“We’re sorry”. Sort of.

Washington Post ombudsman, Michael Getler, on the media response to Bush administration Iraqi spin:
“Iraq has proved impossible for me, along with many readers, to put aside and move away from. I keep coming back to it, in part, because readers keep coming back to it but also because I cannot think of a story in the past 40 years that offers more warning signs for journalism and for the role of the press in our democracy. And it’s not just the press for whom Iraq should loom large. It is also Congress, the Cabinet, the civil service, the intelligence community and the military leadership.

“There is no bigger story than war. And a war whose major premise – the threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction – turned out to be unsupported is an even bigger story. That the administration presented this threat to the public with such a strong, yet false, sense of certainty – including the imagery of mushroom clouds – is an even more important lesson for all of us about big but not well-examined decisions.

“Since the war began, many other questions have been raised about other prewar assessments. But the key question for journalists is how the process of vetting the main prewar rationale for sending Americans into a war took place, or failed to take place.

“As I’ve noted in previous columns, The Post contributed a fair number of stories that raised questions about the issue of weapons of mass destruction. But too many of these were placed well inside the paper. Several other stories that challenged the official wisdom and unfolded in public were either missed or played down. I have attributed this mostly to what seemed to me to be a lack of alertness on the part of editors who at the time were also undoubtedly focused on preparing for the coming war.”

This “excuse” is hardly acceptable. The Post, New York Times, LA Times and a host of other leading US newspapers – Fox News was not, despite common perceptions, as important before the war – convinced the American people that Iraq was an imminent threat to the USA and military action was essential.

In Australia, the Murdoch press – owning around 70% of newspapers – was central in this information war.

Journalists and editors must take responsibility for their pre-war failings. It is simply not enough to roast politicians.

Aside from horrific violence across the country, we now learn this:

“Iraq has issued arrest warrants against the defence minister and 27 other officials from the US-backed government of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi over the alleged disappearance or misappropriation of 1 billion dollars in military procurement funds, officials said.”

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