The track record of the mainstream media's efforts to unearth and report the truth about the war in Iraq is shoddy at best. When one considers that this war has been a big money maker for the corporate owned media and its sponsors, the integrity of the reporting - or lack thereof - becomes suspect. Whether the failure to engage in authentic investigative journalism is a result of incompetence or of manipulation, there is little doubt that it contributed to the nightmare that is the Iraq war.
Recently, the Center for Public Integrity exposed 935 false statements made by the Bush administration between October 2001 and August 2003, regarding the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Had any major news outlet in the United States pressed for the truth and exposed just a fraction of those lies, we may very well not be in Iraq today.
Instead of asking leaders the hard questions, the talking heads and pundits engaged in nightly cheerleading to the rhythm of a steady drumbeat with slick graphics, Pentagon-approved experts and mind numbing flag waving.
Five Years Later
Today, we turn on the tube to find those same faces salivating over discussions about whether a presidential candidate's voice is too shrill, whether one has enough substance or if another is conservative enough for his own good. They do occasionally talk about each candidate's campaign-issued platform on Iraq, but what continues to be overlooked are the facts on the ground.
What is not evidenced is a sincere level of obligation to the men and women whom they cheered on as they marched off to war, or to the country that has been obliterated by five years of a bloody occupation.
Next week, the media will have an opportunity to chart a course of redemption. From March 13-16, veterans will gather in the Washington, D.C. area for the chance to speak out and share their experiences about what is happening on a daily basis on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War will provide an outlet for veterans to be speak out and for the American people to gain a better understanding of the human cost of this war.
The title, Winter Soldier, arises from the writings of Thomas Paine who in 1776, declared "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
In 1971, a group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War in an event called Winter Soldier. Following in their footsteps, today's Winter Soldiers will bare their souls for the sake of their country. A FAQ sheet provided by IVAW states, "We are fighting for the soul of our country. We will demonstrate our patriotism by speaking out with honor and integrity instead of blindly following failed policy."
Kelly Dougherty , executive director of IVAW and a former sergeant who served as a military police officer in Iraq explains, "We've heard from the politicians, we've heard from the generals, we've heard from the media - now it's our turn." "It's not going to be easy to hear what we have to say. It's not going to be easy for us to tell it. But we believe that the only way this war is going to end is if the American people truly understand what we have done in their name."
Liam Madden , an Iraq war veteran and cofounder of Appeal for Redress serves on the Board of Directors of IVAW. In an article published by AlterNet , Madden writes, "Thanks to our nation's leadership, history will come to know this as an era of unabashed torture and war, led by the United States and its amorphous War on Terror."
Regarding Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, he explains "We understand that truth, honesty and integrity are essential components to a functioning democracy. That is why American citizens must have informed opinions and take action in keeping with their principles - millions of lives depend on it."
Madden makes clear that this is not about pointing fingers at his brothers and sisters in uniform. "Soldiers and Marines are not to blame for the suffering of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan; these veterans' stories will indicate that responsibility belongs to those in the seat of power. Winter Soldier will prove that the problem goes much deeper than the atrocities of Abu Ghraib or the massacre in Haditha."