American Media and the War in Iraq – A Subtle Propaganda

Over the course of the Iraq War, while the military remained engulfed in battle, the rest of the world – America included – continued to be absorbed in the media. They turned to media outlets such as television and newspapers to give them information about the War in Iraq that had started in 2003. American media is not state owned, thus one can assume that they don’t exhibit the use of subtle propaganda or act as a vehicle for such cases. Propaganda by definition is: “ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.. The main purpose of this paper is to show how subtle propaganda affected American media in relation to the War in Iraq and served to change the opinions of the population.

In order to justify the war, the president gave several explanations. To stress that Iraq threatened the peace and prosperity of the US, he claimed that Saddam Hussein harbored Weapons of Mass Destruction and that America had to act accordingly. Another claim from him came in the form of a declaration to a free Iraq, liberating it from the “evil dictator”. Despite these claims, numerous insinuations, directed towards Bush and his administration suggested that the primary objective in the invasion of Iraq had to do with securing the nation’s abundance of petroleum reserves. Terry Anderson states in his book: “One reality in Iraq that everyone can agree on was that the nation had enormous proven oil reserves. Before the war, the United States bought nearly one quarter of its imported oil from the Persian Gulf, including about $10 billion annually from Saddam. Another quote from the book suggests that the Iraqis seemed fully aware of America’s true motives: “Only 5 percent of Iraqis surveyed thought that the United States invaded “to assist the Iraqi people,” only 1 percent believed it was to establish democracy, while about half thought it was “to rob Iraq’s oil.” Negligent of the clear facts, the Bush Administration refused to acknowledge that oil played as a factor in the Iraqi military invasion. Instead of receiving clear facts, the media was misdirected into giving information that may or may not have been accurate.

As it would turn out, the media is one of the most effective transmitters for propaganda, considering that it holds so much influence over people and the Bush Administration seemed willing to do anything to prove a point to the general public. The main contributor of Bush’s success involved using the news network to spread his information. Using speeches, interviews and press conferences utilizing misinformation, spread throughout the media during this time. The use of this propaganda, rooted in the tragedy of September 11th, 2001 was used as an adhesive to further advance on Iraq and thus, making it easier to gain support from the general populace. Paul Pillar writes in his article: “The manufactured issue of an “alliance ” between Saddam Hussein’s regime and al-Qaeda demonstrated the manipulative potential involved. Unlike the sales campaign’s companion issue of weapons of mass destruction, there was no logical or historical basis for believing that such an alliance existed. On the other side of the spectrum, Muslim media is controlled by the Islamic convention. While others may see Islam as just a religion, to Muslims it represents their way of life and takes precedence in all of their daily exploits, with the media included. When people think of Muslim media, the generally look to Al Jazeera, an Arab news channel. According to Paul Eedle: “The intent and ambition has been absolutely clear from day one. The vision is in depth, unbiased, human-centered reporting on the whole of America.” Al Jazeera claimed to be an independent television station located in the Middle East and they claim to maintain neutrality from any political party. In respect to their neutrality, they are more able to offer a higher level of freedom of speech. Based on the Islamic influence, their holy book, the Quran states clearly in Surat Al-Baqarah verse 42: “And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know [it]. ”

Al Jazeera attempted to present news from all sides that took part in the war. While western media struggled with propaganda from the Bush Administration, Al Jazeera provided real news; grounded in truth and reality with very detailed images of the war in Iraq, examples of which included injured children, and a war torn landscape. Because of its neutral standing, many have come to believe that Al Jazeera itself had been a target in the war. Focusing on both sides during the war, many observers can note the obvious differences between western and Muslim media outlets. The west acted as a tool for the spread of propaganda under the Bush Administration; trying their hardest to conceal the truth, while Muslim media in the East attempted to keep a fair and balanced role in uncovering the truth and presenting it as it is unaltered. Despite the differences however, it can be assumed that both sides felt a large amount of pressure, from those that hold power. The duration of the war has exposed how manipulative media can be, especially if it is controlled or influenced by government powers; a quote from the book Weapons Of Mass Persuasion Paul Rutherford contends: ” the US media had typically acted as a propaganda arm of the prevailing economic and political elites. That was chiefly because of the corporate ownership of the media. These operated as a series of “filters” through which the news was purified to ensure it suited the official agenda. As the war drew to a close people have question what the real role of the media should consist of. To leave behind bias and propaganda in western media, it should focus on harboring some skepticism towards the words and motives of the government and aim to provide unbiased facts and information to the public responsibly.


Terry H. Anderson, Bush’s Wars (Oxford, U.K: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Merriam-Webster. Accessed October 28, 2013.

Center for the National Interest. “The Iraq War and the Power of Propaganda.” The National Interest. Accessed October 29, 2013.

Baker, Liana B. “Al Jazeera America Needs To Define Mission To Find Viewers.” The Huffington Post. al-jazeera-america-mission_n_3772311.html.

The Quran

Paul Rutherford, Weapons of Mass Persuasion: Marketing the War against Iraq (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), [Page #185].

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