Bush and the Compliant Media

by Kim Petersen

Dissident Voice
March 10, 2003



Among all the things I'm going to tell you today about being a journalist, all you have to remember is two words: governments lie.

-- I.F. Stone


On 7 February President Bush spoke before the media and fielded questions from them afterwards. It was a very collegial affair with Mr. Bush responding to questions proffered him by chuckling or praise: “I appreciate that question a lot;” “Great question.” The quality of the queries conformed without exception to the Propaganda Model of Herman and Chomsky. (1)


Mr. Bush selected by first name from among the gathered journalists and reporters, who then tendered their delicate probes of US government policy. No, it was rather in the words of Robert Fisk, a “vapid, hopeless, gutless, unchallenging journalism which passe[s] for coverage in the Western media.” (2)


The hard questions were marginalized into thin air. There were no questions about the omission of crucial intelligence of a high-level Iraqi defector, Gen. Hussein Kamel, who confessed that Iraq had in fact destroyed its weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This story has been sat upon although Daniel Ellsberg has stated it could be the biggest story of the entire Persian Gulf War. (3) Neither were there any queries about the dirty tricks plan for eavesdropping on the diplomatic communications of six UN Security Council members who hadn’t staked out a hard position on a second resolution. (4)


Mr. Bush was never taken to the task when he magnanimously proclaimed that the US would provide “ample food and medical supplies” to the Iraqi people after the war. No one had the temerity to ask why the US has been preventing enough food and medicines from entering Iraq to ameliorate the 6,000 children who die every month from the UN sanctions.


Mr. Bush peppered his speech and replies with enough anti-war rhetoric that one might have led a Martian to mistake him for a dove: “I don’t like war;” “Nobody likes war;” “I hope we don’t have to go to war;” I pray for peace.” Bush even invoked that “In the name of peace … the US will disarm him,” as if President Saddam Hussein himself was the target to be disarmed.


He claimed, “We will respect innocent life in Iraq.” Not one reporter asked how that was possible under the Shock and Awe military scheme. The US doesn’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons (a logical conundrum for the US: Iraq is faced with the violence of WMD for being accused of having WMD), depleted uranium (which has wreaked a cancer havoc upon the Iraqis), cluster bombs, BLU-82, and what defense analyst Paul Rogers referred to as “the mother of all bombs,” the Massive Ordnance Air Burst weapon. (5)


Mr. Bush asserts that Iraq is part of the War on Terrorism even though no vaguely credible evidence for this link has yet been presented. He asserts further that Iraq trains and arms terrorists.


“The risk of doing nothing…the risk that somehow, umm, that inaction will make the world safer is a risk that I’m not prepared to take,” spoke Mr. Bush ominously. Maybe Mr. Bush is not prepared to take the risk of doing nothing and there are few who are pushing this position. Indeed most nations stand behind the action of inspections disarming Iraq.


The president has defined the “fundamentally disarmed” shriveling hulk of a country ravaged by 20 years of war and genocidal sanctions as a threat personified by one man. It is an absurd scenario that beggars the imagination. If the UN refuses to go along with this illusion it is to be dismissed. If no second resolution is forthcoming then the “credibility of the Security Council is at stake.” On the other hand Mr. Bush says he wants the UN to be “effective,” but that he is not worried about it.


To most observers the notion that the US is acting out of self-defense is risible. Mr. Bush says it his duty to “protect and defend the Constitution.” That means, Mr. Bush having lost his patience, will not wait until Mr. Hussein attacks the US. Without UN imprimatur, however, this will be unconstitutional as the UN Charter to which the US signed binds Americans. Mr. Bush goes further to enounce: “We will be changing the regime of Iraq for the good of the people of Iraq.” Regime change is not mandated under the UN charter.


A few times the members of the media raised the threat of a North Korea with nuclear weapons but never once was nuclear-armed Israel mentioned nor its ongoing violence in the Occupied Territories in breach of UN Security Council Resolutions.


The media let stand again the suggestion that America’s enemies hate her freedoms. They didn’t comment on the ironic fact that those same freedoms have been curtailed post 9-11. US Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once cautioned: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”


Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. Email: kotto2001@hotmail.com




(1) Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Pantheon: 1988).


(2) Robert Fisk, “Transcript Of Robert Fisk Speech At Concordia University In Montreal,” montrealmuslimnews.net, 17 November  2002:



(3) Norman Solomon, “American Media Dodging U.N. Surveillance Story,” Dissident Voice, 6 March  2003:



(4) Martin Bright, Ed Vulliamy, and Peter Beaumont, “Revealed: US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war,” The Observer, Sunday 2 March 2003: http://www.observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,905899,00.html


(5) Paul Rogers, “The Mother of all Bombs – how the US plans to pulverise Iraq,” Open Democracy, 7 March 2003:



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