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Iraq War was a Mistake:

Warren Strobel currently working as National Security Reporter at The Wall

Street Journal gives us insight back on Iraq war.

1. Mr. Strobel, as a journalist, back in preparations for the war in Iraq and during the US troops going in
Iraq, Knight Ridder was the only or at least the minority of media who went into political situation behind
the war so deep in finding the truth. Tell us firstly, the background of this story and what were the biggest
challenges?
Part of the reason we were able to do what we did in the 2001-2003 timeframe, is that we had a veteran team of
journalists with experience covering both the Middle East and national security agencies in Washington. That would be
John Walcott, Jonathan Landay, Joseph L. Galloway and myself.

Beyond the challenges of reporting on secret, or classified, subjects, one challenge we faced is that no other news
outlets followed up on our articles. And the George W. Bush administration tried to ignore us. So, while we were sure
we were accurate in our reporting, it sometime felt very lonely.
Getting sources became easier over time, as US officials saw and reacted to our articles.

2. When a journalist is pursuing the truth, especially investigative ones, guided by morality, how far were you
and your team willing to go, knowing that the risk is enormous for the lives of your colleagues and family
members? Was this a mission for you?
I am a little cautious about the word “mission,” as it implies advocacy. But we did feel like this might be the most
important story of our lives. There is no bigger decision by a U.S. president than to take the country to war, and in this
case it was a war of choice – and one, as our reporting showed, that was launched based on bad and manipulated
intelligence. What’s more, many of the Knight Ridder papers were published in cities that hosted major American
military bases. Our readers were often U.S. troops who might be deployed to Iraq, and their families. We owed them
the truth as best as we could discover it.

3. President George W. Bush declared Iraq, Iran and North Korea as countries who are called the new “Axis
of Evil”. Iraq now is history, North Korea we might say is ‘under control’. In a sense of geopolitical
situation in Middle East, new changes in EU, in a way also we are in process of creating new international
relations, how do you see what is possible to happen with Iran? Saudis obviously are ‘not a threat’, Iran still
is. Are we at a brink of a new war, especially having in mind Russia?

It’s hard to predict geopolitical developments, as we have seen in recent years. What we can say, looking back, is that
the Iraq War clearly added further destabilization to the Islamic world, fractured Iraq itself in a way it has yet to
recover from, and cost the United States dearly in terms of lives lost, hundreds of billions spent, and global reputation.

Looking forward, there are obviously serious tensions between the US and its allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia,
on one hand, and Iran on the other. That said, President Trump has proven very cautious about new military
engagements – and in fact, seems more interested in withdrawing US troops from places such as Syria, Afghanistan
and West Africa.

4. What is your message to young, new journalists of any sort, bloggers around the world, when they see injustice,
but are threatened what can they do? Get killed, be pragmatic or simply expose the truth no matter the cost. A
brilliant example of free journalist is FranscescaBorri who is fearless in her reporting, and an author of the book;
“Syrian dust: Reporting from the Heart of the War”?
That is a really good question, and I hesitate to offer advice to someone who is dealing with a life-or-death situation. As
outlined below, we faced threats from our work, but not death threats that we deemed credible.

My message is to young journalists who are threatened for what they are doing is, be true to yourself. And true to the
facts as you report them. Push the envelope of what is “permissible” in the country where you operate as much as
possible. Practice good operational and cybersecurity where the “authorities” are concerned. Remember you are not
alone – there are other young journalists globally that you can reach out to for help and advice, as well as organizations
that are dedicated to protecting reporters.
Ultimately, I believe no story is worth dying for – it’s a hard choice, but I believe it is better to live to fight another day.

5. How did you and your team handled with threats?


Most of the threats we received were from readers, who were caught up in the nationalistic atmosphere in the US after the
9/11 attacks, and accused of being unpatriotic or even in league with terrorists, because we were contradicting what the
White House was saying. Sometimes, their threats were very nasty. There were repeated threats from senior Bush
administration officials to ruin our reputations forever as journalists in Washington.
Our biggest security concern was for our sources. They were the ones who were putting their jobs, livelihoods and
ultimately the well-being of their families at risk by talking to us and telling the stories the White House did not want out..

6. In a way, today, the world is faced with radical Islam. Many radical groups funded by Saudis, some
interests groups in USA, Iran etc….in your opinion do we see hear an instrument of using a religion into
actual political atmosphere? Even though Islam was never able to be divided from politics which is based in
Quran but is that policy truly what Islam as religion stands for?
I would rather not discuss questions of religion! What is striking to me is how Islamic terrorism, which was the #1 U.S.
security concern from 2001-2017, is being overshadowed now in U.S. security debates and planning by concerns about
major state adversaries, specifically China and Russia.

7. If journalists who are discovering corruption, and they have no income, or low one, no any protection, are
their lives then more valuable then the truth for the nation?
That is a very personal decision, only one that an individual journalist can make. No one can make it for them. I would
just add that as journalists, we know we are not embarking on a career that will make us rich. If we seek riches, we
should try a different line of work!

There are stories that are worth risking a lot for. I don’t believe there are stories that are worth dying for, because then
your voice is silenced.

8. To conclude, what is your life lesson after all what has been happening with Iraq?
The lessons I drew from our pre-Iraq War reporting are the following: One, Don’t be afraid to be unpopular or to go
against the conventional wisdom on major issues, IF your reporting backs you up. Two, personalities and teamwork
matter. We had a team of reporters at Knight Ridder that worked spectacularly together, had deep experience and
complemented each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Three, be accurate, do your homework, be relentless in your
reporting. If we had committed one or two major errors, our whole line of reporting would have been discredited by
those who wanted to silence us.. To my knowledge, we had one error in over five years of reporting, involving dozens of
stories, in the lead up to the Iraq invasion and its aftermath.