As bombs fall in Syria, history is not only repeating itself, it’s bearing down on us with lightning speed. Talk of war once again rules the political dialogue. And the general public is buying it – again.
The Sept. 20 headline in the Financial Times says it all: “Americans galvanized for Return to War in Iraq.”
Just a few weeks ago, a war-weary public was complacent on the subject until videos of the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker surfaced. They not only surfaced, they were trumpeted by Prime Minister David Cameron, President Barack Obama and a host of other political players and so-called experts who — in record time — laid the foundation for a United States strategy to deal with evil ISIS, heightened terror alerts in the UK and infused new energies into fears that 9/11-type acts on U.S. soil were once again just around the corner.
Never mind the summer of bombs dropping on Gaza, blowing to pieces more than 2,000 innocents and devastating the region to the point it will take a generation or more to rebuild. Never mind the dozens who died at the hands of warring factions in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen or Nigeria. Never mind the scores of Somalis brutally murdered or the two dozen beheadings in Saudi Arabia. Those videos and images rarely made it on the radar, and when they did, they never resonated.
Instead, press conference-driven coverage filled the public airwaves and mindset. Suddenly, a majority believed dropping bombs on ISIS strongholds in Iraq and even Syria was warranted. The beheadings were indisputable proof that ISIS represented a new breed of terror so vile that the civilized world had no choice but to combat it.
Bombs are OK? Beheadings are bad? Is that the message from our leaders we’re willing to accept?
As hearings unfolded in the US Senate on funding for the ISIS-driven intervention, with the exception of a few brief moments of protest from Code Pink members, the US invasions, occupation and destruction of Iraq that created this violent mess in the first place never took center stage.
That’s not the narrative.
Instead, the press conference-driven media allows the coverage to be framed by well synchronized talking points.
Why do the likes of John McCain, Dick Cheney, Peter King, Lindsey Graham and a stable full of retired generals, whose track records scream sameness and failure in the same breath, have carte blanche to pound the war drums on the media platform of their choosing?
Our trend line in this critical arena has held steady and is, in fact, more essential than ever: The media, despite its inside-the-industry and wholly academic self-reflection on its failings to challenge the reasoning for going to war more than a decade ago, still drive the narrative they are fed from the same morally blinded, strategically deaf leaders that have never — not once — acknowledged the mistakes that have taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and cost the US trillons.
Without blinking, each and every one of them touts the same failed reasoning for this insanity, only replacing words like Al Qaeda with terms like ISIS.