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Brandeis University

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

Switzerland: International Studies, Organizations and Social Justice


The American public was doubly deceived into compliance with the Iraq War – first by the government, then by the news media, which disseminated and amplified the Bush administration’s misleading rhetoric and accepted as fact the “evidence” of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq that was used as the main justification for going to war. This paper first provides a background history of the role of American news media in armed conflict up until the Iraq War, starting with the Revolutionary War. The media was a powerful political actor ever since the beginning of United States history. With the evolution of technology, the news media has blossomed, and has subsequently become more difficult for the government to monitor. The relationship between journalists and the military has become increasingly strained, as Pentagon officials feared that the media would leak secrets to the enemy, or that it would undermine the war effort by portraying U.S. military actions in a negative light. The freedom of the press is a fundamental element to a democracy. This right ensures that the press is free to criticize the government, allowing the people to more easily hold their government accountable for its actions. However, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, American news media failed to fulfill its duty. The skewed portrayal of the war that was presented by American news networks was the result of a culmination of factors, the most important of which being: the government’s policy of “information dominance”; the use of embedded reporters in Iraq; the Bush administration’s misleading rhetoric (especially regarding the presence of WMDs in Iraq), which was parroted by the media; the media’s obsession with and distortion of certain events and images that portrayed the war unrealistically; and the media’s omissions, both of dissenting voices that would have challenged the Bush administration’s case for war, and of events that occurred during the war that, if aired, would have given the viewer a more accurate picture of the war.


Mass Communication | Social Influence and Political Communication


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