When Americans ask me what happened to the vaunted U.S. press corps over the past three decades – in the decline from its heyday of the Watergate scandal and the Pentagon Papers to its failure to challenge the Iraq WMD lies or to hold George W. Bush accountable – I often recall for them the story of Gary Webb.and ends:
"Yet, the big media’s consistent mishandling of the contra-cocaine scandal in the 1980s and 1990s carried another warning that the nation missed: that the U.S. press corps was no longer capable of reporting complex crimes of state.
That unaddressed danger returned with disastrous results in late 2002 and early 2003 when George W. Bush sold false stories about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction while the major newspapers acted as cheerleaders and accomplices.
At the time of Webb’s death on Dec. 9, 2004, the full scope of the Iraq disaster was still not evident, nor was the major press corps ready to acknowledge that its cowardice in the 1980s and its fecklessness in the 1990s were the direct antecedents to its complicity in the illegal invasion of Iraq.
Gary Webb had been a kind of canary in the mine shaft. His career destruction in the 1990s and his desperate act of suicide in 2004 were warnings about grave dangers that, if left ignored, would wreak even worse havoc on the United States and the world.
But – on this second anniversary of Webb’s death – it should be remembered that his great gift to American history was that he, along with angry African-American citizens, forced the government to admit some of the worst crimes ever condoned by any White House: the protection of drug smuggling into the United States as part of a covert war against a country, Nicaragua, that represented no real threat to Americans.
It is way past time for that reality – and that gift – to be acknowledged."