Big media should be ashamed
Let's call it the war cycle. Hawks among our leadership send out the alarm that another country is committing acts of war. Big media repeat those alarms on Page One without double-checking for accuracy. Our leaders quote the stories they planted in The New York Times and others 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 doing something dreadful - it's even worse than we thought, they tell us - and the media report this exciting follow-up news. Soon bombs are falling on Baghdad.
This column is about Iran, but let's consider Iraq. Our government said al-Qaida was in cahoots with Saddam Hussein. Without bothering to confirm it, the media parroted that 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 producers would grow more skeptical.
The New York Times is 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 making centrifuges, mobile laboratories for producing anthrax, aerial drones for spreading anthrax across the Eastern Seaboard. These and dozens of other falsehoods led to the sad situation we find ourselves in now.
Well, 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: Page One reports in The New York Times on Christmas parroted government allegations that American forces caught several Iranians in Baghdad helping radical Shiites plan attacks. You likely paid no more attention to those reports than you did four years ago when the Times, Fox, 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 advisers about what the Times, 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.
Pardon me while I barf. This is disgusting journalism. It's sensational warmongering that 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 Tenneseans in Kentucky. 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 at all - much less Page One - without verifying just what an Iranian "senior military official" is, the exact nature of those videos, photographs and maps, and 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 and increases the worth of weapons stock. But one of the many problems with war-cycle journalism is that it humiliates and discredits those working for peace.
It ensures that hardliners will take charge of nations we designate as evil. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and makes future wars inevitable. Please, don't be a party to it. Question. Write letters. Read a book about the history of 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.
Don Williams is the founding editor of New Millennium Writings. You may write to him at P.O. Box 2463, Knoxville, TN 37901, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone him at 865-428-0389.