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Big Media Should Not Be A Tool In The Cycle of War

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Let's call it the War Cycle. Hawks in our government sound the alarm that another country is committing acts of war. Big Media repeat those alarms on Page One, often without double-checking for accuracy.

Next, government hawks quote the very stories they planted in media as proof that our enemies are up to no good. Then, what do you know, Americans catch "senior military operatives" from some "Axis of Evil" country committing a dreadful act. It's even worse than we thought, they say--and our media report this exciting follow-up news. Soon bombs are falling on Baghdad.

This column is about Iran, but let's consider Iraq for just another minute or three. Our government told us Al-Qaida was in cahoots with Saddam Hussein.

Without bothering to confirm it, our big media parroted the big lie. Next thing you know Colin Powell is quoting a "senior al-Qaida operative" at the United Nations, suggesting it's even worse than we thought. Saddam is training al-Qaida in the use of weapons of mass destruction, Powell told the world. American media reported that so-called link.

You'd think reporters and network producers would grow skeptical. After all, Powell's "senior al-Qaida operative" turned out to be Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a mentally disturbed man who, according to Newsweek and many others, was tortured with the blessing of the CIA into making up lies about al-Qaida connections to Saddam. That al-Libi isn't a household name is an indictment of our government and our war-hawking media. Newspapers opine for peace on the editorial pages--especially during holidays--but on Page One they bang the drums for war.

The New York Times and CNN are almost as guilty as Fox News in spreading lies that fooled Americans into supporting the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq. Yellow cake uranium, aluminum tubes for centrifuges, mobile labs for producing anthrax, aerial drones for spreading that anthrax across the Eastern Seaboard. These and dozens of other false notions led to the sad situation we find ourselves in now.

Get ready for Act Two. The same tired drumbeat for war-this time against Iran--is beginning to echo in the land. We in the heartland, where so many of our young sign up for military service, shouldn't be fooled again into supporting unnecessary wars that put our youth at risk and add to the world's misery.
Case in point: Reports in the New York Times during the Christmas holidays parroted government allegations that American forces caught several Iranians in Baghdad helping radical Shiites plan attacks. You likely paid less attention to those reports than you did four years ago when The Times and Fox and ABC and others were spreading falsehoods about yellow cake uranium and Saddam's alleged al-Qaida connections.

But trust me. Your congressmen and senators are following this so-called news. In odd moments away from fund-raising for their next campaigns, they're reading briefs from advisors about what the Times and ABC and Fox are reporting. This passes for getting educated about Iran, apparently, and it's a poor education indeed.

The Times reports are all too typical of War Cycle journalism. The U.S. military has "credible evidence linking Iranians" to the trouble in Iraq, parrots The New York Times. Our government holds two "senior military officials" in custody. They have "maps, videos, photographs and documents" and "specific intelligence from highly credible sources" regarding "criminal activities against Iraqi civilians, security forces and coalition force personnel."

Now those "senior military officials" have been identified as diplomatic officials, and released, but not before seeds of public suspicion were planted by Big Media.

Such uncritical reporting plays into the hands of those who would like nothing better than to see us dropping lots of bombs on Iran. Sure, there are Iranians in next-door Iraq. I'd wager there are Tennesseans in Kentucky and Texans in Oklahoma.

Certainly some Iranians are aiding their Shia brethren in Iraq. That's what happens when you blow the lid off places with porous borders and unruly governance. But the New York Times should be ashamed for playing these stories Page One without verifying just what an Iranian "senior military official" is, the exact nature of those videos, photographs and maps, and without providing context. So what if Iranians are in neighboring Iraq? What would you expect? Most of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. So what?

We in the media and many in government pay lip service to peace, but what motivates most reporters and politicians is the adrenaline rush of the big story. War sells papers, glues us to our TVs, increases the worth of weapons stock, creates media stars and legends of history. But one of the many problems with War Cycle journalism is that it humiliates and discredits those working for peace in all countries. It ensures that hardliners will take charge of the nations we designate as evil, almost as quickly as the designating's done. It becomes self-fulfilling prophecy and makes future wars inevitable.

Please, don't be a party to it. Question. Write letters. Read a book about Iran. Tell your congressmen to get educated and not become part of the War Cycle that threatens to end our world as we know it. More later.
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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, short story writer, freelancer, and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the (more...)
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