It is déjà vu all over again. In the last couple of weeks we have seen numerous news reports about the increasing threat of Iran, and the increasing likelihood of a military strike on Iran in the coming months. War is fought by the military, but the war that leads up to the war is fought by the public relations department of governments around the world. The recent batch of news reports on the Iranian threat should sound very familiar, because about nine years ago similar articles were produced to get U.S. citizens ready for war — only then it was Iran’s neighbor, Iraq.
A Feb. 3 headline in The Wall Street Journal read, “US Fears Iran’s Link to Al-Qaeda.” On the ABC World News broadcast from Jan. 31, anchor Diane Sawyer reported, “America’s top spy warns that Iran is willing to launch a terrorist strike inside the U.S.” If you replaced the “n” in “Iran” with the letter “q” in both of those stories, you would be reading almost exactly the same reports that came out almost a decade ago as the U.S. was readying to enter war with Iraq.
The parallels are clear, and the American media must realize the similarities so they can prevent the mistakes that were made in the lead up to the Iraq War. One year after the beginning of the Occupation of Iraq, the editors of both The Washington Post and The New York Times issued apologies for their lax media coverage during the lead up to the war.
Most of the media seems to have now realized the mistakes made nine years ago, but the realization of those mistakes will not mean anything unless they make sure not to repeat them again. The media is sometimes known as the fourth branch of government, the branch that holds the government accountable. But unfortunately, accountability was severely lacking when the U.S. government asserted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
In their self-critical editorial regarding mistakes made during the build up to the Iraq War, The New York Times said, “Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.” Examining the evidence for government claims is exactly what ABC News failed to do in the previously mentioned story regarding Iran possibly planning attacks on U.S. soil.
One piece of evidence that ABC News gave stated that Iran has been supporting Hezbollah cells in Latin America, but FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) pointed out that the State Department has determined that there are no such cells in our hemisphere. This piece of information failed to get mentioned. Verifying and questioning evidence is what the media must do to prevent another war from beginning based on erroneous claims.
The situation leading up to the Iraq War and the current situation regarding the Iranian nuclear threat are certainly not the same. A major difference is that the U.S. is a war-fatigued country, and barring a major terrorist attack linked to Iran on U.S. soil, if anyone attacks Iran this year it will be Israel. There is no question that if Israel attacks Iran, the U.S. will be right there with Israel helping them out, be it overtly or covertly.
Due to the immense secrecy involved, all the details about international issues like this one are never fully known to the public. It is possible these news reports are being used to plan for a war, but it is also possible they are being used purely as a scare tactic to show Iran how serious the U.S. and Israel are.
The media has a job, and that is to hold the government accountable for their claims. The U.S. supposedly has an independent media, but nine years ago our media became sources for government propaganda. Today, the U.S. media has a chance to prove they learned from their mistakes. For the sake of our brave soldiers, innocent Iranian civilians, innocent Israeli civilians and the economy, I sincerely hope they have.