Ever since ISIS made itself known as a military threat in Iraq and Syria, media outlets across the country have been banging the war drum. Without significant questioning or debate, we have accepted the dominant narrative of ISIS fed to us straight from the Pentagon and the White House. They are barbarians, savages, evil-doers and so on. Most bizarrely, after accepting this caricaturization, we have also accepted that they are somehow capable of some massive 9/11-esque assault on the United States.
This is nothing new. From the prevailing communist threat that was supposed to murder to death the American way of life to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that were supposed to doubly murder to death the American way of life, the United States government is never shy of pulling out a simplistic, fear-mongering narrative to rally the media, and therefore its citizens, to war.
What strikes me as exponentially frustrating is that this latest eminent threat comes less than three years after the official ending of the Iraq War, a war in which many media professionals admitted to simply not doing their job. Mainstream media outlets accepted the Bush administration’s narrative that Saddam Hussein had some connection to the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks and was harboring weapons of mass destruction with little Jimmy and Sally’s respective names on them. Today, there seems to be just as little questioning of the Obama administration’s mission in Iraq and Syria even as the justification for war has been largely the same as President Bush’s rationale for invading Iraq.
In fact, it took some backtracking on the part of the media when anonymous intelligence sources warned of an even scarier terrorist cell than the aforementioned savages, barbarians and so on, called “The Khorosan Group.” When these officials, always granted the comfort of anonymity to spout their latest dire warning, alerted the Associated Press — they ran with the story. Heck, it even ran under their “The Big Story” header.
From AP’s Ken Dilanian and Eileen Sullivan:
“While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say. At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front. But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.”
A mix of hardened jihadis, you say? Sounds more terrifying than every Scooby Doo concoction combined.
But how do we know these folks are “hardened” or even “jihadis?” Are we really taking a “U.S. officials’” anonymous word for it after the credibility hit they’ve taken over the past decade and a half?
Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain covered the intelligence debacle over at The Intercept, alleging that said anonymous government officials created the Khorosan Group themselves in order to justify preemptive action in Syria to stop an imminent attack. This was needed for legal justification, since it has already been established that ISIS is not planning an attack on the United States homeland.
Mainstream media jumped on the story. The Washington Post, NBC Nightly News and CNN are just some of the outlets who pushed the narrative of the latest terrifying threat coming out of the Middle East, hungry for American blood. With the narrative accepted, the United States dropped bombs in Syria in late September.
So what happened to this Godless group of jihadists? They disappeared.
Only after the deed was done did some, like Foreign Policy and The New York Times, begin to question whether this group was actually a threat. Suddenly those aforementioned U.S. officials began to slowly tiptoe away from the idea that this group ever posed an imminent threat. Soon, the entire narrative seemed to fall apart with Syrian activists and a former CIA counterrorism official noting separately that they had never heard of the Khorosan Group. In fact, The Intercept found that the alleged organization does not even make an appearance in a Nexis search until the September 13th AP article that started it all.
In the end, it’s just another military campaign with the media playing catch up to track the United States’ seemingly endless role in a region where Uncle Sam seems to create more problems than solve. Now we are back to the ISIS narrative with the United States playing a supposedly essential role in creating peace and democracy through controversial and downright shady weaponry that many believe creates more terrorists than it eliminates with terrifying civilian casualties.
Perhaps media outlets and Americans are more accepting this time around, despite being blatantly lied to, because the Obama administration has been adamant about not putting boots on the ground — an almost universally accepted terrible idea. Nevertheless, Johnny media goes marching on again for war.