State-organized muzzling of the media began with the American invasion of Grenada in 1983, then came Panama in 1989. Two years later, by the time the First Gulf War came around, the White House and the Pentagon had an iron grip on the free press. What’s curious is that with few exceptions how willing the reporters went along with being restricted and controlled. They had become virtual prisoners of handouts and press conferences. By 2003 it was game over. With the attack on Iraq a new term is coined: embedded. Washington didn’t want journalists roaming around in a war zone off a leash and filing copy. The press corps has effectively become a press corpse delivering a highly sanitized view of war loaded with blather and palaver. And we the citizens of a democratic society are rendered deaf and dumb.
Robert Fisk, based in Beirut, is the Middle East correspondent for The Independent. He is winner of the Amnesty International UK Press Award and the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom. The Financial Times calls him “one of the outstanding reporters of his generation. As a war correspondent he is unrivalled.” He is the author of Pity the Nation, The Great War for Civilization and The Age of the Warrior.