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Iran and Iraq: Press Repeating Pre-invasion Panic Scenario?

By C. Dillman Williams
Opinion | February 21, 2010

WICHITA, Kan. - Friends, if you don't think the mainstream media plays a major role in the formulation of American foreign policy, I would politely suggest you are living in denial. If a hayseed from Kansas like me figured out from multiple news sources that the Bush administration was lying about the "Iraqi threat" prior to the invasion in 2003, how could a majority of Americans and Congress members become so thoroughly fooled and panicked that they virtually clamored for America's first-ever "pre-emptive war"?

Today, we know that the Bush administration knowingly issued 935 proven lies prior to the invasion. So, I can only assume that the Bush administration was following the advice of one of the world's most infamous manipulators of public opinion who said, "It is the absolute right of the state to supervise the formation of public opinion ... news should be given out for instruction rather than information."

Though I certainly do not wish to accuse members of the Bush administration of being Nazis, by any means, it's quite sobering to realize the similarities between the theories of Hitler's minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels -- who was quoted above -- and the policies that were obviously in place in the Bush administration prior to the Iraqi invasion.

Is it any wonder how Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle and other charter members of the Project for a New American Century -- who had advocated invading Iraq for more than ten years -- successfully managed to manipulate American public opinion in a way that resulted in the invasion of Iraq?

In addition to embracing Goebbels' philosophy of deceit, I believe the Bush inner circle also took heed of what Hermann Goering said during the Nuremberg Trials: "Naturally the common people don't want war. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

But how, one wonders, do leaders sell so many big lies? Especially, when there are media outlets such as the Knight-Ridder Newspapers whose Washington Bureau was virtually shouting in its own newspaper headlines that its reporters had uncovered lies and wandering inconsistencies throughout Ahmed Chalabi's various testimonies before Congress and numerous interviews; and even bigger lies among the supposed "confessions" of the later - revealed - to - be - invented "defector" called "Curveball."

How can one media group expose blatant lies and still have their reportage be ignored by the vast majority of the American public? How could that be possible?

Well, my friends, if you'll forgive me for once again quoting Goebbels, I'd ask you to see if you don't agree with me that his words just may reveal the formula the Bush administration used. Said Goebbels: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it,
 people will eventually come to believe it. The 
lie can be maintained only for such time as the
 State can shield the people from the political, 
economic and/or military consequences of the 
lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the
 State to use all of its powers to repress dissent,
 for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie,
 and thus by extension, the truth is the
 greatest enemy of the State."

How well did repetition of the big lie work? In the summer of 2006, a Pugh survey revealed that fully 69% of the American public STILL believed we were in Iraq because Saddam was responsible for collaborating with al-Qaeda and facilitated the attacks on the WTC & Pentagon; and more than 80% of active duty military personnel believed Iraq was responsible for the attacks.

Now, in regard to Iran, we are being treated to "the same song, different verse." The last time around, it was Judith Miller and her breathless, panic-inducing headlines prior to the US invasion of Iraq that helped muster public support for what turned out to be almost entirely a fantasy enemy.

Now, I don't deny that Saddam Hussein and his government were unacceptable and his rule despotic. But was he/Iraq a threat given the lie Bush & Company conjured about WMDs? No. Did Iraq facilitate the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Again, No. But, yet, in spite of a campaign to publish the truth that was contrary to the administration's false claims, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the vast majority of the rest of mainstream media continued repeating over and over the lie that America was on the verge of being attacked. Finally, panic reined supreme.

And, just like the peons factored into Goering's formula for war -- tell the people they are under attack! -- the American people and the US Congress went along like so many lemmings over the cliff.

Today, the status of our relationship with Iran is, without question, "Iraq Redoux." Again, the American public is being given an equally one-sided, one-dimensional view of Iran and its president Ahmadinejad. And again, only the most extremist and pessimistic explanations of Ahmadinejad's words and Iran's actions are allowed into the public discussion.

To be blunt: the New York Times, the Washington Post and virtually every other mainstream media outlet - - and, yes, that includes the supposedly "liberal" MSNBC -- have become more like propaganda providers than professional journalism organizations. And, though a palpable anti-Iran bias is a constant presence on editorial and op-ed pages of the New York Times, Washington Post / Newsweek and other mainstream media, it is also to be found in abundance throughout what is considered "objective" news stories as well.

I had hoped that the death, destruction and "close call" we experienced in Iraq would have taught our mainstream media titans that that kind of one-sided reporting about foreign "enemies" can step over the line beyond "informing the public" and can subsequently result in horrendous -- and unnecessary -- human suffering.

My fear is that American mainstream media have proclaimed the traditional journalistic role as the "fourth branch of government" and its former values of fairness, commitment to facts and objectivity to be old fashioned and inappropriate for today's "more pragmatic world." Just as Bush White House Justice Department flippantly labeled the anti-torture regulations of the Geneva Conventions as "quaint and out of touch," factual journalism seems to have also been declared "inappropriate" for today's style of journalism.

The coverage of Iran's election last June revealed that the depictions of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran's nuclear program followed almost to a "t," the one-sided coverage that the mainstream media used to describe Saddam Hussein and Iraq's alleged WMD program. The result: the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

In regard to previous coverage of pre-invasion Iraq; and, in regard to current coverage of Iran, Robert Parry, the reporter who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press, said, "The leading U.S. news outlets took sides; they cast developments in the 'enemy' Muslim nation in the harshest possible light; they treated the leaders as unrelentingly evil; they exaggerated the threats (and potential threats) posed by the country's weaponry, real and imagined.

"For instance, echoing U.S. policymakers, the U.S. news media often warns about the danger from a prospective Iranian nuclear weapon. What the news organizations almost never mention is that several countries in the region already have nuclear weapons, including Israel whose undeclared arsenal is considered one of the most sophisticated in the world."

I would urge you, dear reader, to put two-and-two together and recognize on a conscious level that the consistent failure of leading U.S. news organizations to mention this relevant fact is a gross violation of trust that America has traditionally put in its "Fourth Estate." Without that necessary context, there is no way for the average American to objectively evaluate Iran's behavior.

Join me in trying to keep in mind in the coming months that Iran and its people are deliberately being portrayed in the mainstream media as irrational extremists.

Let's not, yet again, allow ourselves and our beloved America become vulnerable to the emotional blackmail and panic that results from being subjected to endlessly repetitious, slanted news coverage.

America would definitely not benefit from another needless war.


The use of the phrase "We should not wait for our first warning to be in the form of a mushroom cloud" was enough to scare about anybody.

Why is it so hard to recognize that Bill Clinton spoke on many occasions about Iraq and WMD's? Oh, and I seem to recall him authorizing military strikes on "Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs"... http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1998/12/16/transcripts/clinton.html ...... After the military invasion of Afghanistan, the "WMD's" were used as an excuse to enter Iraq with multiple intentions... 1) establishing a pro-western entity in the heart of the middle-east (notice I did not say "democracy"), and 2) creating an incredibly strong barrior between Israel and Iran. Yes, special interest was absolutely at work!

as for Iran...... come on man!!! Look at the demonstrations that have recently taken place!... listen to the rhetoric of their president... it is kind of hard to take such obvious lunacy out of context. The demonstrations allowed for a more positive view of its citizens, and ultimately, the country. I think most recognize that the problem is Ahmadinejad and the ruling Mullahs... they are the "irrational extremists" who have proved themselves to be tyrannical governors and obnoxious bully's. A strong note of interest is the funneling of weapons through Venezuela. Unlike Iraq, the rulers of Iran are probably the most realistic and serious threat to commit attacks of true mass destruction (regional).

for note... the "Bush admin." was mentioned close to a dozen times, and references to Goebbels or the nazis about a half dozen times...... not one mention of the current admin.

When Clinton was Prez, Iraq DID have WMDs! They were actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Thanks to the eventual defection of Saddam’s son-in-law, who had been in charge of Saddam's chemical, biological and nuclear programs, however, we knew that Iraq had disbanded its WMD programs as a result of the sanctions, the international inspection team and the pressure from the international community, Iraq did, indeed, abandon those programs. Of course, Bush didn't mention that little detail and used years-old intelligence to bolster the proven 935 lies he issued to frighten the hell out of the country and stampede Congress into war.

Now, after the bogus propaganda we were fed about Iraq in 2003, you are asking us to believe the hype about Iran that is currently being thrust at us in a steady onslaught of sound bites?

Think about it, Patrick: Iran actually helped us in the early stages of our invasion of Afghanistan. Is that the actions of a rabid-dog country that is bent on its own self-destruction? (And, let's face it: self-destruction would be the result if Iran were to start rattling its nukes.)

That gesture of helpfulness to America following 9/11 was an opportunity to embrace a more peaceful relationship, but Bush, with his macho "Bring it on" mentality, blew off that opportunity because he still thought military might could win the day.

Of course, without the support of the people of ANY country that we are occupying, there will never be true peace. I saw it first hand in Vietnam where American arrogance was so thick, looking back in retrospect, one has to wonder why there were so many in our government that thought we were going to win right up until it became obvious that was not going to be possible.

Everyone in the US military with whom I talked knew that without the support of the people, we weren't going to stabilize the country, much less "win" any sort of peace. And, we DID NOT have the support of the people.

Nor do we really have the support of the people in Iraq. Though, at first, the people were somewhat relieved that we freed them from Saddam, Bush dismissed the entire army simultaneously - - NOTE: against the advice of the CIA, Defense Dept. and State Dept. - - and Rumsfeld blew off the need to secure the warehouse with 400 tons of new-generation C4 explosives in favor of guarding the Oil Ministry. Now those explosives are STILL being used against us. The Bush Macho-approach to war is self-defeating.

The pseudo “quiet” that we brag about in Baghdad today is a result of our literally paying millions of dollars in bribe money to the various factions in Iraq to keep the peace. Patrick, do you sincerely believe that is truly the solution for a long-term peace? As soon as we stop payments, the peace will once again melt away like snow in July.

Yes, we now have a "presence" in the Middle East. But, Patrick, are you saying that based on our "success" in Iraq, you think we could take on Iran, a country three times the size of Iraq and arguably ten times more sophisticated? Remember, Patrick, Iran inherited all that US military arsenal and hardware from the Shaw.

And, as you recall, Patrick, all that hardware and equipment was repaired with spare parts provided by Reagan’s infamous Iran-Contra hostage-for-parts swap-meet. So much for America not making deals with hostile governments.

And, is it really unrealistic for Iran to want to defend itself? Think about their position: Israel not only has over 200 atom bombs, it has also developed a multi-tiered, integrated nuclear war-fighting capacity rivaling America’s. The Israelis believe that they can survive and win a nuclear conflict. But, just in case the nuclear arsenal is insufficient, they have their own, locally-produced poison gas and very likely biological weapons, according to William Burrows and Robert Windrem in their book, “Critical Mass.” Israel's atomic arsenal includes everything from nuclear artillery shells to atomic land mines for use against a Syrian tank attack on the Golan Heights.

Excuse me, Patrick, but just who is being unreasonable in this scenario? Yikes...I mean ...really!

And, now we are seeing the same scenario play out in the Obama administration as took place in the Bush administration: officials in the administration are actively contradicting the American intelligence assessment that was compiled by all 16 of our intelligence agencies that concluded that work on Iran’s A-bomb was suspended at the end of 2003.” Mainstream media have falsely claimed that “new evidence has been discovered recently” in an attempt to “prove” that Iran is moving toward a weapons capability.

But, a closer look at the evidence reveals that all the “new evidence” consists of the same allegations and inferences already reported in the open press — material that our Director of Intelligence, Dennis Blair, wasn’t impressed with because during his Congressional testimony on Feb. 2, he stuck right to the unanimous conclusions of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that they expressed in one loud voice when they published the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of November 2007.

I respectfully submit that if you perceive me as someone who is sick of war, my friend, you definitely understand where I’m coming from! Yeah, I’m pretty dang sick of war ...especially, war for the purpose of pursuing oil - - the reason that has been acknowledged by Alan Greenspan and even a couple of former commanding generals in Iraq: oil was, indeed, the reason we invaded Iraq. But, that, my friend, was NOT what they told us at the time. We were threatened by WMDs. Are you going to buy into that same scenario again? I hope not.

Mr. Williams, I appreciate your detailed reply. Lets please keep in mind the democratic support for action against Saddam Hussein..... Chris Dodd (2002) - "there is no question that Iraq possesses nuclear and chemical weapons" John Kerry (2003) - "the threat of Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons is real"...... and the icing on the cake was the support from our current Sec. of State, Hillary Clinton. Perhaps there was more to these statements than meets the eye, but I really dont want to labeled a conspiracy nut.... haha

If I recall correctly, Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz continually rejected new weapons inspections proposals. To add another dimension to the topic, lets not forget that there was verification that hijacker Mohamed Atta met with Iraqi officials in the Czech Republic in early 2001. Iraqi defectors have also claimed that hijackers were trained in a mock-up Boeing 707 at the Salman Pak base in Iraq. These claims gained credibility when UN inspectors confirmed the existence of Salman Pak and the presence of a Boeing 707. It is just my opinion, but I find it hard to believe that Iraqi officials were squeaky clean of any knowledge pertaining to potential attacks against US interests..... but once again, that is just my opinion.

As for Iranian support in the early stages of Afghanistan, perhaps I am ignorant of such efforts. It is my understanding however that the Iranian government has been very uneasy about the influx of Afghani refugees, but this has been a problem that has stretched for decades. Perhaps this is far fetched, but when have religious ideologues been worried about self destruction? It is Ahmadinejads own rhetoric that has raised the hairs of many around the world, a feeling of destiny trumps sanity! While I have no doubt about the validity of Israels nuclear and biological capabilities, a strike on Jerusalem destroys that nation, period. Is the threat real??? I can easily understand the reluctance to buy any such idea. But, like I said in my first post... this regime is probably the most realistic and serious threat to commit true acts of aggression... never mind the outdated systems of the 80's, the funneling of weapons through Venezuela is strengthening Iran and keeping them current.

We are seeing an alarming rise and collaboration of arrogant dictatorial types in a time when citizens such as yourself and I are simply tired of occupation and war... this is a strange brew at a very vulnerable time. Ultimately, I feel safe as an American... but naturally, I do, as do others, have concern about what is next around the corner.

As editor, I'd like to compliment both of you. In so much as the two of you don't agree on everything and probably come from different sides of 'the aisle' - I very much appreciate the respectful, content-rich way that the two of you have chosen to disagree. This is the kind of back-and-forth that I wish we would see more of these days. Not those abrasive pundits that yell over each other, but reasonable people (like you two) who take the time, and with respect, discuss the actual content of your disagreements. I find this so refreshing. Thank you.

Amen, Pamela Jean

I, too, like to see respectful debate.

To add my own comment. PatrickPyle, the Dems you list as supporting the invasiion of Iraq, were, foolishly, depending on Pres. Bush and his cohorts to relay good intelligence. THEY DID NOT They ignored the ones who questioned or even discredited much of the hype on what Iraq had. The intelligence reports are always filtered through the administration (either Dem or Rep)

Ken, Amen! Quoting Democrats whose decision to support the invasion were based on the same 935 lies the Fund for Independent Journalism proved were issued by the Bush administration doesn't address the basic premise of my original commentary: that the Bush administration used lies - - and repeated those lies ad infinitum - - to make its case for the invasion.

As a Vietnam veteran who is lucky to have returned alive from that conflict, I can assure you that I was SO angry when I found out that the government had staged the "attack on US war ships" in the Gulf of Tonkin specifically to panic the public and Congress enough to allow the President to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and literally reverse US foreign policy overnight. JFK had already signed National Security Action Memorandum #263 in October of 1963 that was literally the order to withdraw ALL US personnel from Vietnam; a process that had actually already begun when he was assassinated. So, in essence, that war was begun by lying to Congress and the public. Did we gain anything from that war? No. We found out 1) that the Domino Theory was a false assumption that senselessly blocked the US from pursuing win-win relationships with individual countries that would have been more effective in fighting the spread of communism than trying to sell democracy through the barrel of a gun; and 2) we discovered that any war of occupation in which the vast majority of the people of that country don't support the occupying forces is literally impossible to win.

That is the point I tried to make: the case for the Iraqi invasion was based on totally bogus intelligence. Joe Wilson was attacked mercilessly for telling the truth: that the Niger "bill of sale" documents that supposedly "proved" that Saddam was seeking yellow cake uranium for a nuclear program were forgeries. Names listed in the "official" Niger letterhead used to forge the documents included a number of long-deceased individuals who hadn't been in government for more than a decade. But, yet, the Rove-Fox propaganda mill cranked out lies about his sanity and falsified his service to America under three Presidents just to lend credibility to their falsified, forged "proof" of a nuclear program. And, that is just ONE of the 935 lies that were fed to the public via a non-questioning media. Judith Miller of the New York Times wasn't a journalist as much as she was a stenographer! She never even bothered to get second source confirmation on ANY of her stories that Scooter Libby fed her directly. And, though the old accusation that a government official "is in bed with a journalist" used to be merely a figure of speech, we now know that Judith Miller and Scooter Libby took the concept to the literal level. Not that their affair has any bearing on the bigger crime: the unforgivable, knowing deception and abandoning of the fourth estate's role of informing the public. Other news organizations were veritably screaming there were provable lies being disseminated by the Bush administration, but to no avail. And why the lies? For the purpose of "telling the people they are under attack," as Heir Goering so astutely advised leaders who wanted to go to war.

Yes, Ken, it's not that Congress acquiesced and voted for the invasion we are talking about. It's the Bush Administration's blatant campaign of falsifying the "intelligence" in order to justify the war that is the real crime. The Downing Street Memo was a report by a British official to inform the British Prime Minister that "America is building the intelligence around the de facto decision to invade."

That, is the entire point I was trying to make: Bush lied to justify the invasion. The reason can be discussed in a future exchange. But, briefly, the invasion was timed to truncate the contracts Saddam had signed with Germany, France, China and Russia to sell them oil in exchange for Euros. That would 1) threaten the dollar's role as the world's primary international currency; 2) it would have ended British & American virtual strangle-hold on the world's oil supply line; 3) it would have opened to drilling the last virgin major oil field in the world and that fresh supply would have dropped the bottom out of the price of oil per barrel, costing oil companies billions in profits (Exxon:$40 in one year alone); and, Saddam would have laid claim to western Iraqi oil fields that, according to an agreement between Britain and the US as part of the Treaty of Versailles, were to be left untouched until the US & Britain determined it was time to tap them. Even a couple of generals and even Alan Greenspan acknowledged that oil was the reason for the war.

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil was quoted in Suskind's book, "The Price of Loyalty" that just eleven days after Bush was inaugurated, Cheney had oil field maps spread out on the cabinet room table and explaining how an invasion would be conducted and the oil fields confiscated. Just eleven days after the inauguration! It's in the book...but, of course, that revelation got NO traction in the New York Times. Why? Because they were beholden to the Bush administration and didn't want to jeopardize their intimate "access" to top officials.

Again, the point I tried to make was: the government introduced a blatant propaganda campaign against Iraq that was totally bogus. Now, the same sort of campaign is being waged against Iran and for the same purpose: rationalizing the next war which will, for all intents and purposes, give the US and British oil companies (formerly known as the Four Sisters), would control virtually all the major oil supplies in the world. It's that ulterior motive of controlling oil supplies for selfish reasons that I oppose. It's time that America begin to practice over seas a foreign policy that reflects our values in regard to democracy and justice and capitalism that is based on Adam Smith's principles of win-win relationships - - and not the current "I win-you lose" philosophy that has brought the American economy and the world to the brink of collapse.

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