War, Media, and Propaganda: A Global Perspective/The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media/Bring 'Em On: Media and Politics in the Iraq War/Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal

By Kumar, Deepa | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

War, Media, and Propaganda: A Global Perspective/The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media/Bring 'Em On: Media and Politics in the Iraq War/Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal


Kumar, Deepa, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


* Kamalipour, Yahya R. and Nancy Snow, eds. (2004). War, Media, and Propaganda: A Global Perspective. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, pp. 261.

* Rajiva, Lila. (2005). The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, pp. 224.

* Artz, Lee and Yahya R. Kamalipour (2005). Bring 'Em On: Media and Politics in the Iraq War. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, pp. 269.

* Amove, Anthony. (2006). Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal. New York, NY: The New Press, pp. 184.

The ink has barely dried on the exposes of the Iraq war, and the United States is already preparing for another war on a Middle Eastern country. Cynically enough, the script has not changed very much. The case for war with Iran is similar to that of Iraq-a "rogue nation," a member of the "axis of evil," is seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction. With barely a hint of opposition from the Democratic Party, the Bush administration has been able to forge ahead with its propaganda campaign. If anything, the pressure from the Democrats has been to take a tougher stance on Iran, with Senators like Hillary Clinton accusing the Bush administration of "downplaying the Iranian threat."

Predictably, the mainstream media have fallen in line behind the war efforts. In a matter of weeks, Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons, as reported in the mainstream media, has gone from ten years (based on the estimate provided by the National Intelligence Council in 2005), to three years, and then magically down to as little as sixteen days. While the alleged threat is highlighted, facts that could equip citizens to make an informed decision are downplayed. Thus, we are asked to forget that Iran obtained its nuclear technology from the United States when the Shah, an ally of the United States, was in power. We are also not encouraged to think about inconsistencies with the United States' nuclear policy, such as why India, a country that has not signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is being supplied nuclear technology by the United States, while Iran, a country that has not only signed the NPT but also the "Additional Protocol," that stipulates a "voluntary suspension" of the right to enrichment, is being targeted. Additionally, we are not asked to consider why it is legitimate for the United States, which possesses the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world (and ironically might even use them in targeted nuclear strikes against Iran), to police other nations.

As if on auto pilot, the media regurgitate the Orientalist language used by empire to justify its conquests. Iran is represented, at best, as a petulant child incapable of responsibly handling nuclear technology, and, at worst, a demonic force that must be vanquished. Little time is devoted to shedding light on why Iran, as a rational political actor, might want to acquire nuclear weapons. If one looked at the region, one would find that Iran is surrounded by states that possess nukes such as India, Pakistan, China, Russia, and Israel, not to mention U.S. bases in Qatar, Iraq, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan, which might have nuclear weapons.

In a replay of history, the media-military industrial complex is preparing the grounds for another war. In this context, scholarship critical of U.S. foreign policy, and of the role of the media in winning consent for war, is a valuable resource. There are many excellent anthologies and full-length studies on this topic; however, I can only focus on a few here.

War, Media, and Propaganda, edited by Yahya Kamalipour and Nancy Snow, is an excellent anthology that brings together essays by international scholars and journalists. David Miller argues that the term "propaganda" isn't sufficient to explain the extent to which the United States and United Kingdom control and manipulate information. Citing U.S. Army manuals and military strategists, Miller shows how the term "information dominance," i.

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