Mark Weisbrot
Folha de São Paulo
(Brazil), December 21, 2011
Em Português

The coverage of the end of the Iraq War is yet another reminder of the horrible role that the major media plays in burying the truth, especially those truths most important to social progress. The Iraq War was a heinous crime from any human point of view. More than a million Iraqis are dead – most of the press couldn’t even get that right, using underestimates that reduced this toll by a factor of ten. Millions were displaced, wounded, or otherwise had their lives ruined, and the country is still an awful mess. Some 4,500 U.S. soldiers were killed and tens of thousands wounded, more than a trillion dollars wasted – and for what?

For a war that was based on lies from the beginning, and that never would have been possible if not for the U.S. government and media convincing a majority of Americans that Iraq was tied to the September 11 massacres. And that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, when in fact it posed no security threat to the United States or even its neighbors.

And why can’t the press even report on the role of the peace movement in ending this war?  Without this organized pressure on Congress and politicians, it is doubtful that George W. Bush would have even signed the agreement that mandated the withdrawal of U.S. troops, and questionable whether Obama would have lived up to it. The information is there for anyone who wants to look for it, but few Americans – or anyone else, for that matter -- will find it in the mass media that spews from their television or radio or daily newspaper.

These lessons could hardly be more important right now because the Pentagon, which has increasingly contested the authority of the President in our emerging Banana Republic, would like to establish permanent military bases in Afghanistan – as they tried but failed to do in Iraq. Defeating this ambition will be vital to ending the war in Afghanistan, since the other side will never accept it. Equally important, the Obama administration is preparing the groundwork for a war with Iran – repeating the pattern that Bill Clinton and then George W. Bush established in the long run-up to the second Iraq war. Creating false threats, promoting hostility, refusing to talk to its adversaries, imposing economic sanctions and attempted isolation – we have seen this movie before and we know how it ends.  And the Republican presidential candidates are even more eager to pull the trigger: Newt Gingrich stated that bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would not be enough, and strongly implied that a war for “regime change” would be necessary.

The American people are generally opposed to war and have no love for empire, as polls show repeatedly. Ron Paul’s rise in the Republican presidential primary, on the basis of his hard-line anti-war and anti-empire stance, is the latest example of these sentiments. But the foreign policy establishment has often managed to manipulate public opinion, sometimes just long enough to start a war that becomes difficult to end. They could never do this without the help of the mass media.