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Greg Mitchell's recounting of newspapers' reaction to the Iraq War run-up is complete and compelling. No wonder. His perch at Editor & Publisher enhanced his 20/20 vision.

A different angle would be cable news's fevered support for George W. Bush's every move. Fox, of course, was being Fox. If Bush said, in effect, that opposing nations could go to hell, the sycophants at Fox would slavishly agree. CNN, no doubt remembering its glory year, 1991 Desert Storm (before its rivals' birthing), gave Bush scarcely a discouraging word in spring 2003.

As for MSNBC, it wasn't the "left-leaning" outlet we know today. It sacked top-rated Phil Donahue for his "unpatriotic" non-support of the invasion. It also scrubbed from its website a report that Osama bin Laden wanted Saddam overthrown (which of course contradicted the fiction that Al Qaeda and Saddam were in cahoots). And who among us can forget the gushing admiration MSNBC's Chris Matthews accorded Bush during the president's May 1, 2003, aircraft carrier strut ("Mission Accomplished")?

Perhaps, then, cable news noise-makers were more influential in 2003 war-making than were the more reflective newspaper editorialists. Yes, I know cable news' ratings for any given time slot is small compared with regular networks'. But the sum of cable-ratings parts adds up to plenty.

This is not to dispute anything in Greg Mitchell's perceptive piece. Just wondering what impact cable news had during its shameful lockstep toward war.

Next I'd like to see Greg give The Nation's readers his take on American newspapers' eerie silence following release (May 1, 2005) of the Downing Street Memo. He already has written much about it elsewhere. My take is that the British "Memo" proved that by mid- 2002 Bush would have his war, no matter what. And three years later, the American news media had grown ashamed of their complicity in the run-up to war. Profound regret still blankets the industry. You'd think the cautionary tale from 2003 would influence today's views on war-making in Afghanistan. Yet the obsession is with "winning," as if you could win a mistake.

Jerry Elsea

Cedar Rapids, IA

Mar 25 2010 - 7:47am

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