Media coverage of end of Iraqi War leaves out important information, like how many Iraqis died

It has been absolutely amazing to see the uniformity of coverage by the mainstream news media of President Obama’s announcement that virtually all U.S. troops and mercenaries will be out of Iraq by the end of the year.  It was as if every reporter wrote down practically rote from a government news release.

I analyzed 10 original stories about the announcement of war’s final end found in 10 major national media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles TimesUSA TodayAssociated Press (for example, as published in the Detroit Free Press)CNN, ABCMSNBC, CBS and National Public Radio.

Now that’s pretty much a “who’s who” of the influential mainstream news media.  And all essentially gave the same report!

All the stories mentioned the number of Americans killed (about 4,400) and wounded (about 32,000).  Most of the stories also mentioned the commonly accepted low side estimate of $700 billion as the cost for waging the war.  Virtually all the longer stories also mentioned that some 4,000 mercenaries will remain in Iraq, although in the polite parlance of pro-war reporting, these hired hands were called “military contractors.”  Many of the stories also give a brief history of the war’s endgame, typically mentioning the 2007 surge, the withdrawal agreement President Bush II negotiated with whatever was the Iraqi government at that time and President’s Obama’s pledge to get our troops out.

But two facts that should have been vital to the news coverage of the end of this long, bloody and useless war were missing in all the mainstream reports:

  • How it started
  • The impact on Iraq

I can understand why the mainstream news media would want to avoid talking about the war’s start, because collectively these supposedly independent organizations did a very poor job of analyzing the assertions by the Bush II Administration that served as justification for the war. President Bush II, his VP “Darth” Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield and even the estimable good soldier General Colin Powell all lied to the public about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They all fabricated a connection between Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein and the terrorist coterie that planned and realized the 9/11 attacks.  They lied and the news media by and large swallowed the lies hook, line and sinker.

And I guess I also understand why not even one reporter mentioned the damage done to Iraq during the extended discussion of the war’s cost to the United States.  Estimates I have seen range from about 110,000 Iraqis dead (by Wiki-Leaks, the Iraq Body Count Project and the Associated Press) to more than a million dead (found in an Opinion Research survey).

Among those proffering the 110,000 number, about 67,000 is established as the number of innocent Iraqi civilians who died in the war.  That’s compared to zero in the United States, which makes sense since the war was not fought on our ground.  I have been unable to locate any numbers for the numbers of Iraqis wounded, but I do know that the war has led to 2.1 million Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan and another 2.25 million Iraqis displaced from their homes to someplace else in Iraq.

Since the reports blasted out the cost in dollars to the United States of the 9-year war in Iraq, we should also take a look at the financial damage to Iraq. Many cities were turned to rubble and the Iraqi industrial base and economy were destroyed. So were many priceless cultural relics from the ancient epoch in which Iraq was the focal point for the development of human societies.   I can’t find a total damage estimate but it is surely in the tens, if not the hundreds of billions of dollars.

I find it both narcissistic and hardhearted for the United States, as represented by our major news sources, to dwell on our own relatively light pain from the war while completely ignoring the enormous suffering we have wrought on the Iraqi people. It’s as if someone causes a 10-car pileup that critically injures 25 and walks away with one small scratch on his knee but loudly complaining because he’s not getting the medical care he urgently needs.

There have already been many reactions to President Obama’s announcement of war’s end.  Democrats rejoice, while Republicans tend to sound cautions.  But no one is showing any contrition.

Another analogy comes to mind: A police force raids the wrong house, smashes all the furniture and rips up every sofa and mattress looking for contraband, finally realizes that they have the wrong address and leaves without apologizing or pledging to fix the damage.  This analogy isn’t perfect, though, since in this imaginary police raid, no one dies.


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