Reflecting on our history, we can see that our media abetted the government in taking us into numerous unnecessary wars. One of the earlier examples involved Hearst and Pulitzer’s “yellow journalism,” that is, reporting allegations as fact, exaggerating or making up events. Their promotion of the sinking of the USS Maine, wrongly blamed on Spain, and the desire of many powerful people for a greater U.S. role in world affairs helped bring about the 1898 Spanish-American War.
Unfortunately little has changed. The allegation of a North Vietnamese attack in a second Gulf of Tonkin incident was false, but it played a key role in greatly increasing the U.S. military involvement and aggression in Vietnam.
Before the illegal 1999 U.S.-led NATO attack on Yugoslavia, the Clinton administration and the complicit media falsely alleged mass killings of thousands of Kosovo Albanians by Yugoslavian forces. This media-hyped claim was a pretext for NATO’s war crime, the devastating 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia.
Fast forward to 2002 and 2003 and the bogus U.S. claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, strongly supported by The New York Times. Despite the weapons inspectors’ denial of Iraqi WMDs, the U.S. led an illegal war that devastated Iraq. The Middle East is still suffering the effects of this horrific war crime.
In February 2011 the media claimed widespread human rights violations and a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Libya. These false claims provided an excuse for the U.S. and its allies to attack the Gaddafi government. In June 2011, Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group in effect said that the Western media exaggerated and misrepresented the situation in Libya.
Syria is the latest Middle Eastern nation under attack. Western nations along with a few Middle Eastern countries claim they are attacking Syria to protect the Syrian population from the Assad government. In particular, the U.S. has justified some of its illegal attacks by claiming Assad has used chemical weapons against the Syrian population. Although these claims are suspect, the media touts them. For the media, the use of chemical weapons is especially egregious when others do it, but not a big deal when the U.S. or Israel use them.
The latest suspect allegation is that forces supporting Assad used chemicals on April 7th. The Trump administration, abetted by the British and French, quickly launched another illegal assault on Syria before weapons inspectors had a chance to examine the alleged attack sites. Fortunately the U.S. avoided hitting any Russian forces, thus not setting off a possible nuclear confrontation.
Bottom line — the evidence clearly shows that the U.S. government often lies, and the complicit media are often untrustworthy regarding claims about other nations. However, other nations also lie. Therefore skepticism is warranted and verification of allegations is needed.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.