As the country marks the ten-year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, CNN posed the following question this morning, “What have we learned?” While it’s unclear whether the cable news giant was asking the American public or themselves, the answer to the question is obvious – We learned that we cannot trust the corporate-controlled mainstream media.
It’s easy to blame the former Bush administration for their lies that led us into Iraq, but that blame only addresses half the issue. Had the mainstream media outlets not been so willing to distort the truth and parrot the talking points of the Bush administration, the disaster that is Iraq could have easily been avoided.
In the months running up to the invasion, mainstream media outlets like CNN, Fox News, and even MSNBC trumpeted claims of “yellow cake uranium,” “weapons of mass destruction,” and “axis of evil” that were being thrown around carelessly by the war hawks of the Bush administration. These talking points helped to create a feeding frenzy among the American public to the point that almost three-quarters of the country (before the start of the war) actually believed that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in the attacks of 9/11.
The few voices in the mainstream press at the time who were critical of the invasion, specifically Phil Donahue on MSNBC, were promptly dismissed and replaced by journalists and newscasters who would blindly follow the administration’s orders.
In the ten years that have followed, nothing has changed. Just this morning, CNN featured a story on the $800 billion price tag of the Iraq War. However, this number is less than a third of the total cost of the Iraq War. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist and author Joseph Stiglitz, when you factor in all economic costs of the war, the price tag is right around $3 trillion. The dollar amount handed out to pay for the war is only a small part of the price tag, according to Stiglitz. The real economic hits come in the form of death, disfigurement, loss of employment, and the opportunity cost of the war itself.
To answer CNN’s question, the only thing we’ve learned from Iraq is that we can’t trust the corporate-controlled mainstream media. The media has not learned a thing. We’re still bombarded by half-truths, misinformation, and even outright lies about important events and stories that affect our lives.
If there is any good that came out of the Iraq debacle, it is that a new, independent media machine emerged to help combat the constant stream of lies flowing from traditional media. Progressive voices that had been stifled in the past began creeping into the mainstream, and today have become a force to be reckoned with on the national stage. The mainstream media has never, and likely will never, recover from their failings in Iraq, but their failure has given birth to a more honest, more robust, and more intriguing media system that is fueled by the people, not corporate shareholders.
Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer Magazine, a contributing writer for DeSmogBlog.com, and producer of Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.