Ten years on, a partial tally of the Iraq War’s toll on American journalism

There’s no time like a brisk spring Sunday to take a minute to remember the failure of our vaunted American journalism to expose the criminality of the Bush Administration, and call to mind the more than 4000 American deaths and 32,000 American wounded it caused by creating and selling the fiction that got America into war in Iraq in 2003.

Not the entirety of either, I agree.  There were some reporters and columnists who tried to make clear to us the truth on the ground in Iraq, a truth that did not include the presence of either weapons of mass destruction or Al Qaeda.  But there were others—many others—who took the easy path of accepting the government’s word for it, who even became cheerleaders for a war that didn’t need to happen.  And certainly, not every person in a position of power and responsibility in Washington, D.C., was in on the con; but enough of them, high enough up in the administration, were complicit, that it worked.   We continue to pay the price, in lost lives, lost trust, and lost treasure.

So, thanks to Jack Shafer (@jackshafer) for this tweet:

He provides a link to a piece today by Greg Mitchell about his recent column, assigned and subsequently killed by The Washington Post.  The column is highly critical of the news media for its credulous performance covering the run-up to war, and by “highly critical” I mean it simply recalls who did what, and who didn’t do what, and when.

For awhile, back in 2003, Iraq meant never having to say you’re sorry.  The spring offensive had produced a victory in less than three weeks, with a relatively low American and Iraqi civilian death toll.  Saddam fled and George W. Bush and his team drew overwhelming praise, at least here at home.

But wait.  Where were the crowds greeting us as “liberators”?  Why were the Iraqis now shooting at each other–and blowing up our soldiers?  And where were those WMDs, bio-chem labs, and nuclear materials?  Most Americans still backed the invasion, so it still too early for mea culpas–it was more “my sad” than “my bad.”

By 2004 it was clear that Saddam’s WMDs would never be found, but with another election season at hand, sorry was still the hardest word.  But a few very limited glimmers of accountability began to appear.  So let’s begin our catalog of the art of mea culpa and Iraq here.

Take the five minutes to read the rest, and remember it the next time you pick up a paper or tune in to the broadcast echo chambers.

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