Little by little, story by story, leak by leak, the truth is coming out about President Bush’s mammoth, tragic blunder in Iraq. And the American people are listening. Sadly, it’s a truth that was apparent during the administration’s deceptions leading up to the war. But Americans, still angry and hurt over 9/11, chose not to see it. And they were aided–and often coaxed–by jingoistic newspapers and TV that failed in their responsibility to dig out the truth their government was hiding. Sadly, the realization is too late for more than 1,700 dead Americans, thousands more who are injured, tens of thousands of Iraqis killed, and for a world left more unstable, not less.
On Tuesday, President Bush traveled to Forth Bragg to tell us that continuing the war “is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country,” according to an advance text. We must not let the lies deceive us again. And the news media mustn’t, either.
A majority of Americans now say the Bush administration “intentionally misled the American public” in making its case for war. More than half think the war was a mistake. A recent News & Observer poll found that 58 percent of Tar Heels don’t think we should have gone to war, and 46 percent say we’re less safe as a result.
Certainly, the carnage, the destruction and the downward spiral that have only gotten worse in two years have played a role. So has the so-called Downing Street memo, in which the head of British intelligence, after meeting with Bush administration officials, noted that in 2002, “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” This while we were being assured that the administration was seeking a diplomatic solution.
The media missed the story then, fearful of upsetting the administration and their own market penetration. As a result, the world is less safe, not more.
There’s been a lot written in the last year about the public’s disenchantment with the press. While blamed on various gaffes, I think it’s as much the failure leading up to the Iraq war–and public resentment of Bush’s deception. Now, the lives of thousands of Americans and Iraqis depend on the media telling the truth about Iraq and not buying into Bush’s false assurances.
When the war started in March 2003, I wrote: “Years from now this whole episode, regardless of the war’s outcome, will be seen as a low point in American journalism…” That’s clear just two years later. About the war, I wrote: “Let’s hope what comes next isn’t nearly as bad.” It was, and if the media don’t do their job, it will be again.