Media’s Reporting on Syria as Terrible as It Was on Iraq

After Giving Mea Culpas for Horrible Iraq Coverage, Media Does the Exact Same Thing On Syria

Preface: We wrote this in May. Media coverage has gotten even worse since then.

Common Dreams notes:

Former New York Times’ executive editor Bill Keller is not the only un-’reluctant’ war hawk under fire for publicly pushing for US military intervention in Syria, but for those who remember the media debacle that ushered in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, he has exemplified the troubling trend among the nation’s pro-war punditry class.

Since Keller’s column appeared in the ‘paper of record’ on Monday—following a weekend of disturbing news about Israeli airstrikes inside Syria and amidst shaky reports about “chemical weapons” and “red line” rhetoric—those seeking wiser guidance on the path forward in a deeply fragmented Middle East are hoping that people like Keller, so wrong when it came to Iraq, will be pilloried for their positions on Syria.

Pilloried—then disregarded.

In his op-ed, Keller describes that though his mistaken assessment of the Iraq war may have left him “gun-shy” about Syria at first, he is now of the opinion that the US should flex its military muscle in the war-torn country.

But, stating he was “frankly appalled” by both the “mindlessness” and prominence of Keller’s article in the Times, noted foreign policy analyst Jim Lobe argued the piece is “filled with the same kind of arrogance that [Keller] brought to Iraq as a “reluctant hawk” ten years ago.”

And’s John Glaser characterized the piece as “absurd,” writing:

Keller lays out how terribly wrong he was for supporting the Bush administration’s war of choice in Iraq, and is now asking readers not to collapse in laughter as he speaks with an air of authority on why we should invade, or at least bomb, Syria.

Keller explains that “at the outset of the Iraq invasion, I found myself a reluctant hawk. That turned out to be a humbling error of judgment, and it left me gun-shy.” How harrowing the experience must have been for you, Bill – using your position as an opinion-shaper at the most widely read newspaper in the country to cheer-lead an illegal war that destroyed an entire country, killed hundreds of thousands of people, and cost trillions of dollars.

The Nation’s Greg Mitchell, who literally wrote the book on media malfeasance and the Iraq War, pulled no punches, writing of Keller:

He says he was gun-shy after his Iraq flub—but no more! Now he derides Obama for “looking for excuses to stand pat.” He also provides several reasons why Syria is “not Iraq,” and how now his hawkishness is based on reality: This time we really can hurt the terrorists gathered there, [never mind that we are actually supporting Al Qaeda and other terrorists in Syria] really can calm tensions in the region, and so on. Instead of a “mushroom cloud,” he warns of the next chemical “atrocity.” And he claims there’s a broader coalition of the willing this time.

He even revives the good old “domino theory,” endorsing the view that if we don’t do something in Syria it will embolden China, North Korea and Iran. And I love this one, straight from 2003: Doing nothing “includes the danger that if we stay away now, we will get drawn in later (and bigger), when, for example, a desperate Assad drops sarin on a Damascus suburb….” If a surge in aid for those Al Qaeda–lovin’ rebels fails against Assad, then we “send missiles against his military installations until he, or more likely those around him, calculate that they should sue for peace.” Yeah, how did that work out in Iraq in the long run? ***

What good would a US military campaign possibly achieve? Looking back on Iraq—even to ignore the justifications of war, say experts—shows that the US is ill-equipped to fulfill its promises to delivery democracy, stability, both, or either.

As Katrina vanden Heuvel writes in the Washington Post on Tuesday, “after war, years of occupation, many lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq, we have not been able to create a stable regime, power sharing or an end to the political violence.”


Filmmaker Michael Moore’s tweet that concluded thus:

Bill Keller of the NYTimes was wrong about Iraq but now wants 2 bomb Syria. Will some adult pls take his laptop away?

Common Dreams also points out that the U.S. claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons is highly dubious. Indeed, a U.N investigator said – and on-the-ground reports confirm – that the Syrian government likely did not use chemical weapons.

In reality, it’s not just Iraq and Syria … the corporate media is always pro-war.

In addition, wars today are fought on the Web as well as on the battlefield … and Syria is no different.

Agence France-Press reported yesterday:

The Twitter feed of satirical US news website The Onion appeared to have been hacked Monday by a Syrian group aiming to inject its own sardonic spin on the deadly conflict.


“UN retracts report of Syrian chemical weapon use: ‘Lab tests confirm it is Jihadi body odor,’” said one tweet, still available in a screenshot on news blogs after being deleted.

Another tweet said: “UN’s Ban Ki Moon condemns Syria for being struck by israel: ‘It was in the way of Jewish missiles.’”


“Either @TheOnion has been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army, or this is its most convincing stunt ever,” one tweet said.

Another user tweeted: “The Onion’s Twitter feed has been hacked and yet it is still a more reliable news source than CNN.”

The Syrian Electronic Army, which appears to be aligned with the government of President Bashar al-Assad, has previously claimed credit for hacking Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press and other news organizations.

No wonder someone has knocked Syria off the web.

Americans Are Sick of War

We noted last month than Congress is less popular than North Korea, cockroaches, lice, root canals, colonoscopies, traffic jams, used car salesmen, Genghis Khan, Communism, BP during the Gulf oil spill, Nixon during Watergate or King George during the American Revolution.

The Washington Post notes today that a Syria intervention is less popular than Congress.  So that means that the American people would much rather get a root canal or a colonoscopy than bomb Syria.

Indeed, while John Kerry announced today that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, Reuters noted:

The polls suggest that so far, the growing crisis in Syria, and the emotionally wrenching pictures from an alleged chemical attack in a Damascus suburb this week, may actually be hardening many Americans’ resolve not to get involved in another conflict in the Middle East.

The bottom line is that Americans are sick of war.


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