Opinion: The 20th anniversary of the Iraq War also marks a colossal failure of the mainstream media.

Twenty years ago, President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, overthrowing despot Saddam Hussein and fomenting kind of hell which Iraq is still fighting today.

Twenty years ago, the country’s mainstream media – with one notable exception – bought into the Bush administration’s false claims about Hussein’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, helping to draw our country into a conflict that claimed the lives of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. . . . The war — along with criminally bad post-war planning by Bush administration officials — also unleashed terrible sectarian strife, led to the rise of ISIS and the displacement of more than 1 million Iraqis.

Opinion Explorer

Robin Abkarian

This sad chapter of American history was full of jingoistic buzzwords and phrases: “WMD,” “axis of evil,” “regime change,” “yellow uranium,” “coalition of the willing,” and a cheesy but terrifying refrain. . . repeated ad nauseam by Bush administration officials such as then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice: “We don’t want a smoking gun to turn into a mushroom cloud.” (This memorable metaphor was coined by the late Michael Gerson, Bush’s speechwriter at the time.)

Certainly, never had a smoking gunmushroom shaped or not.

Iraqi stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction were destroyed in 1991 after Iraq invaded Kuwait and was recaptured by a coalition of 35 nations led by the United States. The UN Security Council also demanded that Iraq end its programs on biological and nuclear weapons.

This does not mean that Hussein was a tiger without fangs; he was not.

But he wasn’t the threat he was portrayed as. Misleading a public shaken to the core by the 9/11 terrorist attacks has proven to be a relatively easy task for the militant neoconservatives in the Bush administration. They foolishly thought they could impose democracy on a country that had no history of it.

Bush officials also produced fake links between Iraq and 9/11 attacks organized by the Islamist militant Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group. To his deep chagrin, the late Secretary of State Colin Powell assured the world in a speech to the United Nations shortly before the invasion that the war was fully justified by the danger that Iraq posed to the world.

“My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, reliable sources,” Powell said. “These are not assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on sound intelligence.” His statements he later admitted were deliberately falsemany of which were provided to American intelligence from unreliable sources – emigrants such as Ahmad Chalabithe leader of the Iraqi opposition, who dreamed of overthrowing Hussein and taking the reins of power in Iraq.

Powell’s statements are among those documented in 2008. Center for Public Integritywhich collects hundreds of lies told by Bush and his senior officials as part of a campaign to persuade the American public to support the invasion of Iraq “under patently false pretenses.”

Most of the media, according to the center, “were largely involved in uncritical coverage of the causes of the start of the war.” There was a glaring exception to this complicity. Three reporters and an editor at the Knight-Ridder Washington bureau were the only major news organizations to question the administration’s version of WMD. Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel and Joe Galloway, along with their editor John Wolcott, debunked much of what the mainstream media reported. The drama was filmed in “Shock and Awe,” 2017 feature film by Rob Reiner who plays Walcott.

IN 2013, to the 10th anniversary of the invasionWalcott told me that his team was driven by skepticism, journalism’s most valuable resource.

“Most of the administration’s arguments about this war made absolutely no sense, in particular the claim that Saddam Hussein was an ally of Osama bin Laden. A secular Arab dictator allied with a radical Islamist whose goal was to overthrow the secular dictators and restore his caliphate? The more we examined it, the more it stank.”

In addition, instead of relying on high-ranking administration officials, he said, they were looking for lower-level employees who were not political appointees and less likely to emulate the president in order to stay in his good graces.

Ridder Knight turned out story after story undermining the administration’s (as well as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times) version of Hussein’s capabilities. Some of Knight-Ridder’s own newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, refused to publish articles for fear of retraction, especially from the New York Times. which explained its gullible lighting issue of WMD about 15 months after the invasion.

“It is still possible that chemical or biological weapons will be found in Iraq,” the editors of the Times wrote, “but in this case it looks like we, along with the administration, have been deceived.”

Of course it was powerful opposition before the invasion of Iraq in USA and around worldalthough in the first few months of the conflict, most Americans polled supported him.

Disappointment did not come immediately. After all, where were all those Iraqis who Vice President Cheney vowed would greet American soldiers as “liberators”?

Cheney has never apologized for his role in the Iraq mistake (as far as I can tell, he still defends). Bush is not there either, although he recently, albeit accidentally, admitted the truth.

IN speech last May at the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, he said it was “one man’s decision to launch a completely unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq, I mean Ukraine.”

He winced, and then almost silently added, “Iraq too.”