April 19, 2007
Editor and Publisher

'Devastating' Moyers Probe of Press and Iraq

by Greg Mitchell

The most powerful indictment of the news media for falling down in its duties in the run-up to the war in Iraq will appear next Wednesday, a 90-minute PBS broadcast called "Buying the War," which marks the return of "Bill Moyers Journal." E&P was sent a preview DVD and a draft transcript for the program this week.

While much of the evidence of the media's role as cheerleaders for the war presented here is not new, it is skillfully assembled, with many fresh quotes from interviews (with the likes of Tim Russert and Walter Pincus) along with numerous embarrassing examples of past statements by journalists and pundits that proved grossly misleading or wrong. Several prominent media figures, prodded by Moyers, admit the media failed miserably, though few take personal responsibility.

The war continues today, now in its fifth year, with the death toll for Americans and Iraqis rising again -- yet Moyers points out, "the press has yet to come to terms with its role in enabling the Bush Administration to go to war on false pretenses."

Among the few heroes of this devastating film are reporters with the Knight Ridder/McClatchy bureau in D.C. Tragically late, Walter Isaacson, who headed CNN, observes, "The people at Knight Ridder were calling the colonels and the lieutenants and the people in the CIA and finding out, you know, that the intelligence is not very good. We should've all been doing that."

At the close, Moyers mentions some of the chief proponents of the war who refused to speak to him for this program, including Thomas Friedman, Bill Kristol, Roger Ailes, Charles Krauthammer, Judith Miller, and William Safire. . . .


Laura Barcella, "The Failures of Post-9/11 Media," AlterNet, January 2, 2006

[VIDEO: Four years ago on May 1, President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln and delivered a speech in front of a giant "Mission Accomplished" banner. Despite profound questions and the increasing violence in Baghdad, many in the press confirmed the White House's claim that the war was won. How did they get it so wrong? How did the evidence disputing the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 continue to go largely unreported?--Bill Moyers, "Buying the War," PBS, April 25, 2007]

["It is too easy," Pilger says, "for Western journalists to see humanity in terms of its usefulness to 'our' interests and to follow government agendas that ordain good and bad tyrants, worthy and unworthy victims and present 'our' policies as always benign when the opposite is usually true. It's the journalist's job, first of all, to look in the mirror of his own society."

In a career that has produced more than 55 television documentaries, Pilger's first major film for the cinema, The War on Democracy, will be released in the United Kingdom on May 11, 2007. --Pablo Navarrete, "Interview with John Pilger: The U.S.' War on Democracy,", April 30, 2007]

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