(Crossposted from Liberal America)
If you actually watch Fox News (I generally don't, it's like voluntarily drinking Drano), then you might have been watching the other day when "America's Newsroom" anchor Patti Ann Browne decided to educate her viewers about the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. It was just like being in history class -- and like many history classes, Professor Browne left a few key items out. As in pretty much anything that would counter the narrative that "Obummer caused the problem in Eye-rack."
Fox News: Not News, but Propaganda
As most people who read Liberal America know, Fox News is not a news provider. It is a propaganda organ for far-right interests, and the "news" it presents is massaged, stacked, racked and packed to provide the maximum impact for the oligarchical and right-wing fringe interests it represents. Whether it's trashing President Obama, promoting militias, or cheerleading for the Tea Party, everything Fox News does is to serve an agenda. No other major national news outlet does this, regardless of your conservative friends' attempts to claim that "MSNBC is just like Fox for liberals." No, it isn't. MSNBC provides news and opinion with a progressive slant. Most European news outlets use this model of "news with a view." CNN does the same thing, with a rightward slant -- though given its recent coverage of school shootings, it may be skewing into the area of actual propaganda purveyor. Fox News is more in line with the Soviet-era Pravda, which not only slanted the news it reported to fit its agenda (in its case, attempting to paint the Soviet government in the best light possible and to denigrate the government's enemies and domestic opponents), but did not report events that made the Soviet government look bad, and falsified its reporting when it suited its purposes. Fox routinely does this:
After brief "blurb" coverage in the hours after the incident, Fox refused to report on the Las Vegas police murders, almost certainly because every element of that story went against everything it promotes.
Fox actually filed a lawsuit to legally protect its right to lie to its audience. It won.
Fox's History Lesson
Which brings us back to Patti Ann Browne and her Iraq history lesson. Nothing she said was incorrect on its face; it's what she left out that's interesting. The agenda here is to give the Fox audience just enough information about the history of the Iraq occupation to believe the current spin that Obama is responsible for the violence breaking out in Iraq. As we, and most of Fox's viewership knows, a radical group called ISIS has seized control of the Iraqi city of Mosul, and Iraq's hardline Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants the US to carry out airstrikes against ISIS targets. But how is all of this Obama's fault? Let's follow along.
Browne starts by telling viewers that Congress authorized the Bush administration to invade Iraq, and President Bush signed the AUMF that green-lighted the US invasion.
She then notes the March 2003 "shock and awe" invasion, "after the deadline for Saddam Hussein's exile expired."
"Fast forward to 2007," she says. "President Bush announced the surge, the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Iraq."
"And then, the end. 2011. President Obama announcing the end of the Iraq War and saying troops will be withdrawn by the end of that year."
Did you see how quickly Browne took us down the rabbit hole? From the outset, it was Congress, not the Bush administration, who leveraged the US into going to war -- Bush just signed the paperwork. The second snippet placed the entire blame for the invasion on Saddam Hussein's refusal to voluntarily step down from power. Then she blithely skipped over four years of disaster to the vaunted "Bush surge," and then bopped over four more years until that Kenyan dictator dude yanked all the Americans out of Iraq -- playing right into the hands of those bad old Islamist radicals, who were just waiting for Obama to cut and run so they could start tearing it up again.
The Real Deal
The reality is far, far different from Browne's little Iraq fantasy.
Patti Ann did not bother to remind her viewers that Bush had declared his intention to invade Iraq as early as 1999, or that his future administration's "number one priority" was Hussein's ouster. She doesn't mention the Bush administration's huge, and hugely successful, propaganda campaign to convince Congress and the American people that Iraq posed a dire and imminent threat to US safety, which culminated in Colin Powell's toweringly duplicitous performance at the UN that convinced all but a few Congressional holdouts to give Bush the authority to get his ya-yas out in Iraq.
She also left a few things out from during the war itself. Case in point: Bush's arrogant, stagecrafted "Mission Accomplished" declaration from May 2003. The media, even those lefties at MSNBC, fell over themselves to praise Bush and his "manly attribute," but the mission, if it was the stabilization and democritization of Iraq, was not accomplished. (If the mission was to rescue Dick Cheney's Halliburton from bankruptcy, however, it was spectacularly successful.)
She didn't tell her viewers that the Bush/Cheney allegations that Hussein had "weapons of mass destruction" were proven false by a thorough, diligent investigation that showed both Hussein and the Bush administration had repeatedly lied to their respective citizenries about Iraq's weapons capabilities.
She failed to note that the CIA and Bush administration officials colluded with known liar and political operator Ahmad Chalabi, who turned out to be an Iranian spy. Chalabi's propaganda was integral in convincing America that the only way to "solve" the Iraq "situation" was to invade Iraq and overthrow Hussein.
She didn't mention the Abu Ghraib debacle, that resulted in 11 US soldiers serving prison sentences for war crimes.
She didn't tell her audience that in June 2004, the US transferred the formal sovereignty of Iraq to an Iraqi coalition. The US "government," led by corporate stooge L. Paul Bremer, slunk out of Baghdad in the middle of the night.
She didn't talk about the array of Bush administration officials, from Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who resigned in disgrace for their incompetence and systematic lying about every aspect of the invasion and occupation.
She forgot to mention that in November 2008, after Obama won the election but before he took office, the US signed a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government that mandated the end of 2011 as the date by which American troops must leave Iraq.
She even failed to tell her audience that as late as June 2011, Obama opposed the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, but was unable to convince the Iraqis to let the Americans stay past the December 2011 target date.
If this is all news to you -- for most Kossacks, it is well-worn history -- go watch Rachel Maddow's outstanding hour-long documentary, "Hubris," based on the book of the same name by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The video and the book are great places to start.
Truth Overcomes Propaganda, with Some Effort
So why is this important? You've spent more time reading this article than bouncy little Patti Ann spent showing you her revisionist history lesson.
Because this is how Fox News persuades its viewers, other mainstream media outlets from the New York Times to NBC News, American lawmakers, and American citizens to buy into the garbage that it has choked the body politic with for twenty years. The storyline here is one that Fox has been trumpeting in one form or another almost since the first Obama inauguration: that the Iraq invasion and occupation was going great guns until Democrats took over Congress, and it went entirely to hell when Obama became president.
This is the function of propaganda: to persuade people that the situation is fundamentally different than it actually is, and then have discussions and decisions based on that corrupted view of the situation.
In Fox reality, the entire failure of the Iraq invasion and occupation belongs to Obama and the Congressional Democrats. Bush, Cheney, and the Bush-era neocons had Iraq under control, they say. Iraq was one tiny step away from moving into a Jeffersonian democracy that would bring peace, prosperity, and an abject subservience to corporate America to that benighted nation, until Obama and the Democrats derailed everything by being cut-and-run cowards with secret desires to see the terrorists win. Nothing is further from the truth.
This is why we cannot ignore Fox News and the other heavy hitters in the right's propaganda machine. If we are not aware of their ongoing efforts to corrupt, bowdlerize, and abuse the political and social discourse in this country, then we cannot counter them with facts and righteous outrage. And they must be countered. The assumption that "if we ignore them, they will lose effectiveness and eventually go away" is entirely wrong. The American left clutched its collective pearls and ignored Rush Limbaugh for decades, while he transformed himself -- with the aid of several members of the corporate oligarchy -- from a yuk-yuk sports broadcaster into the de facto head of the Republican Party. Limbaugh, Fox, Michael Savage, and so many others are directly responsible for helping transform America from a comfortable middle-class economic powerhouse into a decaying oligarchy dominated by a frenzy over guns, abortion and absolutist corporate power whose majority of citizens are teetering (or have already toppled) into third-world beggardom.
And to a certain extent, we let it happen. It's on us to keep it from continuing, and to reverse the trend, if we can.
Knowledge is power. Ignorance is power, too, if you're the one manipulating the ignorant. Josef Stalin knew that very well. So did Joseph Goebbels. And so does Fox News's Roger Ailes. Now you know, if you didn't already. The next step you take is up to you.