From Watergate to Afghanistan | By Sadia Susic


From Watergate to Afghanistan

THE overarching success of western democracies is commonly attributed to the triumph of freedom of the press.

The United States, in particular, has in its constitution enshrined the right to freedom of speech, which has protected journalists from government censorship throughout American history.

A good example of this can be drawn from the 1972 Watergate scandal which was unearthed by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, both of whom worked as young journalists for the Washington Post.

The exposé revealed the US President’s involvement in breaking into the Democratic National Committee and his illegal efforts to cover-up the whole thing.

The scandal stirred uproar in the country and eventually forced Richard Nixon to resign. This led many people to hold the view that press freedom is inevitable in a democracy and that dysfunctional media is solely a product of authoritarian states.

However, the misuse of media is not only restricted to totalitarian regimes; in fact, the media can serve as a propaganda tool even in societies that are regarded as epitomes of democracy.

For example, after 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration was mulling an invasion of Iraq, which stood unopposed by all the major news outlets including the reputable New York Times.

Not only was the media unopposed to the idea of invading Iraq, but it also unquestionably endorsed all sorts of propaganda against Iraq including the ones that accused Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction and the false claim that he was in close contact with Al-Qaeda operatives.

The fabricated reports propagated by the western media were enough to create fear and hysteria among the American people, which was then used to justify the invasion of Iraq, a war that left the whole country devastated.

Similarly, President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops by August 31 was met with skepticism and condemnation across the corporate media.

Fox news blasted Biden and questioned his leadership capabilities despite the fact that it was his predecessor, Donald Trump, who had negotiated the peace deal with the Taliban in the first place.

One would hope that the pro democrat outlets such as CNN and MSNBC would endorse Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan, however they seemed to have expressed an equal amount of skepticism.

Even though the corporate US Media is heavily polarized and politicized, its hard to draw any significant distinction when it comes to issues dealing with foreign policy and continuing US wars.

This assertion can be judged from the fact that some of the most prominent national security analysts working for Fox news, CNN and MSNBC happen to be former Pentagon officials who are allowed to preach the pro war narrative and “why we should stay in Afghanistan” talking points relentlessly and unquestionably.

In fact its worth-mentioning that The Intercept, which is an independent online publication dedicated to investigative journalism, exposed some of these prominent national security analysts and their deep ties to the military industrial complex, which has enormously profited from US wars in Middle East and Afghanistan.

The US media has largely abandoned its role of fact-checking journalism, and has instead allowed itself to be weaponized by political, economic and cultural elites.

—The writer is studying International Relations at International Islamic University IIU.

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