of War? Books on Media and 'Operation Iraqi Freedom'"
By Ralph D. Berenger
theory regarding the relationship of the mainstream US news
media to government says they may be strange bedfellows but
more likely than not they are in the same bed ideologically
since they are both elite institutions.
internationally the same shibboleth applies. Media everywhere
follow the elite in business and government. What was valid
for C. Wright Mills (The Power Elite) in the 1960s is valid
today: elites rule and media are members of the power elite.
The new wrinkle in the theory concerns the role of transnational
broadcasting media and whether they reflect the biases of their
home countries. More interesting is whether audiences perceive
those alleged biases.
Iraq war brought this aspect into focus because global audiences
for the first time could choose the media they regarded as most
credible and least propagandistic. In other words, audiences
chose the information channels they believed were telling them
the truth about the war.
the enduring myths of American journalism is that news media
are "watchdogs" on government-snarling, barking, and
clawing at the door to call attention to what they perceive
(or in rare cases, prove) to be wrong-doing by the policy makers
and players. More often than not, however, they are lap dogs,
fawning for favor and chasing whatever news sticks the elites
into media behavior during the 2003 Iraq war supports the premise
that, when the chips are down, media and government elites join
in a symbiotic relationship that moves down a single path, the
one favored by government in the first place.
have traced the phenomena in different cultures and geographical
regions, so it is not peculiar to the United States. While the
American press believes it is adversarial to government, most
Middle East media have no such illusion.
television broadcasters, who will have much to say in coming
months about the fifty or so books on the continuing Iraq conflict
that examine media roles and personal experiences during the
war and which either embrace the Bush/Blair administrations
ideologically or admonish them for the way the war was started
and conducted. While the current offerings only obliquely reference
the major Arabic-language transnational broadcasters, books
zeroing in on Arab coverage of the war cannot be far behind.
In fact, for the first time ever, war books by Arab writers
are hitting the bookstands at the same time as those of Western
by today's technology, books had flown off the presses and onto
shelves even before the battlefield smoke had cleared, and before
the current insurrections broke out in Iraq. Since a huge majority
of Americans know about the world only from what they see from
the networks and satellite news channels, audiences are swayed
by debate and interviews with book authors. In that sense the
television viewers' war is not only a satellite TV war, a newspaper
war, a documentary war, or a radio war, it is a mixture of all
of them, a convergence of media images and commentary. What
people read in books will be transferred eventually to television
images in discussions, interviews, and references. Such is the
stuff of public opinion formation.
of books on the war's first anniversary (March 20, 2004) shows
scores of books listed on Amazon.Com. All these books were published
in mid to late 2003 and early 2004. No doubt by mid-summer that
number will swell. So far, these books seem to fall into the
The American Military Machine: books by former generals,
current military experts, and a spate of journalists and broadcasters
chronicling the war for history. One must keep in mind that
history is always written by the victors, and this war likely
will be no exception. Some of the critical choices include Ray
L. Smith and Bing West (The March In: Taking Baghdad with the
1st Division), which contains an interesting transnational broadcasting
nugget. According to the authors the general in charge of the
First Marine Division gave the go-ahead for the dash into Baghdad
after he saw an intercepted CNN report from embedded journalists
showing Iraqis gleefully welcoming the Marines outside the capital.
Others that covered the military angle were David Zucchino's
Thunder Run: The armored strike to capture Baghdad; Rick Atkinson's
In the Company of Soldiers: A chronicle of combat; Anthony H.
Cordesman's The Iraq War: Strategy, tactics and military lessons,
and Karl Zinsmeister's Boots on the Ground: A month with the
82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq. A half dozen other books
each follow some aspect of the war, usually from the soldier's
or military command's point of view, such as Walter J. Boyne's
authoritative Operation Iraqi Freedom: What went right, what
went wrong, and why, and Williamson Murray and Robert H. Scales,
The IraqWar: A military history. These books generally take
a politically neutral view of the war, through they are solidly
Reporters' Reflections on the War. Who better to write about
media's behavior in the war than journalists on the ground themselves,
although some took the occasion to weave their personal ideologies
or political views through their books? Perhaps the best of
the recent lot was Bill Katovsky and Timothy Carlson's Embedded:
The media at war in Iraq. The authors interviewed 60 embedded
and independent reporters for international news organizations
for their views on the invasion. News anchor Dan Rather and
CBS news reporters teamed up for America at war: The battle
for Iraq, a view from the frontlines, while NBC weighed in with
Operation Iraqi Freedom: The insider story. National Public
Radio's international correspondent Anne Garrels reported on
the difficulty of filing stories as the only American network
reporter in Baghdad at its fall in Naked in Baghdad: The Iraq
war as seen by NPR's correspondent Anne Garrels. Howard Tumber
and Jerry Palmer in Media at War: The Iraq crisis and Stephen
Hess and Marvin Kalb in The media and the war on terrorism offer
thoughtful criticism of news coverage, especially by broadcast
organizations embedded with military units. The careful reader
can find clues in these offerings to support the primary thesis
of this article: that working journalists generally adopt the
ideology of the government about which they report and which
they depend upon for access.
3. The Picture Book War. A half dozen "coffee table
books" were produced almost immediately after the "official
end" of the war in May. They included: Reuters' 21 Days
to Baghdad: A chronicle of the Iraq war; Life's LIFE: The war
in Iraq with an introduction by Walter Cronkite; Marcel Saba's
Witness Iraq: A war journal, February-April 2003, Time Magazine's
21 days to Baghdad: Photos and dispatches from the battlefield,
Regan Books The war in Iraq: A photo history, and National Geographic's
21 days to Baghdad (on DVD).
Humanity in Time of War: One of the more curious international
news stories to come out of the war was the capture, rescue,
and rehabilitation of a 19-year-old American girl from West
Virginia. Pulitzer Prize journalist Rick Bragg tries to set
the record straight in the highly regarded biography, I Am a
SoldierToo: The Jessica Lynch story. While Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief,
the lawyer who reported Lynch's whereabouts to the US military,
gives his own account in Because Each Life is Precious: Why
an Iraqi man came to risk everything for Private Jessica Lynch.
The reader is left to ponder which version is correct on some
points, but the Al-Rehaief book has drawn excellent critical
reviews for its poignant portrayal of life in Iraq under Saddam
Hussein. A third offering, and the second by an Iraqi, is Salam
Pax: The clandestine diary of an ordinary Iraqi; a collection
of these weblogs, written in English, quickly assembled in print
for the many "fans" of Salam Pax (not his real name)
who followed his diaries before, during and after the war.
5. The Sound and Fury. Since 2004 is an election year
in the United States, dozens of books critical or supportive
of the Bush Administration are expected to hit the shelves,
giving comfort or discomfort to those on either side of the
political spectrum. While several books like Christopher Hitchens's
A Long Short War: The postponed liberation of Iraq supported
the war from a socialist's point of view, several others clearly
favored the administration's efforts from a conservative perspective.
James Daalder and James Lindsay's America Unbound: The Bush
revolution in foreign policy, Oliver North's War Stories: Operation
Iraqi Freedom, Sam Pender's Iraq's Smoking Gun, and Victor Hanson's
Between War and Peace: Lessons from Afghanistan to Iraq unabashedly
give favorable treatment to the Washington policymakers. Many
others, however, are less kindly. Anti-war books abound, and
include Paul Rutherford's Weapons of Mass Persuasion: Marketing
the war against Iraq, David Miller's Tell Me Lies: Propaganda
and media distortion in the attack on Iraq, Norman Solomon's
Target Iraq: What the news media didn't tell you, William Rivers
Pitt's War on Iraq: What Bush team doesn't want you to know,
Tariq Ali's Bush to Babylon: The recolonization of Iraq, Sheldon
Rampton and John Stauber's Weapons of mass deception: The uses
of propaganda in Bush's war on Iraq (see
review in this issue); and Christopher Scheer's The Five
Biggest Lies Bush Told Us about Iraq.
of the latter category of books is to sway voters in America
who have not already made up their minds whether the 2003 Iraq
war was legitimately prosecuted, and whether the war is sufficient
reason not to support Bush's re-election.
there's little doubt what they think about the war: they're
glad Saddam Hussein is gone (61%) and now a high percentage
(57%) want the Americans to leave too, according to a Gallup
Poll in early April 2004. (However, 93% of the Kurds polled
favored the US staying a while longer).
The American elections will be huge marketing efforts by both
major political parties, and the war gives "red meat"
to both administration detractors and proponents. How this will
play in the Arab world with its new love affair with the once-forbidden
satellite dish is unknown. For thousands of Iraqis the American
elections will be something new, and they will be watching them
over Arabic satellite channels.
to Gallup, 95% of Iraqis say they have access to television
sets. Most (74%) watch al-Iraqiyya from Baghdad, although only
a fifth find it unbiased; Al-Arabiya draws 28% of the viewers
edging Al Jazeera at 27%. Almost four out of ten viewers say
these transnational channels are more credible and less biased
than either CNN or BBC World, which they agree are still hard
to receive in Iraq today.
these Arabic channels will carry stories of the U.S. elections
from the Arab perspective. TBS
Prices from Suggested List Price on Amazon.Com.
Mohammed Odeh (October, 2003) Because Each Life Is Precious:
Why an Iraqi Man Came to Risk Everything for Private Jessica
Lynch. Hardcover. 224 page. HarperCollins: New York. ISBN
Rick. (March 15, 2004) In the Company of Soldiers : A Chronicle
of Combat. Hardcover. 319 pages. Henry Holt & Company,
Inc.: New York. ISBN 0-80507-5615. $25.
Walter J. (November 15, 2003) Operation Iraqi Freedom : What
Went Right, What Went Wrong, and Why. Hardcover. 304 pages.
Forge: Belmont, CA. ISBN 0-76531-0384. $25.95.
Rick. (November 11, 2003) I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica
Lynch Story. Hardcover. 207 pages. Knopf: New York. ISBN
15, 2003) CNN Presents - War in Iraq - The Road to Baghdad.
Rated: NR Studio: Wea Corp DVD, VHS. ASIN: B00009MECP. $15.00.
Anthony H. (September 2003) The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics,
and Military Lessons. Paperback. 592 pages. Praeger Publishers:
New York ISBN 0-89206-4323.
Ivo H., and James M. Lindsay. (October 2003). America Unbound:
The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Hardcover. 246 pages.
The Brookings Institution: Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-81571-6885
Anne (September 3, 2003) Naked in Baghdad. Hardcover.
222 pages. Farrar Straus & Giroux: New York. ISBN 0-37452-9035.
Victor. (February 2004). Between War and Peace: Lessons from
Afghanistan to Iraq. Paperback. 304 pages. Random House
Trade Paperbacks: New York, NY. ISBN 0812972732, $41.45,
Stephen and Marvin Kalb (Eds.). (July 2003) The Media and
the War on Terrorism. Paperback. 307 pages. The Brookings
Institution: Washington, DC. ISBN 0-8157-35812. $22.95.
Christopher. (June 3, 2003). A Long Short War: The Postponed
Liberation of Iraq. Paperback. 112 pages. Plume: New York.
ISBN: 0-452284988. $9.95.
William and Timony Carlson. (August 2004). Embedded: The
Media at War in Iraq, An Oral History. Paperback. 448 pages.
The Lyons Press, New York, NY. ISBN 1-59228-2652, $23.96.
(June 2003) LIFE: The War in Iraq with Introduction by Walter
Cronkite. Hardcover. 176 pages. Time: New York.; ISBN: 1932273131.
David (Ed.) (March 2004). Tell Me Lies: Propaganda and Media
Distortion in the Attack on Iraq. Paperback. 256 pages.
Pluto Press: London. ISBN 0-745322018. $19.95.
Williamson and Robert H. Scales. (October 2003) The Iraq
War: A Military History. Hardcover. 368 pages. Belknap Press:
ISBN: 0674012801. $25.95.
Geographic (July 1, 2003) National Geographic - 21 Days to
Baghdad. Rated: NR Studio: Warner Home Video DVD. ASIN B00009RXI5.
NBC Enterprises. (September 1, 2003) Operation Iraqi Freedom
: The Insider Story. Hardcover. 256 pages. Andrews McMeel
Publishing: New York. ISBN 0-74074-0598
(October 2003). Salam Pax: The Clandestine Diary of an Ordinary
Paperback. 206 pages. Grove Press: New York. ISBN 0-802140440.
Dan and The Reporters of CBS News. (September 8, 2003) America
at War : The Battle for Iraq: A View from the Frontlines.
Hardcover. 176 pages Simon & Schuster: New York. ISBN 0-7432-57863.
Books. (May 30, 2003). The War in Iraq: A Photo History.
Hardcover.352 pages. ISBN 0-06058-2863.
(June 9, 2003). 21 Days to Baghdad: A Chronicle of the Iraq
Hardcover 128 pages. Reuters Books: London. ISBN 013143165X
Paul. (June 2004). Weapons of Mass Persuasion: Marketing
the War Against Iraq. Paperback. 160 pages. University of
Toronto Press: Toronto. ISBN 0-80208995X. $40.
Marcel (Editor), (July 2003). Witness Iraq: A War Journal,
February - April 2003. Hardcover. 208 pages. powerHouse
Book: New York; 1st edition ISBN 1-57687-2009.
Ray L. and Bing West. (September 9, 2003) The March Up :
Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division. Hardcover.
320 pages. Bantam: New York. ISBN 0-55380-376X . $25.95.
(Editor). (June 2003). 21 Days to Baghdad: Photos and Dispatches
from the Battlefield. Hardcover. 176 pages. Time: New York.
ISBN 1-93227-3123 $24.95.
Howard and Jerry Palmer. (April 2004). Media at War: the
Iraq Crisis. Hard cover. 192 pages. Sage Publications: Belmont,
CA. ISBN: 1-412-901812, $102.00.
Karl. (September 2003). Boots on the Ground: A Month with
the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq. Hard cover. 224
pages. Truman Talley Books: ISBN 0312326637. $17.47.
David. (March 11, 2004). Thunder Run: The Armored Strike
to Capture Baghdad. Hardcover. 320 pages. Atlantic Monthly
Press. New York. ISBN 0-87113-9111. $24.00.