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Could Twitter Have Stopped the Media's Rush To War In Iraq Ten Years Ago?

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the 140-characters-of-dissent dept.

The Media 456

Hugh Pickens writes "On the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Eric Boehlert writes that if Twitter had been around during the winter of 2002-2003, it could have provided a forum for critics to badger Beltway media insiders who abdicated their role as journalists and fell in line behind the Bush White House's march to war. 'Twitter could have helped puncture the Beltway media bubble by providing news consumers with direct access to confront journalists during the run-up to the war,' writes Boehlert. 'And the pass-around nature of Twitter could have rescued forgotten or buried news stories and commentaries that ran against the let's-go-to-war narrative that engulfed so much of the mainstream press.' For example, imagine how Twitter could have been used in real time on February 5, 2003, when Secretary of State Colin Powell made his infamous attack-Iraq presentation to the United Nations. At the time, Beltway pundits positively swooned over Powell's air-tight case for war. 'But Twitter could have swarmed journalists with instant analysis about the obvious shortcoming. That kind of accurate, instant analysis of Powell's presentation was posted on blogs but ignored by a mainstream media enthralled by the White House's march to war.' Ten years ago, Twitter could have also performed the task of making sure news stories that raised doubts about the war didn't fall through the cracks, as invariably happened back then. With swarms of users touting the reports, it would have been much more difficult for reporters and pundits to dismiss important events and findings. 'Ignoring Twitter, and specifically ignoring what people are saying about your work on Twitter, isn't really an option the way turning a blind eye to anti-war bloggers may have been ten years ago,' concludes Boehlert. 'In other words, Twitter could have been the megaphone — the media equalizer — that war critics lacked ten years ago."

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No (5, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 2 years ago | (#43227121)


Re:No (4, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | about 2 years ago | (#43227235)

The ones that got us into war, Bush, Cheney, the army, and the media, saw nothing but profits.
If only we could charge them now for the deaths, the economic collapse, and the injured war vets.
Economic rebound son!

Re:No (4, Interesting)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 2 years ago | (#43227465)

To be honest, some of the blame has to rest on Saddam Hussein – he was playing a double game. He wanted his people and neighbors that he did have weapons of mass destruction while doing the minimum to comply with the UN resolutions. I still remember the UN inspector Hans Blix talking about the cat and mouse game he was playing with Saddam – and that it would only take another 7 years to confirm that Iraq did not have any WMD.

As to the Twitter question – I find new media does a good job on the high level headlines stuff but less well with in-depth stuff. Considering that Hussein had deliberately engaged in disinformation for years, how is Twitter going to get around that? Maybe if a high level government official defected – but heck – even that could be part of a misinformation campaign.

Re:No (1, Insightful)

BeansBaxter (918704) | about 2 years ago | (#43227609)

It is so interesting to hear others recollection of that time. Between seeing the satellite photos and hearing all the evidence in question I had no reason to think Iraq was complying with UN requirements. Hans Blix didn't want war. Saddam was very clearly interfering with their work. Nothing was going to change Saddam. He was only a murderous tyrant who was oppressing his people. I don't hear about Iraq much anymore. They aren't saber rattling or invading their neighbors. I don't see them running rough shod over UN resolutions. I know there were pockets of resistance and they continued to attack US troops as long as we were there. The good stories out weigh the bad however. I'm sorry France lost its cheap source of illegal oil. I know that must sting. It is too bad that the US had to take action to support a UN resolution. It is a shame we brought stability to a country in turmoil. Saddam is gone. I don't miss him.

Re:No (1, Flamebait)

cod3r_ (2031620) | about 2 years ago | (#43227493)

Don't forget obama who is keeping us there..

Re:No (4, Funny)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 2 years ago | (#43227241)

Correct, the answer is No.

Tomorrow's story headline: Could Slashdot have stopped the Iraq War?

Parent is correct. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227269)

"Consumers" don't give a shit about facts. Just ideology - us vs them - freedom vs tyranny - and other jingoistic nonsense that the politicians use to manipulate stupid people.

How to know if you're stupid?

If you blame conservatives or liberals or others for "our problems".

You are a stupid person. And I blame you.

Ooo the irony....

Re:No (4, Insightful)

megamerican (1073936) | about 2 years ago | (#43227291)

There were plenty of people pointing out the laughable lies in Powell's speech at the time, who were just dis missed as "conspiracy theorists." There were millions of people around the world protesting. Anyone in the corporate media who was against this war were fired or silenced.

Twitter would just be flooded with lies and disinformation that discerning truth would be nigh impossible.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227507)

Truth here. I remember it well. After 9/11, the left's brains were starting to reboot by 2003, but we were still seeing a lot of malfunctioning brains on the right side who didn't understand that Osama was not in Iraq, and Iraq was not harboring or aiding terrorists. Anyone speaking against Bush was still being denounced as an unamerican freedom hating evil-doer that eats 'French' fries.

Re:No (1)

BeansBaxter (918704) | about 2 years ago | (#43227633)

Really? Don't remember any of that. Citations?

Re:No (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227389)

Social media HAS changed public activism.

It has shown exactly where people's priorities lie. We are more informed and more apathetic than ever before.

Re:No (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#43227487)

...and more importantly we can activism from the comfort of our own homes :)

Re:No (3, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | about 2 years ago | (#43227445)

That's the correct answer to any headline that ends in a question mark.

My impression at the time was that Bush and company was hellbent on railroading the country into war, and they knew how to get what they wanted, mostly by running roughshod over the concept of checks and balances. They didn't even really try very hard to convince people, it was just "he might have chemical weapons!" and "ooh, look at this render of a mobile chemical lab that he could have maybe built". It's a shame Breaking Bad had not aired yet at the time, people would have had a lot of fun with the RV comparisons. There was also the fact that we were still neck deep in Afghanistan at the time. The war with Afghanistan at least made sense, the country had been taken over by guys who were very happily sheltering the guys who had just perpetrated the biggest acts of terrorism in modern US history. They were also being huge jerks to their own people (destroying the countries heritage, oppressing women and minorities (ok, that is part of the heretic they kept), and running the place like their own private piggybank) and nobody else in the world liked them. We even had UN buy in and some (mostly token, with a couple of exceptions) NATO support. Saddam had been keeping a reasonably low profile for a long time too, it seemed really unprovoked for Bush to suddenly single him out and call for his head.

No. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227129)

I knew all this stuff at the time. From public radio and the web. The pro-war people I talked to didn't give a damn. Remember, the nation had 9/11 fever. It was unamerican not to give the president full support no matter how stupid his actions seemed. Twitter would have been full of that too.

Re:No. (5, Insightful)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#43227371)

For the love-o-jebus, The nations staged the largest protest in American History... Millions across the nation in every major city and many small towns publically assembled to scream and shout, "We see you, We know what you're doing, and this war is the thinnest of shams." I was in San Francisco, there was a veritable sea of pissed off humanity as far as the eye could see. The life support systems for rectums in D.C. weren't interested, and the wholly owed and operate media was too busy fellating Dick (how appropriate) Cheney and Rummy.

Twitter could have tweeted its brains out, I can't imagine it would have made a popcorn fart in a hurricane of difference.

Re:No. (1)

F9rDT3ZE (2860845) | about 2 years ago | (#43227647)

but, navel-gazing about the super-powers of Twitter might help increase our practical ineffectiveness by a few percentage points!!! let them eat Twitter.

Re:No. (1)

Looker_Device (2857489) | about 2 years ago | (#43227375)

Forget questioning the war, this was back when a newscaster *not wearing a flag pin* on his lapel could get fired for it.

Re:No. (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#43227421)

How many pieces of flair did you wear?

Re:No. (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#43227571)

the purpose of flair was to help people realize they were still on the ground when they were as high as a kite

Re:No. (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#43227543)

it's still the case... read the talk pages on any wikipedia article about 9/11... anything that even sniffs of non-conformance with the government and mass media rhetoric is stomped on, even talk of merely investigating further without any specific accusations

the world is full of sheep

Wow, you know what (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227137)

Twitter, what can't it do? Surely somewhere in Twitter there is a time traveler that can go back and let 2003-era America know that they are about to make a huge mistake!

I mean, twitter is fucking awesome, right? It freed all those people in Africa, what's to stop it from just making a picture fucking perfect world out of this whole god forsaken planet?

Tell us, Hugh Pickens, what is next for our social media superhero?

Re:Wow, you know what (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | about 2 years ago | (#43227251)

He's too busy with his hoverboard and flying pie tins.

Re:Wow, you know what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227383)

Twitter, what can't it do?

Twitter — digital bacon!

Re:Wow, you know what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227553)

what is next for our social media superhero?

Chuck Norris will find out about the next earthbound asteroid from Twitter so he'll reach out and stop it with his bare hands.

Re:Wow, you know what (2)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#43227595)

twitter is fucking awesome, right?

twitter brings twits together... to breed even twittier twittlets

No, but, well, maybe (2)

Dresden Sparrow (2850503) | about 2 years ago | (#43227139)

Things little Twitter facilitate information and opinion exchange. Things people do naturally, and have always done essentially through talking. But Twitter (and the surrounding technology world) make it happen faster with wider reach. It allows the brain of humanity to become a little bit more "aware".

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227151)

Nice idea, but the last ten years have shown us - around the world - that once the mainstream media have got hold of their story and their opinion nothing will change it.

It's a disappointing conclusion that the media have failed in their basic function, facts don't matter so much any more.

Re:No (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#43227617)

facts never mattered much

mass media is all about profit... always has been, always will be

the only difference now is that it's cheaper to make up shit that sells because the idiots that buy it write the shit in the first place

Twittergeadon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227153)

Had twitter been around in 1941 Pearl Harbor could have been averted.

I know there is the occasional bit of naval gazing that goes on around here, but this is a bit more than usual. Besides if we are going to speculate about something we should go big. Had twitter been around in the 13th century the Mongol invasion could have been averted. Too bad about that...

Re:Twittergeadon (2)

Threni (635302) | about 2 years ago | (#43227199)

Exactly. How is some nobody's blog-bullshit ending up on the front page of Slashdot. News for nerds? There's not a single XKCD "What if?" question less deserving of Slashdot than this pointless nonsense.

Re:Twittergeadon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227341)

Exactly. How is some nobody's blog-bullshit ending up on the front page of Slashdot. News for nerds? There's not a single XKCD "What if?" question less deserving of Slashdot than this pointless nonsense.

How? Why twitter, of course. Didn't you read?

Re:Twittergeadon (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#43227639)

keeps the trolls happy

Re:Twittergeadon (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | about 2 years ago | (#43227481)

Perhaps Pearl Harbor wouldn't have led to US involvement in WWII if FDR had to make his announcement via Twitter, though. "Yesterday, a date which will live in infamy, the USA was attacked by Japan. Now we're at war. Uh, they suck. Kill 'em all. #imperialism"

Re:Twittergeadon (1)

dragon-file (2241656) | about 2 years ago | (#43227529)

I wholeheartedly agree. It's my honest opinion that twitter could have prevented the Holocaust. *sigh*

Really? As long as slashdot is dealing in hypotheticals can we get an article about "what if everyone had a mini cold fusion reactor to power their house?" or "what if America set up a teleportation network to cut down on traffic congestion?"

Fluffy fluff (1)

TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) | about 2 years ago | (#43227157)

I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again. This summary could have been cut way shorter without losing any substance what-so-ever.

Revisionist (4, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | about 2 years ago | (#43227159)

The Iraq war was not an unpopular idea at the time. It became unpopular in hindsight.

Re:Revisionist (3, Insightful)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 2 years ago | (#43227193)

The Iraq war was not an unpopular idea at the time. It became unpopular in hindsight.

There are a few million people who would disagree [wikipedia.org] with you.

Re:Revisionist (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#43227307)

well yeah... but I suppose you're forgetting how popular is defined.

twitter wouldn't have done diddly dat for it. few million tweets wouldn't have done it.

BUT - if the people who knew the smoking gun was bullshit had made media appearances, on twitter or on tv - anyone who had the credibility anyways - then there might have been a difference. BUT TWITTER HAS SQUATDILIDOLI TO DO WITH THAT POSSIBILITY! there were thousands of blogs about opposing the war.

Re:Revisionist (0)

Nexion (1064) | about 2 years ago | (#43227387)

Unpopular in America then where the administration would have actually had a snowball's chance in hell about caring what the people think.

Shit, in hindsight I feel like we don't only owe Iraq an apology, but the world as a whole for allowing our government to get out of control. Now we have the tedious process of getting these bastards back on their leashes. (._.)

It might take till 2020 to get our administrative employees back in line and to stop the killing, particularly with this lunatic administration. The next three years we wont accomplish shit. Then we'll fuck up whoever we vote for next followed by one where we get really careful about our decision.

Re:Revisionist (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#43227573)

Yeah but more millions would agree with him. That's what popularity means, most people favor it. And they did, Bush did a good job selling war as something necessary. People believed he must have had a good reason. Eventually they found out he didn't, which is why they felt he lied.

Re:Revisionist (1)

Nimey (114278) | about 2 years ago | (#43227223)

Anyone remember what the approval rating of going to war was just before? ISTR it was just above 50% but it's been a long time.

Re:Revisionist (5, Insightful)

Fallingcow (213461) | about 2 years ago | (#43227225)

Bingo. Twitter would have been full of war cheerleaders shouting down the handful of dissenters, just like every other popular online forum at the time.

Re:Revisionist (0)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | about 2 years ago | (#43227239)

The Iraq war was not an unpopular idea at the time. It became unpopular in hindsight.

I suppose it depends on how you look at it. In the United States popular opinion "favored" the war, but mostly based on the lies presented about the Ay-rabs and whatnot and Hussein/9/11 WMD blah blah blah.

But worldwide, opinion was strongly against--billions of people in opposition to the war. Hardly "popular" beforehand,and less popular afterward.

Re:Revisionist (1, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#43227279)

The Iraq war was an unpopular idea at the time. Some of the largest protests ever occured in opposition to the Iraq war. That the media at the time doesn't make this clear is testament to the power of the American propaganda system.

Re:Revisionist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227471)

Incredibly wrong.

The majority of Americans supported the Iraq War (based on intelligence the government knew was shoddy but presented as fact).

Re:Revisionist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227477)

What you just said, that's the revisionist part.

Re:Revisionist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227491)

So the rest of us who mobilized to send sms viral messages, demonstrating, pointing out the lack of evidence, all the things we did, in hindsight you state that that was hindsight!

Prove it, or shut up. Stop spouting self-serving lies. Better yet, move to another country for a couple of years and gain some perspective.

No - bullshit! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227537)

The Iraq war was not an unpopular idea at the time. It became unpopular in hindsight.

Bullshit. BULL -SHIT!!

It was unpopular to the anti-war folks who were condemned, made fun of, and ignored by the media - hello Cindy Sheehan. AND FORGOTTEN by everyone - especially uninformed Slashdot mor .... people.


There were PLENTY of folks who were condemning that fucking war AT THE TIME and still are!!! I was/am too !!

I'm really pissed that you could even say such a stupid thing - and get MOD"ED up for it!

God damn it all!

Fucking uninformed morons!

All of you!!

Re:Revisionist (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | about 2 years ago | (#43227611)

Depends on how you want to split it and people were very split and very scared at the time. Back then you could ask the average person on the street if they favored going into Iraq and the frequent response would be something along the lines of: I want to support the troops. It wasn't overwhelming support, it was fear for our children and anger and sorrow for our dead.

It was also a very heady time. I remember walking into a bar prior to the run up and a KBR employee was handing out flutes of Dom and wearing a platinum grill (really weird thing to see on a middle aged white dude). Asked him what he really thought of it and he asked me why I hated Capitalism. Told him I had nothing against it, but invading Iraq just seemed like a poor decision, an unnecessary expenditure. Then he asked me why I hated the troops. GO TO 10. No real discussion, no real discourse, just: Why do you hate America? You don't? Well then shut up and get on the bus.

On top of all of that you had Ashcroft and Rumsfeld making these really weird statements during press conferences about "sedition" and "I can't say that subversive sources can't be classified as enemy combatants, you tell me". The right knew it was hard trolling, the left went nuts and we still occasionally hear about "Bush Derangement Syndrome".

And at the time some wondered why the middle wouldn't go past "I support the troops"?

I doubt it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227161)

Given how the Government just steam rolled ahead on the flimsiest excuse from an unreliable source.

Then when they DID come in guns a blazin' they didn't have enough troops to deal with the aftermath of toppling a totalitarian regime.

So yeah, if you ever wondered why no one just stomps on NK the logistics involved aren't so much the initial war but the staggering aftermath.

Nah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227171)

They ignored us, and the facts, then. I'm sure they'd do it again, Twitter or not.

Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227173)

All smart people knew from the start that it was mostly bullshit. Twitter wouldn't have made a goddamn difference.

Caption: construe

It would have just meant more cheerleaders (2)

Looker_Device (2857489) | about 2 years ago | (#43227185)

There were a lot of warning signs that the Western press' support for the Arab Spring may have been a bad idea too, but Twitter certainly didn't stop that.

Re:It would have just meant more cheerleaders (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#43227367)

Your criticizing 2(Egypt, Tunisia) successful peaceful changes of power to fledgling democracies on the grounds that there was another that wasn't peaceful and another that wasn't successful or peaceful?

Or are you angry at the results of democracy in Egypt?

Something more specific that I'm missing?

It's hard to compare that to Iraq where every major claim the Bush administration(and the media) were making turned out to be quite literally the opposite of reality.

You may not remember these claims that were common by war cheerleaders:
Claim: "It will pay for itself." Reality: The war cost 6 trillion dollars
Claim: "It will take less than a week." Reality: 9 years
Claim: "Actively pursuing chemical weapons." Reality: not even a hint of evidence to that effect
Claim: "Collaborating with al qaeda." Reality: Hussein was actively suppressing islamist movements in Iraq.
Claim: "Greeted as liberators." Reality: A few staged photo shoots to that effect.

I mean, I can't think of a single true thing that was said by a pro-war speaker before the war, with the exception of one thing that stuck with me that bush said the night of the Invasion, slightly paraphrasing from imperfect memory: "This won't be like the wars Americans are used to. American soldiers will die." Fucking dead on for once.

Maybe? (2)

Daetrin (576516) | about 2 years ago | (#43227191)

Twitter _might_ have spread that particular news enough to make a difference, but remember twitter isn't exactly discriminating when it "chooses" which messages to amplify. When the US sequestration happened were people focusing on Boehner's effective dismissal of the US Constitution? Or even just discussing the sequestration itself? Or were they busy tweeting about "Jedi mind melds"?

No, the powers that be didn't care (2)

Nimey (114278) | about 2 years ago | (#43227195)

The Bush Administration had decided even before getting their "evidence" that Iraq delenda est.

Re:No, the powers that be didn't care (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#43227423)

I keep saying this, but it was officially recorded in the Republican platform in 2000 that invading Iraq was something they wanted. If anything 9-11 delayed their plans. Only people who weren't paying attention didn't know it was going to happen.

Then again, it was harder to pay attention when the party platforms weren't just something you could grab off the Internet.

Re:No, the powers that be didn't care (1)

NewWorldDan (899800) | about 2 years ago | (#43227441)

You are correct, sir. There was also no shortage of public opposition because the Bush administration was clearly full of shit. However, post 9/11, everyone in Washington was too afraid of the sky falling to say anything. There was also substantial neo-con support for the war. Even without Twitter, there was substantial activity on forums, chat boards, IM, email, etc both for and against the war. It changed nothing. To stop anything in DC, you need massive unanimous public support as was the case with SOPA and even that isn't 100% dead yet.

Please don't (2)

lesincompetent (2836253) | about 2 years ago | (#43227205)

Dear USA, please don't rely on the magic powers of the WWW to fix your broken nation.

Re:Please don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227327)

It's not the USA, it's the media. We in the USA couldn't give two shits less about twitter.

Nah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227213)

They ignored the facts, and the millions of us who shouted that they were lying, then. I'm sure they'd do it again, Twitter or no Twitter.

Sure, Twitter does a great job. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227219)

Look at all the info it provided about what happens when you do stuff without information (like a pass a bill on health care to know what's in it, that wouldn't raise anybody's insurance rates.)

It's a nice thought, but if the media is in the tank and has chosen sides, tweets aren't going to do anything.

Doesn't do it today, why then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227233)

the media doesn't do anything to police the inconsistences, untruths, or fabrications of current administration, why do you think it would have done it then?

Re:Doesn't do it today, why then? (1)

serialband (447336) | about 2 years ago | (#43227271)

The US media is about making money. They wouldn't have pushed the antiwar stance even with twitter, since many of the twits would have been pro war.

Oil is more important than lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227243)

At least if you're a corrupt politician buddying up who ever puts a few notes into your pockets for favorable invasions and occupations.


Stop worshipping Twitter (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227249)

It's a blog post 140 characters at a time. Why 140 characters? Because Twitter is a relic dating back to a time when phones couldn't send messages any longer than that (thank you SMS, you reinvented the modern haiku). It's as unimportant now as it was when it was founded. The rise of Twitter mirrors the spread of the dread scourge of centralization that has taken hold as Software as a Service started to flourish: perhaps this newspost is what it will take for you to stop and re-examine how concentrated the providers of the Internet services you use every day have become.

The Internet Could Have . . . (1)

HippopotamusX (2628523) | about 2 years ago | (#43227265)

The Internet could have helped stop the first Iraq War, but it wasn't available to the public at large at the time. They used their current mediums to promote, justify, and create the narrative they wanted you to hear. When the powers that be start the next war, they'll do the same. Embrace skepticism towards all forms of mass media.

A nation of American armchair quarterbacks says (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227275)


No, because the "ignorance" wasn't accidental (4, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 2 years ago | (#43227287)

At the time, Beltway pundits positively swooned over Powell's air-tight case for war. 'But Twitter could have swarmed journalists with instant analysis about the obvious shortcoming. That kind of accurate, instant analysis of Powell's presentation was posted on blogs but ignored by a mainstream media enthralled by the White House's march to war.'

Actually, many of the claims were debunked by the UN and others prior to Powell's speech (some in the same UN session, some earlier, some both), and had been covered extensively in the news pages of the major media. The "mainstream media" didn't ignore it, though the pro-war commentary in the major media did; the major media just separated the coverage of the "air-tight" case from the coverage of all the holes that had been drilled in it before it was even presented, which was conscious misrepresentation, not accidental ignorance that faster delivery could have addressed.

So, its unlikely Twitter would have changed things in a different way than the blogs did: the people that were paying attention to the sources which debunked Powell would, perhaps, have seen the debunking in a different format, but the people that didn't see it still wouldn't have seen it.

It wasn't "ignorance", nor was it lies (2)

daveschroeder (516195) | about 2 years ago | (#43227415)

The motto of CIA's National Clandestine Service is the Latin "Veritatem Cognoscere": Know the truth. It's no wonder that so many believe the function of intelligence services is to discover the "truth".

Mark Lowenthal, former CIA Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production, spent some time in his book "Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy", now the gold standard for undergraduate and graduate intelligence texts, explaining that intelligence is not about truth at all, but rather about arriving at some informed conclusion about reality, or possible future realities, neither of which can be considered strictly to be "truth".

"Intelligence is not about truth. If something were known to be true, states would not need intelligence agencies to collect the information or analyze it. Truth is such an absolute term that it sets a standard that intelligence rarely would be able to achieve. It is better - and more accurate - to think of intelligence as proximate reality. Intelligence agencies face issues or questions and do their best to arrive at a firm understanding of what is going on. They can rarely be assured that even their best and most considered analysis is true. Their goals are intelligence products that are reliable, unbiased, and honest (that is, free from politicization). These are all laudable goals, yet they are still different from truth."

Perhaps the biggest issue with "truth" in intelligence work is the absolute nature of "truth". If it is an analyst's job to find the "truth", then any deviation from that analysis by actual events means that the analysis was a "lie".

"Is intelligence truth-telling? One of the common descriptions of intelligence is that it is the job of 'telling truth to power'. (This sounds fairly noble, although it is important to recall that court jesters once had the same function.) Intelligence, however, is not about truth. (If something is known to be true then we do not need intelligence services to find it out.) Yet the image persists and carries with it some important ethical implications. If truth were the objective of intelligence, does that raise the stakes for analysis? [...] A problem with setting truth as a goal is that it has a relentless quality. [...if] an analyst's goal is to tell the truth - especially to those in power who might not want to hear it - then there is no room for compromise, no possible admission of alternative views."

This creates an environment where success is impossible, because discovering "truth" by every measure is a standard that can never be reached. It also discourages differing analytic viewpoints, each of which may be equally valid. Ultimately, someone needs to look at the available information and make a decision:

"[T]he role of intelligence is not to tell the truth but to provide informed analysis to policy makers to aid their decision making."

Synthesizing information into some measure of "truth" needs to consider all of the above. What, then, happened to the "truth" in the case of this famous so-called "intelligence failure", that of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? The intelligence components of the US, Russia, France, Germany, and the UN as a whole believed Iraq to be in continuing possession of WMD, not to mention that Iraq was in material breach of no less than three binding and in-force UNSEC resolutions (the only kind of UN resolution with the "teeth" to compel member nations to use force to ensure compliance, unlike oft-cited General Assembly resolutions regarding Israel); witness this exchange on NBC's Meet the Press in 2004:

"MR. RUSSERT: When you look at the CIA information on the weapons of mass destruction, former President Clinton said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, as well as current President Bush. The U.N. inspectors. The Russian, French and German intelligence agencies said he had weapons of mass destruction. What happened? How could there have been such a colossal intelligence failure?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, maybe because what we were all looking at was a body of evidence that gave you every reason to believe that he did have weapons of mass destruction. He had the intention. He used them. He stiffed the U.N. for 12 years. He had the infrastructure. He had the capability. The only thing we haven't been able to find are actual current stockpiles of such weapons. Everything else was there. Everything else was there with respect to capability and intention. And any reasonable person looking at this regime, looking at the threat inherent in that intention and capability would have come to the conclusion based on unanswered questions."

So, what was the truth? In this case, the truth, as established prior to 2003, is that Saddam Hussein had the intent and capability to possess WMD. Without physically discovering WMD themselves, all information, history, and evidence - even when viewed in the context of contradictory evidence - indicated that Saddam Hussein had WMD.

Unfortunately, the most important aspect - namely, Iraq actually having WMD - ended up being absent. When the policy of containment with regard to Iraq changed to a more aggressive posture after 9/11, the truth pointed to Iraqi possession of WMD. This enabled policymakers to push forward with a policy to remove Saddam from power.

After the invasion, only then did we discover that the US analysis was almost all wrong. But was the analysis wrong? This is remembered by many, incorrectly, as an example of "politicized intelligence". In fact, it is simply an illustration of how intelligence is not about truth, but rather is a vehicle to inform the decisions of policy makers.

Furthermore, there is never "one" reason a military action may be undertaken. Does anyone honestly believe there was only a single publicly-discussed reason the US entered World War II? If there were more complex reasons than those put forth for public scrutiny, does that mean our leaders are "lying"? It's hilarious to me, if sad, that people tend to fall neatly in political boxes with respect to things like the Iraq invasion.

Intelligence exists solely to support policy makers. Most policy makers are politicians. This does not mean that intelligence itself is politicized, only that it is, necessarily, serving a political master.

The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths. - William James

There is no truth. There is only perception. - Gustave Flaubert

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. - Niels Bohr

The truth will set you free - but first it will make you angry! - Anonymous

What about Libya, for example? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227295)

Just as Twitter has stopped the invasion on Libya? Yeah, right.

Disagree (1)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#43227299)

Last time I checked, Twitter was alive and well when our diplomats were murdered in Libya and when the government told gun dealers to purposely sell to straw purchasers for violent Mexican drug lords. It hasn't forced change in the Obama administration; why would anyone expect it would have worked for Bush's?

Really? (4, Insightful)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#43227301)

So tell me, how has Twitter stopped the numerous stupid political decisions since 2006?

No. Journalism is dead (5, Insightful)

tekrat (242117) | about 2 years ago | (#43227303)

Journalism died at least 5 years before the Iraq war. "News" media outlets are corporate/political megaphones, they are NOT the "4th estate" that keeps the checks and balances we hoped.

Look how the media was duped to demonize the United Nations during the entire Bush Presidency, even before the Iraq war. Long before we went to war, the UN's policies and internal politics were marginalized and they were made to look like a bunch of bumbling fools so when the Bush Admin got around to saying that Hans Blix didn't know what he was talking about, we idiotically believed it.

And "news" has gotten worse as time goes on. If you watch *any* of the corporate run media outlets, you're horribly mis-informed. Twitter isn't going to change that.

Hell no (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#43227305)

it would probably be even worse. BS propaganda stories fly even FASTER since there isn't a mainstream media response to them. Do any of you get those bogus "conservative schools some maxism liberal" emails from friends? Most of them don't take more than a couple google searches to discredit timelines and quotes, but that doesn't stop them from spreading.

People are NOT more informed in the age of social media just as the flood of cable news outlets didn't lead to more high quality news coverage.

Easier to identify the dissent... er traitors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227309)


wat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227319)

In other news, telephones could have stopped people getting screwed over in trade deals in the middle ages, and kevlar body armor could have stopped cavemen from being eaten by bears.

Yes, modern technology could have drastically changed things had it been available sometime in the past, but this is a concept most people figured out when they were six. I know it's a meme here to rag on the submissions and editors, but seriously, why was this even posted? What's next, an article about water being wet? Is there no lower threshold for obviousness anymore?

Not likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227345)

Those pushing for war in the US ignored some of the largest protests ever assembled in human history in addition to ignoring the international community and reality. I think they would have also ignored tweets and retweets as well.

Who says Twitter users would have known better? (2)

guanxi (216397) | about 2 years ago | (#43227347)

IIRC, polls showed around 90% of American supported the war on the eve of invasion. I recall an environment where objecting was widely seen as unpatriotic and cowardly -- the jingoism started after 9/11 and I never saw anything like it in our country; it was shocking and frightening. Twitter may have fanned the flames even higher.

Of course, I'm sure a poll today would show that only 10% remember being part of that 90%, and the rest will assure you that they would have protested loudly.

Or outlet for the misinformed? (2)

AaronLS (1804210) | about 2 years ago | (#43227359)

Or would it have had the opposite affect, with posts/reposts of the same copy and post mindlessness that engulfs every social site? I would like to think the speculations of "bringing out the truth" were the case, but I'm pessimistic.

A fucking moron with balls could have done it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227361)

All they had to do was point out how Emperor Bush had no clothes on, and how he was expecting us to believe in bullshit estimates of an occupation.

Ratings (1)

einstein4pres (226130) | about 2 years ago | (#43227373)

Going to war makes for some exciting news. But so does debunking senior officials. It's just a question of which one makes for better ratings.

When a ? is on a headline, the answer is NO (2)

remoteshell (1299843) | about 2 years ago | (#43227381)

Unlike the old SNL skit that asked "Would Napoleon have won Waterloo if he had a B-52 bomber?" the answer to this one is no. Twitter might affect a celebrity's behavior, but not a war machine.

Hindsight is 20-20... (1)

david.emery (127135) | about 2 years ago | (#43227395)

And the assertions about "an absent media" don't match my recollections from that time (and I was paying very close attention to the run-up.) There certainly should have been more discussion of what happens after Saddam falls, but the current trope of a delinquent media is as much about current political posturing as it is about an evaluation of what was known -at that time-.

Public Radio ran a piece today pointing out that apparently part of Saddam's focus was not on preventing/reacting to a US invasion, but rather deceiving the Iranians to prevent their continued attacks. Even from a long distance during the invasion, I remember hearing reports that any credible intelligence analyst/knowledgeable news reporter would have evaluated as potential signs of chemical warfare preparations (specifically, finding open bags for chem suites. They're sealed, once you open them the activated charcoal, etc, degrades.) Turns out the Iraqi forces were wearing chem suits for warmth, but we had no way of knowing that until after enough POW interrogations had occurred to establish the pattern.

Re:Hindsight is 20-20... (4, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#43227497)

Horseshit, we KNEW he didn't have WMD because all of these issues were known at the time. It wasn't a revelation that Saddam's foreign policy involved faking having WMDs to scare off Iran. We had inspectors on the ground and everywhere they looked they found jack squat. About the only things we couldn't account for were chemical and biological weapons that had expired YEARS before the invasion.

We also had publicly available empirical evidence that what was being fed to the public was fake information. The notion that there was any *real* doubt is HORSESHIT. Oh, there was plenty of artificially-produced doubt. The only people who didn't know this was a bullshit invasion were those who didn't follow foreign affairs closely.

Joe Wilson, Italian intelligence, yellow cake, the Downing Street Memos, aluminum tubes, Hans Blick [sic], Judith Miller, etc. The history rewrite has always been the attempt to pretend that there was ambiguity.

Re:Hindsight is 20-20... (1)

david.emery (127135) | about 2 years ago | (#43227575)

And you visited these weapon sites in Iraq? You personally reviewed the evidence, including classified data and the associated assessments, not just from the US but also from the UK, France, etc? And your qualifications for evaluating WMD evidence are? Can you demonstrate your -contemporaneous- evaluation of this as "bullshit"?

At the time, there were clearly documented disagreements about the credibility of competing pieces of evidence; I remember the debates. I remember saying at the time that I thought we might be guilty of seeing what we wanted/expected to see. That's an error of analysis, it's not in any sense evidence of "fake information".

The idea that -Twitter- in particular could have provided a meaningful alternative is laughable. Establishing evidentiary arguments, evaluating competing sources, and providing meaningful analysis, all in 140 characters?

Re:Hindsight is 20-20... (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#43227657)

Great counterpoint! I didn't personally see any Iraqi WMD sites so I should shut the fuck up?

I did however see Hans visiting bombed out storage facilities filled with some of the EMPTY chemical weapon shells that were "missing" that had been sitting there in bombed out facilites untouched since 1991.

Re:Hindsight is 20-20... (1)

Sique (173459) | about 2 years ago | (#43227643)

So you are saying that the U.S. was seeing every shadow as a ghost until they could turn on the light? You would have considered garbage bags to be chemical weapons then just because they smell.

not all Bush's fault (5, Informative)

night_flyer (453866) | about 2 years ago | (#43227399)

though its fun and all to blame Bush for Iraq, all you have to do is look back a year or so before he got into office and see that Clinton, Albright, Kerry, Berger, Pelosi and more were pounding those drums as well...

"As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is an issue of grave importance to all nations. Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California), Statement on US Led Military Strike Against Iraq, December 16, 1998

"In the next century, the community of nations may see more and more the very kind of threat Iraq poses now -- a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction ready to use them or provide them to terrorists, drug traffickers or organized criminals who travel the world among us unnoticed. If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow by the knowledge that they can act with impunity, even in the face of a clear message from the United Nations Security Council and clear evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program." President Clinton, Address to Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon staff. February 17, 1998

"The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world. The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people." President Clinton, Oval Office Address to the American People, December 16, 1998

  "Imagine the consequences if Saddam fails to comply and we fail to act. Saddam will be emboldened, believing the international community has lost its will. He will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. And some day, some way, I am certain, he will use that arsenal again, as he has ten times since 1983." Sandy Berger, President Clinton's National Security Advisor, Town Hall Meeting on Iraq at Ohio State University, February 18, 1998

"No one has done what Saddam Hussein has done, or is thinking of doing. He is producing weapons of mass destruction, and he is qualitatively and quantitatively different from other dictators." Madeleine Albright, President Clinton's Secretary of State, Town Hall Meeting on Iraq at Ohio State University, February 18, 1998

Better than the marches? (1)

RoTNCoRE (744518) | about 2 years ago | (#43227411)

I recall large congregations of antiwar marchers in several countries, almost entirely ignored by mainstream media at the time.

Why would Twitter have any more potent effect, if the mainstream media demonstrated their willingness to bend/ignore reality?

Your vote is supposed to be the powerful message, and the political leaders bear greater responsibility in the tragedy. Yet America re-elected GWB after the war began, and nearly elected his cabal again recently. Politicians do what you let them. It is not the media's fault, it is the voters and uncritical audiences. Major news networks have regurgitated the government falsehoods, yet you still tune them in, while PBS cuts later were able to be relatively viable campaign platform. Stop trying to pin it all on the media, and look within.

A Million Protesters in London - No Chance (4, Interesting)

turgid (580780) | about 2 years ago | (#43227431)

Over a million people took to the streets of London to protest against the Iraq War. It still went ahead. Britain still got involved.

I was one of the idiots that believed that there were WMD and that the politicians knew more than we did (national security and all that). But I was young and naive. I was also stupid enough to believe that we were going there as Liberators, not Occupiers, and then I was shocked to see the way we (the Coalition) treated the Iraqis.

I am also disgusted at the mess we've left the country in. There is rampant sectarian violence, suicide bombings and Islamofascism. It makes the Northern Ireland Troubles look like a village fete.

Re:A Million Protesters in London - No Chance (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#43227509)

The largest protests in the history of the planet occurred during the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

This just in: (0)

JeanCroix (99825) | about 2 years ago | (#43227473)

Radar could have prevented the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor!

No (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 2 years ago | (#43227519)

Applying 10 years hindsight on how people should have been enlightened enough to use Twitter to stop the US going to war is wrong. Remember at the time most of the US was screaming for payback and Iraq was the obvious scapegoat for the 9/11 attacks.

Chances are Twitter would have only solidified public opinion to go to war quicker as any anti-war sentiment at the time would have been slammed out of existence as being unpatriotic.

Also its not like there were no social networking outlets available for public opinion. Slashdot did exist back then too.

This is based on a false premise (1)

ggraham412 (1492023) | about 2 years ago | (#43227539)

From Hans Blix's last (I believe) report to the UN (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/feb/14/iraq.unitednations1):

How much, if any, is left of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programmes? So far, UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons, only a small number of empty chemical munitions, which should have been declared and destroyed. Another matter - and one of great significance - is that many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for. To take an example, a document, which Iraq provided, suggested to us that some 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent were "unaccounted for". One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist. However, that possibility is also not excluded. If they exist, they should be presented for destruction. If they do not exist, credible evidence to that effect should be presented.

And according to Wikileaks, the US Army was finding small caches of WMD right up until they left, albeit not the massive program posited as the cause for war. (http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/10/wikileaks-show-wmd-hunt-continued-in-iraq-with-surprising-results/)

If even UNSCOM/UNMOVIC didn't know for sure if there were still proscribed chemical precursors of WMD in Iraq at the open of the Iraq war or not, and if there are small remnants of some kind of WMD program being unearthed almost to this day, in what sense were the media delinquent for not reporting the non-existence of WMD in Iraq? I think like everyone else at the time, they honestly didn't know, and they didn't want to go out on a limb and be wrong later. That's not quite a "rush to war" on the part of the media.

Bush of course had no problem going out on a limb. A lot of people were supportive because they were no longer willing to live with the same risks post 9/11 that they uneasily lived with pre 9/11, and then walked it back when no WMD were found. Other people were egging Bush out onto the limb because they were actively sawing it off. Such is politics.

But we DO have twitter now (1)

davek (18465) | about 2 years ago | (#43227549)

And the media continues to spread disinformation to advance its own pet causes. The United States has continued nation building, and has even started NEW wars (and proxy wars) since twitter came of age. It wasn't twitter that had to go to the floor of the house and demand that the President of the USA declare he doesn't have the right to kill us in our sleep! I agree it's an interesting tool for the spreading of links and content, and with more information it seems that people /should/ be more informed, it's just the reality of today doesn't seem to reflect that at all.

To quote the cliche: The Revolution will not be televised (or tweeted, probably).

Re:But we DO have twitter now (1)

davek (18465) | about 2 years ago | (#43227569)

Oh, and follow me at @ddombrowsky [twitter.com] :)

Twitter-bomb (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227601)

Has Twitter Bursted the Obama Media Bubble? No the lapdog media still goes along with every lie the He and the democraps spew.

Social media is for sucks!

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#43227645)

They could have stopped it, but they deliberately chose not to. Those bastards.

Yes (1)

Beerdood (1451859) | about 2 years ago | (#43227661)

Ah, I kid I kid.. I just wanted to be the first person that said yes after 67 comments of NO. Slashdot is united in opinion for the first time ever! I doubt it would have made a difference

You know what would have been nice though? If twitter had been around for a couple of years before that, and it had today's popularity back in 2003. I saw somewhere earlier in this thread that claimed 90% of America was in support of the war at the time. That seems a bit high, but regardless of what that number is, I'll bet most of them are silent now. It would be nice to know which politicians, celebrities, friends & neighbors were fully supporting war back then. So when the next middle east war "opportunity" rolls around and the same people shout "We want war! But this one's legitimate this time we swear, not like Iraq", their twit / blog / wall post history can be used against them.
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