A national media critic said Thursday that talk of the Bush administration facing war-crime charges is being avoided because the national media "licks the boots of those in power in Washington."
Norman Solomon, author of "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," spoke at Drury University on Thursday as part of the university's yearlong convocation titled "Liberty & Security in a Post-911 World."
Solomon, a media critic for the watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, gave a soft-spoken but blistering 50-minute analysis of the national media's role in the runup to the Iraq war four years ago and of its reporting since.
"There was deception and activities (by President Bush and Vice President Cheney) led up to the war. The media ... is afraid of looking at the elephant in the living room. Are they guilty of war crimes?" he asked an audience of about 100 students, faculty and the public.
"The news media should be part of the discourse and encourage us to think, not shut it down."
Solomon contends the news in the months leading up to the war was spun "by those who wanted to go to war."
And the media, he said, "functioned as stenographers" by putting out information the government wanted to public to know.
Solomon said in the years since the war started, disclosure of unclassified documents showed that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. He said everyone from the president to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell misled the public about the credibility of the information and evidence they had to prove their reasons for going to war with Iraq.
"The news media was part of perpetuating the illusion of war," he said.
Solomon is concerned that the national media's attention continues to be distracted from the war by other, less important events.
"It helps explain why there was so much about Anna Nicole Smith's body on cable news today and so little about the eighth helicopter in the last month falling from the sky in Iraq," he said.
"News matters when it can make a difference."
Brenda Nolard, a freshman from Mexico, said she learns more about Iraq from reading international news Web sites.
"I grew up in Mexico. (Solomon's) very accurate," said Nolard, who has a cousin who served several tours in Iraq. "I get more information in Mexico about Iraq than I do here. In my high school, they questioned things more."
Jessica Langston, another freshman from Arkansas, bought Solomon's book in the foyer of Clara Thompson Hall where Solomon gave his talk.
"I liked it a lot. It was very informative," she said, adding that she's wary when it comes to reading and watching the news.
"I don't know who to trust anymore. I watch a little of everything."
Before his speech, Solomon said that Bush's credibility was shot with the deceptions that led up to the Iraq war and that now Bush is having trouble convincing the public and the rest of the world that Iran is aiding terrorists in Iraq.
"The Texas boy has been caught crying wolf. What goes around, comes around," he said.
When Solomon asked the audience who knew of someone in Iraq, more than half raised their hand.
One of those was Rebecca Denton, an education professor at Drury whose brother is serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq.
"He thinks like I do," Denton said of Solomon. "It was something good for me to hear. We are used to being spun."
Solomon said that the press "vilifies anyone who wants to bring the troops home."
But in order to change things, Solomon said: "It's up to us as to what we do about it."
© 2007 Springfield News-Leader.