MEDIA WATCH: Media supportive of Bush vs. Saddam, the sequel

People everywhere could probably be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu when they heard that President Bush had just approved a mission to bomb the Iraqis. News that George W. Bush had ordered strikes against radar facilities near Baghdad came just a few weeks ago, but it could have been 1991 again. Although President Bush declared the strikes a 'routine' measure of self-defense, the media scrutinized the move.

People everywhere could probably be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu when they heard that President Bush had just approved a mission to bomb the Iraqis. News that George W. Bush had ordered strikes against radar facilities near Baghdad came just a few weeks ago, but it could have been 1991 again. Although President Bush declared the strikes a 'routine' measure of self-defense, the media scrutinized the move.

People everywhere could probably be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu when they heard that President Bush had just approved a mission to bomb the Iraqis. News that George W. Bush had ordered strikes against radar facilities near Baghdad came just a few weeks ago, but it could have been 1991 again. Although President Bush declared the strikes a 'routine' measure of self-defense, the media scrutinized the move.

An analysis of media coverage indicates that overall the American media support the air strikes and consider them justified. Among these was the Boston Herald (February 17), which published an editorial describing the strikes as 'long overdue.' Furthermore, a number of reports approved of the way President Bush handled the challenge.

Although the majority of media outlets saw the strikes as justified, only about half cited the increased Iraqi attacks as the reason action was warranted. The Indianapolis Star (February 17) reported, 'It doesn't make headlines, but Iraqi gunners have fired at patrolling aircrafts more than 700 times since December 1998. Our strikes to suppress those attacks are fully justified.'

Most of the coverage interpreted the strikes as a signal that Bush would be tough on President Saddam Hussein. Reports portrayed the president as standing firm against Iraqi attacks. The Chicago Tribune (February 17) spelled it out: 'The message from President Bush ... seems plain enough. There's a new sheriff in town and Hussein better not push him.'

But there were also expressions of caution. While many reports identified the recent air strikes as an appropriate short-term solution, others stated that a new, long-term policy versus Iraq is needed.

The editorial board of The New York Times (February 17) argued, 'Air strikes are no substitute for a coherent new policy the administration must soon come up with to rescue the crumbling United Nations sanctions and revitalize efforts to halt Iraq's development of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.'

The need for a new policy was seen as a result of, among other things, the disintegration of the coalition of forces assembled by the elder Bush during the Gulf War. Several publications pointed out that a number of key nations, including United Nations Security Council members France, China and Russia, were vocal in their criticism of the recent air strikes.

Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel (February 20) commented that the elder Bush knew the importance of building a coalition and the support of the media, 'yet, a decade later, the propaganda war is being lost and last week's raids didn't help.'

While President Bush appears to have the media on his side in the aftermath of the recent bombings, the media also served notice that a more long-term solution is needed to address the Iraqi problem. To quote the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (February 17), 'Bombs and rockets can only do so much.'

Judging from the media coverage, it seems President Bush can't take for granted the support of newsrooms for a more prolonged series of aircraft attacks; a new strategy is needed.

Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.



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