Ten Years Later: Media Complicit in U.S. War Crimes in Iraq

It is the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion/occupation of Iraq.

The role the U.S. commercial media played in the lead up to and during the U.S. invasion/occupation of Iraq cannot be understated. Most U.S. commercial media outlets either acted as stenographers for U.S. policy, often championing the invasion, or they promoted misinformation and lies about what was actually happening just prior to and during the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq.

By Jeff Smith

By Jeff Smith

As is expected, there are numerous articles appearing on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion/occupation of Iraq. One excellent piece is by Greg Mitchell, who wrote a whole book about the complicity of the U.S. media in regards to the Iraq war. Mitchell’s article looks at 16 major media outrages that occurred in the U.S. during the early months of the war, such as the statement from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews who said, “We are all neocons now.”

The Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy conducted its own monitoring of Grand Rapids-based media during this time and produced a documentary and report entitled “Searching for the Smoking Gun: Local News Coverage of the U.S. War in Iraq.

In our report of local news coverage (which included the Grand Rapids Press, WOOD TV 8, WZZM 13 and WXMI 17) we discovered that the local news media:


- Relied almost exclusively on U.S. government officials and U.S. military personnel as sources for reporting on the U.S. invasion/occupation

- All four news outlets acted as a conduit for the U.S. State Department position

- None of the major claims by the U.S. government or military were questioned or verified by the four local news agencies

- All four news stations took a public supportive position on the war

- Once the U.S. invasion/occupation began, anti-war voices significantly diminished

- All four local news agencies almost exclusively focused on U.S. military casualties and rarely reported on Iraqi civilian casualties


The overall tone and content in the local news reporting was so much in line with the U.S. government position, one would have thought they were being told what to report. And here is the sad reality. The local news media, just like the national press, was not being told what to report, which is what makes their complicity in promoting lies and misinformation so incredible.

Of course, the major lies and misinformation mostly focused around the U.S. State Department claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). This was simply not true and no WMDs were ever found, despite the U.S. Administration’s constant claim to the contrary.

This claim was completed embraced by the U.S. media; when former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the United Nations in February of 2003, the media did not question his presentation that proved Iraq was in possession of WMDs. Powell himself, once out of the government, admitted his presentation was false and that it was the lowest point of his political career.

Powell’s mea culpa aside, the U.S. media’s failure to verify and to essentially cheerlead the U.S. invasion/occupation led to massive war crimes in Iraq, with more than one million Iraqi civilian deaths, according to one source.

Despite the massive human rights violations committed by the U.S. in Iraq, no major U.S. news media outlet admitted it was consistently complicit in these crimes. The same goes for the local news agencies based on what we documented early on in the U.S. invasion/occupation of Iraq, nor years later in the subsequent studies we conducted in 2004, 2005 and 2007.

This was and is not merely nationalistic allegiance it is gross complicity in the massive deaths and destruction wrought from the U.S. invasion/occupation of Iraq. The U.S. media is indeed partly responsible for these war crimes and needs to be held accountable for that role, especially since the suffering in Iraq continues.

Jeff Smith does local news monitoring at griid.org.

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