Exploring the Transatlantic Media Divide Over Iraq: How and Why U.S and German Media Differed in Reporting on U.N. Weapons Inspections in Iraq: 2002–2003

By Ingrid A. Lehmann

A paper by Ingrid A. Lehmann, spring 2004 fellow, explores the role of the media in the weakening bond between the United States and Western European countries in the wake of events in Iraq, and the divergence of public opinion about the war between the U.S. and Germany. Were the differing public perceptions of the danger posed by Iraq a consequence of divergent media reports, or positions taken by those countries’ respective governments, or different political cultures? The answers to these questions may lead to a better understanding of the transatlantic opinion gap. Lehmann chose Germany for her analysis because 1. Germany is, despite the language difference, a European country with particularly close historic and cultural ties to the U.S. 2. The German government and public opinion from the outset were opposed to U.S. military intervention in Iraq. In France, there was also governmental and public opposition, but for other historical reasons. The U.K. and Spanish governments supported the U.S. in Iraq, but public opinion was opposed. Thus the policy-media climate in Germany offers an obvious and direct contrast to that of the U.S. where both the government and a majority of the people supported a war against Iraq. Among the issues dividing opinion in Germany and the U.S. are the legitimacy of the use of force in international relations and the role of intergovernmental organizations.

Download the paper (PDF).