American media called instruments of war propaganda
By Jesse J. DeConto
[Sea Coast - December 12, 2002]
PORTSMOUTH - What’s been going on in Iraq for the past 10 years?
The American people know that U.S. forces handily defeated the Iraqi
military in 1991 and that American bombs have already begun to drop on
Iraq a decade later. What has happened since then and why the need to
These are questions for which few Americans have the answers, yet
informed citizenship depends on them, according to University of New
Hampshire professor and media analyst Joshua Meyrowitz.
He spoke to a crowd of more than 200 visitors, including many students
who made the trip from Durham to Portsmouth’s South Church Monday night.
The presentation was sponsored by Seacoast Peace Response.
Meyrowitz argued that by reporting mostly what government sources say,
the American media have become instruments of war propaganda, thereby
crippling their audience’s ability to find the truth or to hold their
leaders accountable. Journalists in bed with the government have spawned
an impaired version of free speech, but Americans take freedom for
granted, so they don’t pressure the media to protect it, he said.
"These rights are used as an excuse not to use them," Meyrowitz said.
"Our students and our citizens in general are the people who use them the
Meyrowitz revealed his personal reasons for holding journalists to a
higher standard. His uncle was among the Jews murdered by the Nazis,
while both German and American journalists failed to report what was
really going on.
"If the media doesn’t cover it, the citizens don’t worry about it," the
Prior to World War II, even the New York Times, with its Jewish
executives and many Jewish reporters and editors, referred to the Nazis’
victims as "unfortunates," rather than Jews.
More recently, the New Republic altered a photograph of Saddam Hussein,
helping to justify another war on Iraq."They doctored his mustache to
make him look like Hitler," Meyrowitz said.
The UNH professor revealed the expensive public relations campaign that
he said persuaded the American public to support the first Persian Gulf
War. What galvanized America around the war, Meyrowitz said, was the
televised testimony of a young Kuwaiti girl who tearfully told members of
Congress she’d seen Iraqi soldiers storm Kuwaiti hospitals and remove
infants from their incubators.
As it turned out, the girl, named Nayirah, was the daughter of Kuwait’s
ambassador to the United States. She lived in Washington, D.C., and was
recruited by the high-powered Washington public relations firm Hill &
Knowlton. It had received more than $11 million from the state of Kuwait
under the auspices of a private group called the Citizens for a Free
Kuwait, which wanted to incite the war on Iraq. After the war, several
international human rights organizations checked out the incubator story
and found it to be false.
U.S. journalists were not allowed to investigate the story prior to the
war, in the name of protecting the U.S. military, but Meyrowitz said this
information would not have been useful to Iraqi intelligence.
"The Iraqis knew they weren’t tearing the babies off the incubators," he
Although most Americans banked on the overriding narrative that had big
bad Iraq bullying innocent little Kuwait, Meyrowitz said the tiny but
wealthy nation had been using British angle-drilling technology to siphon
oil from underneath Iraqi soil.
What’s worse than all the misinformation leading to America’s declaring
war on Iraq, Meyrowitz said, is the silence of the American media since
"The New York Daily News has more sports reporters than there are Western
reporters in the entire Middle East outside Israel," Meyrowitz said.
UNICEF statistics show that one in 10 infants born in Iraq never reach
age 1, largely because the war decimated the country’s infrastructure and
ongoing economic sanctions have prevented recovery, Meyrowitz said.
He shared copies of an article by Thomas Nagy in The Progressive
revealing that the United Nations has maintained the sanctions even
though they knew as far back as 1991 they would prevent Iraq from
purifying its water supply.
"Iraq depends on importing specialized equipment and some chemicals to
purify its water supply, most of which is heavily mineralized and
frequently brackish to saline," Nagy quoted U.S. Defense Intelligence
Agency documents. "Failing to secure supplies will result in a shortage
of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could lead to
increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease."
Monday night, Meyrowitz asked if any experienced journalists wanted to
comment on why such facts have remained secret. Sarah Brown, a
controversial former town councilor in Kittery, Maine, said that when she
was working as a journalist in Russia she found that European reporters
were much more willing to ask the hard questions than the Americans were.
U.S. journalists generally took an official’s word for things and only
pursued stories that directly affected American interests.
Brown said Americans are not trained to think globally, and Meyrowitz
said our journalists are afraid to question the overarching ideology that
says America is the greatest country in the world and our enemies are
Meyrowitz showed a video clip of CNN’s Larry King interviewing CBS news
anchor Dan Rather. King asked Rather, a well-traveled journalist, why so
many people around the world seem to hate America.
"They hate us because they’re losers," Rather said. "There are just evil
people in some places."
Meyrowitz said this sort of attitude prevents national journalists from