by Eric Margolis / Contributing Foreign Editor, Toronto Sun –
CANADA (February 8, 2004) — I’ve received a huge e-mail response from around the globe in reply to my last Sunday Sun column. In it, I contended that George Bush’s fabricated war against Iraq was a far worse crime than Watergate, and said the president and his men were either liars or unbelievably inept.
Most messages, about seven in every 10 by my estimate, came from Americans.
These messages do not represent a reliable cross-section of US public opinion, of course. They are simply what was known as a “convenience sample” when I worked in market research. But they reveal much about the changing mood in America.
Most were well-written messages from intelligent, educated people appalled by what their government had done. I was stunned by the volume of bitterly anti-Bush mail from his home state, Texas.
In response to last week’s shocking admission by Bush’s arms hunter, David Kay, that “We were all wrong,” a Chicago reader wrote: “No, David. You were wrong. Do not include me in your idiocy.”
United Nations arms inspector Hans Blix, the French and German governments and their intelligence services, scores of Iraq experts, US Arab allies, the unfairly slandered Scott Ritter, and this column all repeatedly warned there were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq — certainly none capable of threatening the US.
Readers reminded me that in October, 2002, CIA director George Tenet informed Congress that Iraq posed no imminent threat. He was largely ignored.
Typically, half of my e-mail from Americans is hate mail of the vilest and most loutish kind from Bush-adoring rustics, neo-conservatives, and enraged religious militants. Last week, the vast majority was effusively supportive.
In recent months, bitter resentment boiling up across the US, and surging public anger over Iraq, have become evident. More and more Americans believe they were lied to, misled and/or defrauded by the Bush administration over Iraq — which one witty reader calls “Mess-Opotamia.”
How ironic to see Martha Stewart being pilloried over a modest stock sale while President Bush, who misled Congress and America — taking them into a trumped-up war that to date has killed more than 500 Americans and 10,000 Iraqis — is running for re-election. A lot of mail came from Republicans and conservatives expressing disgust at the policies of their party, which, they say, has been hijacked by neo-conservative ideologues.
Many Vietnam veterans wrote to say they are deeply shamed by what their nation has done in Iraq. Democrats are in full jihad mode, enraged at Bush and his phony war and the waste of billions on a pointless conflict when America lacks enough flu vaccine. Numerous Democrats still believe the 2000 election was stolen, and are determined to see Bush & Co. ousted from office. Expect a high voter turnout in November, particularly among women.
Some Israelis wrote, expressing anguish that their nation’s rightist Likud party had, in their view, co-operated with rightists in the Bush administration to help promote the Iraq war.
Many readers expressed particular anger and contempt for the pro-war US media. “Rent-a-journalist” and “fools” were some of the gentler terms being hurled at the media. As one reader noted, “The media were not embedded with US forces in Iraq, they were in bed.”
Many Americans are furious the media acted as a shill for the Bush administration’s war policy, whipped up hysteria, and eagerly trumpeted White House propaganda. In their minds, the media, and particularly the most stridently pro-war newspapers and cable news channels, have been badly discredited by the Iraq disaster.
During the Iraq war, the Internet became a sort of “Radio Free America” that gave the lie to all the White House’s war propaganda promoted by the mainstream media.
The media deserve censure. Since 9/11, some North American media have increasingly resembled the old, boot-licking Soviet press in the days of Chairman Leonid Brezhnev, rather than an inquiring free press.
Most readers viewed the intelligence investigation announced by Bush as a cynical whitewash and a delaying tactic. British readers say the same about Prime Minister Tony Blair’s investigation and the recent Hutton inquiry that found the respected BBC guilty, and Blair innocent – a farce straight out of Alice in Wonderland.
Readers say they are mad as hell, but don’t know what to do. They express a loss of trust in their government I’ve not heard since the days of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. Many think the Howard Dean campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination was sabotaged by the pro-Bush corporate media — a view I partly share.
Even more fear November’s election will again be “stolen,” or a “terrorism crisis” will occur, staged to win votes.
Finally, Sun Media was roundly blasted for being so stridently wrong about Iraq. But it was also strongly lauded by readers for printing and putting online my non-conformist views, however much it disagreed with them.
Eric can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.