Chronicle of a Gulf War Foretold

Did the Media Have a Choice?

For the hawks, what mattered was not the will of Turkey's fledgling democracy, but war plans that had been set in stone. The U.S. had planned to use Turkish ports and air bases to send troops into northern Iraq, and the Turks' vote meant opening a northern front would take longer, cost more, risk more lives. Enter the flip-flopping. Air force general Richard Myers told reporters on Friday,"We will have U.S. forces in northern Iraq, one way or the other." Several news outlets reported that the backup plan was to reroute military cargo ships through the Suez Canal and to stage the army's 4th Infantry Division through Kuwait. But the U.S. kept its options open, and by March 3, Filkins reported that the Turkish foreign minister had agreed to seek a new vote.

The Sunday New York Times confined its war stories to the Magazine, which featured a critique of post-war Iraq and a dispatch from media boot camp, along with a not-so-subliminal cover shot of Saddam burning. By contrast, The Washington Post used its front page to announce the kickoff of war. One story reported that General Franks has told his top commanders that everything's in place; another story cataloged the arsenal of the U.S. military. As the commander of the army's 3rd Infantry Division told the Post, "We're ready. We're just waiting on the word." On March 2, Senator Lindsey Graham told Meet the Press the war would come "very soon." On March 3, The New York Times reported that aides say Bush has adopted a "leapfrog strategy," i.e., he is now disregarding all obstacles in his path. Confirmed from the inside: case closed.

Here's one story that probably won't surface in the U.S. press: On March 2, the London Observer reported that the U.S. National Security Agency has been tapping the phone calls and e-mails of UN Security Council members who are undecided about the war resolution. That kind of stuff usually comes out after the war's over.

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