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5 of the Worst Pundits Spreading Propaganda About the Middle East

Corporate media absolves the U.S. of blame for the bloody crisis in Iraq.

Bill Kristol, a top neoconservative.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons


Iraq is burning, and the U.S. media is doing an awful job of adequately covering the growing violence in the country.

It sounds like 2003, when the U.S. media piped government talking points through the airwaves to justify the invasion of Iraq. But it's 2014, and the media is still distorting and obfuscating, while Iraq devolves into chaos following a Sunni militant takeover of various cities.  Add in media coverage of bloodshed in Israel/Palestine to the mix, and you’ve got a veritable recipe for bad-tasting Middle East news.  

From CNN to Time to ABC , the mainstream media is absolving the U.S. of blame for Iraq, and allowing pro-Israel pundits to get away with falsehoods. Here are five of the worst pundits and hosts talking about Middle East crises.

1. Bill Kristol. The neoconservative scion and 2003 Iraq war booster—who is  editor of the  Weekly Standard, and a frequent TV pundit on  Fox and ABC—is back at it again. Mainstream television networks are all too happy to hear what Kristol has to say, despite his role in constructing the intellectual scaffolding that led to the U.S. war. 

One exchange that received attention occurred on June 29 on ABC’s "This Week," when Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel told Kristol he should “enlist in the Iraqi army” if he’s so keen on more American intervention in the country. On that same show, Kristol argued that it was President Obama who was to blame for the current crisis in Iraq, which began when the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over swathes of Iraqi territory after the army melted away. Kristol claimed that the Bush administration “left things peaceful” in Iraq--despite that administration destroying Iraqi society and planting the seeds of a sectarian civil war.

Earlier in June, Kristol clashed with journalist John Heilemann over Iraq on MSNBC. Kristol argued that the U.S. should forcefully intervene in Iraq again.

2. Paul Wolfowitz. Bill Kristol isn’t the only neoconservative Iraq war booster to get air time in recent weeks. Wolfowitz, as deputy secretary of defense under Donald Rumsfeld, was a key architect of the war. Wi th Iraq in crisis, news outlets have had Wolfowitz on repeatedly, despite his direct role in the mess. On June 15, NBC's  “Meet the Press” had him on, with Wolfowitz claiming a U.S. troop presence would have prevented the Iraq violence. On June 24, he was on Fox News, where both he and host Brian Kilmeade referred to ISIL as Al Qaeda. In fact, Al Qaeda has disavowed ISIL for being too extreme. Wolfowitz also suggested that the U.S. should intervene more in Syria, where ISIL has also seized territory.

3. Michael Crowley. On June 19, Time magazine’s cover story, “The End of Iraq,” was published. Crowley, a foreign affairs correspondent for the magazine, set out to explain the roots of the fighting in Iraq. But as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Peter Hart pointed out, Crowley’s piece obscured more than it explained.

Crowley wrote that “ancient hatreds are grinding the country to bits...What's happening in Iraq is the work of centuries, the latest chapter in the story of a religious schism between Sunni and Shi'ite that was already old news a thousand years ago.”

This is a favored trope in the U.S. media: that the U.S. has nothing to do with the conflict because it’s rooted in age-old blood feuds.  While the fighting in Iraq does have a sectarian character, it has little to do with a religious schism. Instead, it’s primarily about politics and power.  The U.S. invasion of Iraq upended an old order, when sectarian prejudices were not flowing through Iraq, though it is true dictator Saddam Hussein favored Sunnis over Shias.  

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