A colonial state of mind

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  • Published 20040907
  • ISBN: 9780733314537
  • Extent: 268 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

THE PUSH FOR war in Iraq went in to overdrive in September 2002, six months before the first American troops landed in ancient Mesopotamia. It began with a Bush Administration decision to release intelligence material to one of The New York Times‘s star reporters, Judith Miller. The story appeared on the front page of the Sunday September 8 edition and it told how the United States had intercepted Iraqi attempts to import aluminium tubes and that inspections had revealed their only use could be in centrifuges to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Miller’s story – syndicated around the world, including to the Fairfax press in Australia – was backed up with confirmation from unnamed “Iraqi defectors”. The Sydney Morning Herald, for instance, ran it in world news under the headline “Saddam on global quest for atomic bomb: US”. It dramatically upped the ante on the search for evidence of Saddam’s holdings of weapons of mass destruction and his plans to produce and use them. And it did so in the middle of mass media coverage of the first anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

Miller’s story or, more accurately, the reliability of her sources, has since been exposed by Michael Massing in the New York Review of Books (February 26, 2004) and by the ombudsman of the NYT itself (May 26, 2004). And, of course, its truth was exposed six months after Miller’s article (and still prewar) by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed El Baradei, reporting to the United Nations Security Council on March 7, 2003:

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About the author

Peter Manning

Peter Manning is adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney, and a former head of news and current affairs at both...

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