Apr
27
2007

Buying the War

Moyers documentary exposes media culpability in Iraq War

If you missed the April 25 airing of the Bill Moyers documentary Buying the War, there's good news: The full program and transcript are available online.

As Moyers explained in the introduction:

The story of how the media bought what the White House was selling has not been told in depth on television. As the war rages into its fifth year, we look back at those months leading up to the invasion, when our press largely surrendered its independence and skepticism to join with our government in marching to war.

The program highlights the lonely efforts of several journalists who raised essential questions about the Bush administration's rationale for invading Iraq—particularly Charles Hanley of the Associated Press, and Knight-Ridder's Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel. Their efforts stand in stark contrast to their mainstream media colleagues, who exhibited little interest in assessing the claims coming from the White House.

In one revealing response, NBC anchor Tim Russert explains his reason for not raising sufficient doubts about what Dick Cheney and others were saying on his program: the skeptics weren't calling him. "To this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them," he told Moyers. Do major media figures like Russert really think they've done their job if they just wait around for critical sources to come to them? And the idea that NBC's Washington bureau chief didn't have "access" to prominent skeptics like Scott Ritter and Daniel Ellsberg is just laughable.

Buying the War does an invaluable job of bringing to PBS's audience a critique of media failures that is, perhaps unsurprisingly, seldom heard in mainstream media. A year ago, FAIR's magazine Extra! (3-4/06) praised those reporters who got the Iraq story right.

And in 2004, Knight-Ridder's Landay appeared on FAIR's CounterSpin (3/19/04) to talk about the media's reliance on dubious intelligence supplied by Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress.

FAIR associate Norman Solomon makes the point in the PBS documentary that the pundits who got everything wrong on Iraq have seen their careers thrive. Solomon's analysis of how media opinion-shapers have helped promote war for decades can be seen in the film War Made Easy. For those in the New York City area, FAIR is hosting the world premiere screening at the Anthology Film Archives on May 14, 2007. For information on how to get tickets, see the FAIR events page.