading of the Defence Secretary, “help with the legal justification for the use of force”.

The Attorney-General though was unconvinced that “the desire for regime change” was a “legal base for military action”. Self-defence and a humanitarian crisis could potentially be grounds for intervention, but neither applied in the case at hand. A third option would of course be the authorisation of the U.N. Security Council. But the mandate of the Security Council, which had last considered Iraqi disarmament three years before, could not be taken for granted.

The deliberations over, the participants were assigned specific tasks. The Chief of Defence Staff was required to send the Prime Minister “full details of the proposed military campaign” by the end of the week. The Foreign Secretary in turn, would “discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam”. And the legal issues being in themselves deeply troublesome, the Attorney General would initiate discussions with advisers in the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.[xiv]

As The Nation of New York put it shortly after the Downing Street memorandum (or DSM) surfaced, it was not exactly a news flash that Bush and Blair had flagrantly lied in making the case for war in Iraq.[xv] But the DSM was conclusive proof that the course was set as early as March 2002, well before either leader began speaking in public about war as a possibility. And far from being a contingent outcome of weapons inspections, the path to war was deliberate and premeditated. Every seeming concession to the spirit of multilateral consensus was little else than a pretence – indeed, for those who retained even a fraction of their critical faculties, a lurid exercise in falsehood.

Yet for all the potential it embodied for renewed public scrutiny of the case for war, the DSM sank into a mire of media indifference. Around mid-May, 2005, the economist and columnist Paul Krugman commented that there had “been notably little U.S. coverage” of the DSM.[xvi] In a posting on the web on May 24, the Public Editor of The New York Times, whose function is to attend to the readers’ interests, responded to a torrent of complaints about the newspaper’s rather casual attitude to the DSM. And he put on record the following observation: “The (New York) Times's coverage of the once-secret memo started alertly with a May 2 article .. that laid out its contents in the context of the possible impact on the May 5 British election. But the news coverage languished until this morning when a Times article from Washington focused on the reaction to the memo there. This has left Times readers pretty much in the dark until today -- and left critics of the paper's news columns to suspect the worst about its motives.”

The Public Editor found no grounds to suspect that news content in the NYT was suffering from any form of censorship. But his final judgment was evidently that the newspaper had failed to perform its role of contributing towards an informed public discourse: “even if the editors decided it was old news that Mr. Bush had decided in July 2002 to attack Iraq or that the (DSM) didn't provide solid evidence that the administration was manipulating intelligence, I think Times readers deserved to know that earlier...”[xvii]

On May 17, two weeks after the DSM became public, the Christian Science Monitor was speculating on the reasons why the story had been a “dud” in the U.S. Audience indifference was obviously not to blame. As it observed, the ombudsman of the Washington Post, who serves as a watchdog over ethical standards, had admitted to being “inundated” with write-in campaigns on the subject. And he was “amazed” that the leading newspaper in the U.S. capital had taken “almost two weeks to follow up” on the story.[xviii]

As June 2005 wore on, the media began to take note of an undeniable shift in public mood. The Washington Post reported the results of an opinion survey early in the month: “Americans continue to rank Iraq second only to the economy in importance (and) many of them are losing patience with the enterprise”. A clear majority of those interviewed thought the war in Iraq had made no contribution to the “long-term security” of the U.S. -- in the estimation of the newspaper, the first recorded instance of a majority of citizens disagreeing with the “central notion Bush (had) offered to build support for war”. All this, combined with popular worries about the economy and social security, made for a significant drop in Bush’s overall rating: 52 per cent of the respondents to the survey actually disapproved of his handling of the U.S. presidency.[xix]

Around the same time, The Economist was reporting that “one-third of Americans (in a poll by the Pew Research Centre) and almost half (in one for ABC) say Iraq will turn out to be another Vietnam”.[xx] People in the U.S. and the U.K. had waited long enough for the flower-strewn parade and the triumphal march of the victorious “allies” that in pre-war prognoses, was represented as the rosy culmination of the invasion of Iraq. They had endured the handover of sovereignty to Iraq, the conclusion of elections in that country, and the installation of its first supposedly democratic government. Activist groups that had opposed the war, were speaking out in public about the infinitely greater suffering that the Iraqi people were suffering as price for the vainglorious ambitions of long defunct colonial powers.

Growing public disquiet called forth a new propaganda effort by Bush, beginning with a sequence of weekly radio addresses. But as he prepared for a climactic speech in the cycle, to rally the flagging spirits of a war-weary nation, an opinion poll was reporting that for the first time, a majority of citizens believed that he had “deliberately misled” the country in making the case for invading Iraq.[xxi] Once the speech was made at the military base at Fort Bragg to a strangely subdued gathering of service personnel,[xxii] a survey of the public found that it had imparted little “bounce” to Bush’s approval ratings. Indeed, the Zogby International poll seemed to suggest that much of the public was inclined to the view that Bush’s time was up: “more than two-in-five (42 per cent) voters say that, if it is found that President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should hold him accountable through impeachment.”[xxiii]

Perhaps the best assessment of Bush’s speech came from Daniel Ellsberg, the former U.S. Defence Department official whose act of moral conscience in leaking the so-called “Pentagon Papers” to the public in 1971, turned the mood in the U.S. decisively against the Vietnam war. Hearing Bush’s words , said Ellsberg, stirred in him a “sense of familiarity, but not nostalgia”. He had heard all the themes before, “almost word for word” in speeches delivered by the three presidents he had worked with: Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Indeed, he had perhaps drafted an identical speech four decades prior, with like purpose: “how to rationalise and motivate continued public support for a hopelessly stalemated, unnecessary war our president had lied us into”.[xxiv]

Within hours of the Labour Day weekend, Fox News devoted two prime time slots to all-out warmongering propaganda, calling for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Norman Podhoretz, one of the gurus of the neo-conservative cabal, had a book out, provocatively titled “World War IV: The long struggle against Islamofascism”, which made the case for unrelenting warfare by the U.S. against a range of enemies, beginning of course with Iran. And Michael Ledeen, a shadowy political operative suspected to have been a key player in the forged documents purporting, in the months before the war, to show an Iraqi intent to import uranium from Niger, had a book out which said all that was needed in its title: “The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots’ Quest for Destruction”.[xxv] The neo-conservative cabal was responding with expected fervour and alacrity to the signal from its acknowledged leader, Dick Cheney. And sections of the media were again beginning that dangerous lockstep march into war, as the propaganda arm of the most dangerous elements in U.S. politics. All that remained to be seen was whether other sections of the media, known for at least a semblance of sanity and rationality, would blow the whistle at the alarming new buildup of belligerence, or, as in 2003, meekly play along.

[i] Rubin is a highly respected foreign affairs commentator with a special expertise on Afghanistan. His revelations were posted on the “Informed Comment Global Affairs” blog and they are available at this writing on:

The first Monday of September is by national custom, observed as Labour Day in the U.S. It also marks at the popular level, the cusp between summer and fall, though the autumn solstice is typically three weeks later.

[ii] Elisabeth Bumiller, “THE STRATEGY; Bush Aides Set Strategy to Sell Policy on Iraq”, The New York Times, September 7, 2002; available at this writing at:

[iii] Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller, “U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts”, New York Times, September 8, 2002.

[iv] Frank Rich, “As the Iraqis Stand Down, We’ll Stand Up”, The New York Times, September 9, 2007, available at this writing at:

[v] Project for Excellence in Journalism, “Iraq War Coverage Drops Off in 2nd Quarter”,

[vi] Oxfam International, Briefing Paper number 105, “Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq”, July 2007, available at this writing at:

[vii] Damien Cave, “Aid Organization Says Iraqis and Foreign Donors Must Ease a Growing Humanitarian Crisis”, The New York Times, July 31, 2007.

[viii] Megan Greenwell, “A dismal picture of life in Iraq”, Washington Post, July 31, 2007, page A 14.

[ix] Steven Kull, et al, “Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War”, Political Science Quarterly, Winter 2003-04, Volume 118, Number 4, pp 569 to 598 (the words in the parenthesis have been added for clarity).

[x] PIPA/KN, “Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War”, October 2, 2003, available at this writing at:

[xi] Kull, et al, pp 596-7 (emphasis added).

[xii] Michael Massing, “Now They Tell Us”, The New York Review of Books, February 26, 2004.

[xiii] The text of the memorandum was extracted from,,1-523-1593607-523,00.html with emphases added in both places. The accompanying story in The Times dated May 1, 2005, sets out the explanation of the memo’s significance and places it in context, with a comprehensive identification of all its dramatis personae. The Guardian and The Independent of May 1 also provided extensive coverage of the memo and its significance, though priority in breaking the story went to The Times.

[xiv] It needs to be added parenthetically, that the Attorney General first submitted the opinion that the war in Iraq would be illegal. This advice, proffered on March 7, 2003 – less than two weeks before the war began – cited three grounds for this finding: that Security Council resolution 1441 setting down conditions for the resumption of arms inspections in Iraq, provided no trigger for war independent of further deliberations in the world body; that a duly authorised body for weapons inspections was in place; and weapons inspections were underway. Ten days later, on the eve of the war, Britain’s top law officer changed his views, cerifying in Blair’s words, that the war would “unequivocally” meet the tests of legality. How this spectacular conversion was achieved was never made clear. See the column by Simon Jenkins in The Times “Does it matter if the Iraq war was legal?”, April 25, 2005, extracted from:,,6-1584733,00.html

[xv] Steve Cobble, “After Downing Street”, posted online on June 6, 2005, and extracted from

[xvi] “Staying What Course?”, The New York Times, May 16, 2005.

[xvii] Extracted from The New York Times, public editor’s web journal, at: “The Times” refers here, of course, to the shorthand description The New York Times

[xviii] Available at

[xix] “Poll Finds Dimmer View of Iraq War”, The Washington Post, June 8, 2005, page A01.

[xx] “That not-winning feeling”, Editorial, The Economist, June 16, 2005.

[xxi] “Survey Finds Most Support Staying in Iraq”, The Washington Post, June 28, 2005, page A01. Characteristically, the headline conveyed the single respect in which the mood of the public had not diverged from the political posture of the Bush administration. And perhaps in a slight anomaly in relation to the survey conducted three weeks prior, 52 per cent of those sampled in this survey seemed to think that the war had contributed to U.S. national security. But independent of perspective, the point at which the survey results broke fresh ground was in reporting that a significant 52 per cent of the respondents believed that “the administration deliberately misled the public before the war”.

[xxii] It was perhaps a sign of the times that the contrast with earlier speeches that Bush had delivered to U.S. military personnel, when the audience response had been little short of exuberantly jingoistic, was much remarked upon. See “Troops’ Silence at Fort Bragg Starts a Debate all its Own”, The New York Times, June 30, 2005. Questions reached a sufficient pitch for the president’s official spokesperson to clarify that the audience had been under instruction to remain quiet, since the occasion was deemed to be a solemn one at which significant matters of policy were being laid out by their commander-in-chief.

[xxiii] The results of the survey were posted on the web at: They have since been archived but should be available at the Zogby International website.

[xxiv] Daniel Ellsberg, “I Wrote Bush’s War Words – in 1965”, The Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2005, available at this writing at

[xxv] For brief reviews of these two books, see “Enemies List”, The New York Times, September 9, 2007. For the background to Ledeen’s possible involvement in the Niger-uranium forgeries, see this author’s “American Exceptionalism and the Multilateral Pretence: Or, John Bolton and the New Lawlessness”, Economic and Political Weekly, May 7, 2005, especially page 1944.

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