JOHN MENADUE. Chilcot – The Iraq war and Murdoch’s war on critics. (Repost)

On 1 July 2014, I posted a story about the role of News Corp and Rupert Murdoch in the Iraq disaster. The Chilcot Report confirms even more how News Corp publications misled readers and viciously attacked their opponents.  News Corp demonstrated that it is indeed a rogue organisation.  See repost below:

In my blog of 23 June, 2014, I quoted from Rod Tiffen’s book, ‘Rupert Murdoch, an Assessment’ that News Corp is a ‘rogue corporation’ that the problem is much more than some rogue journalists and managers. The problems are endemic in this rogue company. In that blog I also described how News Corp works, and in particular how it attacks its critics or indeed almost anyone who disagrees with it.

Apart from the dreadful telephone hacking saga, there is probably no more obvious example of how News Corp works than the way it supported George Bush’s invasion of Iraq, assisted by Australia. Before the invasion, during it and in the years since, News Corp has never confessed to error, its unprofessionalism and its abuse of media power. Such media organisations as the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Economist have all apologised for their mistaken assessments and their encouragement of the invasion of Iraq, and its terrible consequences, particularly for the Iraqi people, the region and even the lives of the invaders. The news gets worse every day and for which News Corp and others bear a very heavy responsibility. But no remorse is shown within the rogue company.

News Corp  hopes that we will forget and believe that it still has credibility when it seeks to discredit the overwhelming scientific evidence on global warming.

Just consider what News Corp told us about the Iraq war – and it is best to start at the top with Rupert Murdoch. He said in 2003 ‘We can’t back down now where you hand over the whole of the Middle East to Saddam. … I think Bush is acting very morally, very correctly. … The greatest thing to come of this to the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $US20 a barrel for oil.’ (Bulletin, 12 February 2003) What a give-away line this is about Murdoch’s real motives; plundering Iraq for its oil.

He added a few weeks later ‘We worry about what people think about us too much in this country, [the US]. We have an inferiority complex it seems. I think what’s important is that the world respects us … The US troops would soon be welcomed as liberators.’ (Associated Press, 3 April 2003)

When things fell into chaos, Murdoch said ‘Australia had no choice but to see the job through. The situation in Iraq has been misrepresented. … There’s tremendous progress in Iraq. All the kids are back at school, 10% more than when Saddam Hussein was there. There’s 100% more fresh water. … Most of Iraq is doing extremely well.’ (ABC radio Sydney, 7 April 2004)

Murdoch’s New York Post described France and Germany as the ‘axis of weasels:’ for opposing the invasion of Iraq. It added that the State Department was part of the ‘surrender lobby’.

The London Sun mocked ‘the UN weasels for going soft on Iraq’. It added that the anti-war critics were ‘traitors or ‘naïve pawns’. On at least four occasions, the London Sun said that the Iraqis had or were making a nuclear bomb. ‘He’s got them … we know he’s got them’. In the week leading up to the war the London Sun told its readers that a huge chemical weapons factory had been discovered.

In an editorial The Australian mocked the critics of the war whom it described as ‘the coalition of the whining’. It added “Never underestimate the power of ideology and myth-in this case anti-Americanism-to trump reality” Heaping scorn on its critics, such as the Labor Party, the foreign editor of The Australian, Greg Sheridan said that ‘George W Bush was really a modern Winston Churchill’ (The Australian, 15 August 2002) He added later that ‘The Blair dossier should transform the debate over the Iraqi threat. Either Tony Blair is a monstrous liar or Saddam Hussein is. Take your pick.’ In The Australian on the 26April 2003, Sheridan really let himself go. ‘The eagle is soaring. The bald eagle of American power is aloft, high above the humble earth and everything it sees is splendid. For as it soars and sweeps it sees victory, power, and opportunity.’ More than three months after the invasion Sheridan still thought ‘WMD doubts are ludicrous.’ He said that hawkish US official John Bolton “had provided him, almost as an afterthought, with the sensational evidence that would prove the existence of Saddam’s WMD’

Bill O’Reilly on Fox News thought the invasion was a breeze. After Iraq he said ‘We’ll take care of North Korea … and then the Saudis.’

On September 9, 2002, Andrew Bolt wrote ‘Let me spell it out slowly for [Labor politicians}, (Crean and Rudd). Saddam. Won’t. Let. In. Inspectors.’ Two weeks later when inspectors were admitted, Bolt didn’t think it worthwhile apologising. He thought the opponents of the war were ‘in effect pro-terrorist’. Following the 2005 Iraqi election Bolt said “At last democracy has come to Iraq. And yet our sneering “elite” insist it would have been better to leave the murderous Saddam alone. This is what we who backed the liberation of Iraq dreamed of”. Some liberation!

Throughout this appalling coverage in the Murdoch media its critics were variously described as ‘bizarre’, ‘absurd’, or ‘preposterous’.

Rod Tiffen put the News Corps performance on Iraq very succinctly in his book. ‘The result was that the US and its allies mounted a pre-emptive war against Iraq and their stated reasons for doing so proved to be a fiction. The gravity of this has rarely been apparent in the Murdoch press. … Murdoch’s close alliance with the statesmen of the day had interfered with his paper’s commitment to accurate disclosure. They were part of the noise rather than part of the signal. They had served their proprietor better than their readers.’ (Tiffen page 148).

News Corp is still serving its proprietor better than its readers. It fell for the spin and then magnified the flimsy information on WMD.

In his Lowy Institute Lecture  in November last year and a few days after the Brooks/Coulson trial began, Rupert Murdoch said “You can’t have free democracy if you can’t have a free media that can provide vital and independent information to the people and that we believe in providing the public access to quality content”.

Self-delusion can be quite a problem.


John Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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7 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. Chilcot – The Iraq war and Murdoch’s war on critics. (Repost)

  1. Avatar Ronald Mackinnon says:

    Actually John, News Corp did not make an error. The invasion of Iraq, its subsequent facilitated destruction, the facilitated destruction of Syria and the proposed destruction of Iran are all well planned and serve the elephant in the room and its media which none dare identify.

  2. Might one humbly admit that when one rather naive woman attempted back in 2002 to take on the likes of Murdoch and his empire – one found/finds that it is not just Murdoch you are tackling but dozens within all levels of government, with what, it appeared/appears to this naive woman, an awful lot to lose…
    As one chap told me that as fast as one exposed a weakness that they hadn’t anticipated (Murdoch and his empire) they rushed to cover it up, and then lo and behold one found another one, and another one…it continues to this day to be a cat and mouse game – and it must be puzzling to all parties that one hasn’t given up…Murdoch should never underestimate the determination of one person with little to loose; and when one has no money to be sued for – makes one’s determination that much easier;

  3. Avatar EGAIS says:

    published on John Menadue ‘s blog ‘Pearls and Irritations’ on 1 April 2016. It is republished with permission.

  4. Avatar Michael Faulkner says:

    A very timely and informing article!

    Phillip Knightly in his seminal book, ‘ The First Casualty’, on the relationship between war and the press over the 120 years until the end of the Vietnam-American war, was to conclude that armed conflict between nation-states generated considerable profits for those media organisations that obsessively reported them. Put simply, wars sold newspapers.

    There is considerable evidence now that News Corp. in recent history, now provides an outstanding illustration of Knightley’s thesis. Wars have provided a great opportunity to help expand the company. No wonder Murdoch, whose only ethical value seems to be the profit motive, via his various media holdings, did more than report events. Instead, through his media various holdings, News Corp became a very active ‘player’ influencing governments in the English-speaking world, as it unwaveringly sought to talk up the invasion of Iraq some dozen years ago.

  5. Avatar Edward Fido says:

    Despite critical assessments, such as that by Tiffen, Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation seem unstoppable. Interesting, in the link by John Browning, Lord Morgan attributes his good knowledge of Iraq to Patrick Cockburn of The Independent. I am an avid reader of Cockburn’s stable mate there, Robert Fisk. Long ago Bob left Rupert’s employ because he felt there was a pretty direct attempt to muzzle him. Rupert and his (Media) Empire and its tentacles are a big worry.

  6. Nice comments in Iraq in the House of Lords from Kenneth Morgan, my old university tutor:

  7. Avatar John Thompson says:

    … and Greg Sheridan is still there. His occasional appearance on the ABC surprises me that our national broadcaster continues to consider his opinions of any value.

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