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Sunday, March 24, 2013

That Piece Killed by the 'Post'

Due to "popular demand," based on my post last night, I'm publishing below the assigned Outlook piece that I submitted to the Washington Post on  Thursday.   I see that the Post is now defending killing the piece because it didn't offer sufficient "broader analytical points or insights."  I'll let you decide if that's true and why they might have rejected it. 

The original appeared almost word-for-word at The Nation this weekend (there I added a reference to Bob Woodward and to Bob Simon).   I had absolutely no plans to even mention that the piece was killed until late last night when I saw that Paul Farhi of the Post had written for Outlook a piece claiming that the media "didn't fail" in the run-up to the Iraq war.   That inspired me to write the post last night which has proved quite popular.

Here's the original piece as submitted.  For much more, see my new e-book.
***

For awhile, back in 2003, Iraq meant never having to say you’re sorry.  The spring offensive had produced a victory in less than three weeks, with a relatively low American and Iraqi civilian death toll.  Saddam fled and George W. Bush and his team drew overwhelming praise, at least here at home.

But wait.  Where were the crowds greeting us as “liberators”?  Why were the Iraqis now shooting at each other--and blowing up our soldiers?  And where were those WMDs, bio-chem labs, and nuclear materials?  Most Americans still backed the invasion, so it still too early for mea culpas--it was more “my sad” than “my bad.”
-
By 2004 it was clear that Saddam’s WMDs would never be found, but with another election season at hand, sorry was still the hardest word.  But a few very limited glimmers of accountability began to appear.  So let’s begin our catalog of the art of mea culpa and Iraq here.

PLAUSIBLE  DENIABILITY   President Bush and many others--including scores of Democrats--who once claimed “slam dunk” evidence  on Iraq’s WMDs now admitted that this intelligence was more below-average than Mensa.  But don’t blame them!  They simply had been misled.  Judith Miller of The New York Times, perhaps the prime fabulist in the run-up to war, explained that she was only as good as her sources--her sources having names like “Curveball” and “Red Cap Guy.”

But the news media, which for the most part had swallowed whole the WMD claims, was not facing re-election, so some self-criticism, at least of the “mistakes-were-made” variety came easier. 

THE MINI-CULPA   This phrase was coined by Jack Shafer of Slate after The New York Times published an “editors’ note” in May 2004, admitting it had publishing a few “problematic articles” (it didn’t mention any authors) on Iraqi WMDs, but pointing out it was “taken in” like most in the Bush administration.  Unlike the Times, Washington Post editors three months later did not produce their own explanation but allowed chief media reporter Howard Kurtz to write a lengthy critique.  Editors and reporters admitted they had often performed poorly but offered one excuse after another, with phrases such as "always easy in hindsight," "editing difficulties," "communication problems"  and "there is limited space on Page 1."    One top reporter said, “We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power. “ 

STONEWALLING   As years passed, the carnage in Iraq intensified but accepting blame for this in America was still pretty much AWOL.   President Bush and Vice President Cheney said that even if the WMD threat was bogus, they’d still do it again.  Reason:  They’d deposed a “dictator”--and would you rather have Saddam still in power?

Now let’s flash forward to this past two weeks, when Iraq (remember Iraq?) re-emerged in the news and opinion sections. But anyone who expected that hair shirts would come into fashion must have been sadly disappointed.  The “mea culpas” would not be “maxima.”  First, those who accepted some blame.

LIMITED HANGOUT STRATEGY  David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, wrote well over a thousand words at the Daily Beast describing multiple reasons for promoting the war before very briefly concluding, “Those of us who were involved—in whatever way—bear the responsibility.”  While adding: “I could have set myself on fire in protest on the White House lawn and the war would have proceeded without me.”   Jonathan Chait at New York offered regrets for backing the war but defended believing in Saddam’s WMD and recalled that “supporting the war was cool and a sign of seriousness.”  And: “The people demanding apologies today will find themselves being asked to supply apologies of their own tomorrow.”

YOUNG AND DUMBER
Ezra Klein apologized in a Bloomberg column, at great length,  for supporting the war--when he was eighteen, and “young and dumb.” Charles P. Pierce at Esquire replied, “It is encouraging that he no longer believes in fairy tales.”

MEA (AND A LOT OF OTHERS) CULPA
   Stephen Hadley, Bush’s national security adviser, wrote at Foreign Policy: “It never occurred to me or anyone else I was working with, and no one from the intelligence community or anyplace else ever came in and said, ‘What if Saddam is doing all this deception because he actually got rid of the WMD and he doesn’t want the Iranians to know?’ Now, somebody should have asked that question. I should have asked that question. Nobody did.”

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK   Thomas Friedman, famous author and New York Times columnist, admitted that the U.S. had “paid too high a price” for the 2003 invasion (which he supported, but did not now mention)  but, hey, there was still a decent chance that good would come from it--if only those ungrateful Iraqis would stop blowing each other up and form a stable democracy.   David Ignatius at the Washington Post offered his regrets but observed that at least “the surge” worked and saved lives (although Rajiv Chandraskaran at the Post calls this a “myth”).

Now for those who accepted little or no blame:

WHO, MEA?   Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy Pentagon chief, in an interview fiercely denied he was the architect of the disaster.  Afterall, “I didn’t meet with him [Bush] very often.”  The New York Times in an editorial pointed fingers at the bad actors who helped get us into the war but somehow did not recognize any “me” in “mess.” (The Washington Post got around this by not publishing an editorial on the subject at all.)   Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast blamed the war on American “hubris” but did not reveal that he (hubristically?) backed the war himself.

THAT’S MY STORY AND I’M STICKING TO IT   Dick Cheney in a new Showtime documentary said he’d do it all again. “I feel very good about it.  If I had to do it over again, I’d do it in a minute.”   Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair concurred.  Donald Rumsfeld tweeted (yes) about “liberating” 25 million Iraqis.  He failed to recall when he said the war would last at most six months.  Richard Perle, former chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, said that asking if the war was worth it was “not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation.”  

IF WE’D ONLY KNOWN!
George Will on ABC: “If in 2003 we’d known what we know now — the absence of weapons of mass destruction, the difficulty of governing and occupying a society in which, once you lop off the regime, you’re going to have a civil war in a sectarian tribal society — the answer I think is obviously no.” 

BLAME IT ON THE HANDLERS   Kenneth Pollack of Brookings, one of the most influential proponents of the war, now says that he had a different war in mind and the occupation was handled incompetently, asserting, “it didn't have to be this bad.”

Greg Mitchell’s “So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits--and the President--Failed on Iraq” has just been published in an updated e-book edition.  He is the former editor of Editor & Publisher.

60 comments:

Marshall said...

Two points - if you paid attention to Hans Blix, or the French, at the time, you should have none.

I don't think people put enough emphasis on why Spring 2013 (i.e., the timing of the war)? By rushing it, they gave up any chance of a UN Security Council Resolution. Why? I thought at the time, and still think today, that it was to ensure that the war timed properly (in their eyes) for the 2004 US Presidential election. There is a "marching season" in Mesopotamia - and it is not during the summerl. Delay to late 2003, and (I think the reasoning was) they might not have everything wrapped up in time for Nov. 2004.

I have seen nothing since then to make me change my mind on this. It makes the rush, otherwise inexplicable, make since.

Anonymous said...

while the article is a great catalogue of the apologia proffered by members of the media for their complicity in hyping the Iraq War, i can see the problem with it that concerned the Post's editors: it doesn't address why that happened. and that is the most important question, isn't it?

three reasons:

1. the uber-patrioctic/paranoid American reaction to 9/11 - which included almost all the media.

2. the utterly cynical exploitation of that national mood by the Iraq warmongers and Bush Administration, which effectively intimidated most of the media from challenging their bogus WMD etc. narrative.

3. the outright complicity in hyping the war by some members of the media seeking insider status and furthering their personal ambitions.

Anonymous said...

You're an idiot. Not because of what you wrote--it's scorchingly brilliant--but because you thought Fred Hiatt would allow this to be printed. This must have made his eyes bulge out of his head. It's an indictment of his core being--and the core being of many other journalists inside the bubble. Digby just reminded us of this from the "liberal" Richard Cohen. Read it and weep: "The evidence [Powell] presented to the United Nations -- some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail -- had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise."

Anonymous said...

I never thought of that, but it does ring true. I just thought that somebody was making a lot of money off this awful war idea, which also is true. And I thought the DC crowd rushed so the rest of us wouldn't have time to calm down & think more clearly. But DC is a small bubble full of narcissistic people, barely aware of the rest of us outside the context of elections. Your view is far more likely.

Anonymous said...

Dominick devillepin, foreign minister for France and Hans Blix, well even former U.S. embassador for Niger the alleged country from which Iraq was buying the radioactive material they all key players with inside knowledge regarding this matter.they all denied such claims from the war-hawks of the Bush administration

Anonymous said...

My suspicions soared at the idea that Saddam was getting "Yellow Cake" from Niger. Yellow cake is not something lying around the desert like camel excrement. It is mined. The French control the mines. They use the yellow cake for their nuclear power plants. To the best of my knowledge, uranium mining is conducted with very severe controls over what material is mined, shipped, etc.. Given the French need for the material, it makes no sense that they would allow so much as a liter of the stuff be diverted to Iraq. A check of the mining and shipping records should have been enough to quash that lie.

Everythings Jake said...


I might agree with The Post, though for radically different reasons. The problem with this criticism is that it seems to suggest that if only the media had done its job, disaster might have been averted. But the point of going to war, any war, is that America has been a war economy for going on a century ever since it entered WWI on behalf of Wall Street Bankers panicked that their loans to the English and the French wouldn't be repaid. It's an extremely effective method of transferring tremendous sums of taxpayer wealth to an increasingly kleptocratic few in finance and industry.

David Frum was right. We were going to war whether WaPo and NYT journalists told the truth or not (by way of contrast, McClatchy did tell the truth, has far wider distribution, and was entirely ignored).

This criticism, while correct, is limited in its assessment of the use of propaganda and the media's complicity in it. It needs the context that can be found in, among other places, Chalmer's Johnson's brilliant series on American empire, the second of which is here:

The Sorrows of Empire

I cite Chalmers Johnson, who, as a former member of the tribe of very serious people, seems more difficult to dismiss. But I think one of the best distilled but sweeping accounts of the workings of the empire is someone on the margins, Scott Noble, whose excellent documentary is here:

The Power Principle

Barb Darrow said...

One caveat: Seems to me that mention of Seymour Hersh's New Yorker stories on the run up to war, which were published before the war and which outed the whole WMD lie should be mentioned as the exception to the rule

Frank said...

The corporate media did not fail. Anyone with an interest in the truth was able to find it easily... even in 2003.

The corporate media's job was to mislead the naive and/or gullible (as well as give talking points to the moral cowards who are afraid to think). They succeeded.

Those that claim to have been "fooled" are admitting they have no business calling themselves "journalists".

Alan MacDonald said...

The corporatist media sector of this disguised global Empire (that has 'captured' and now fully "Occupies" our former country, a corporate/financial/militarist/media and political Empire, that hides behind the facade of a modernized and sophisticated propagandist DUAL-Party 'Vichy' sham of faux-democratic and totally illegitimate government --- similar to the earlier and crude single-party Vichy facade that the Nazi Empire which 'captured' and "Occupied" France c. 1940 tried-out less successfully more than 70 years ago --- apparently sucks at everything, including apologizing for ****ing us all.

But then, that's what Empires are best at --- ****ing us all.

Alan MacDonald

Alan MacDonald said...

The corporatist media sector of this disguised global Empire (that has 'captured' and now fully "Occupies" our former country, a corporate/financial/militarist/media and political Empire, that hides behind the facade of a modernized and sophisticated propagandist DUAL-Party 'Vichy' sham of faux-democratic and totally illegitimate government --- similar to the earlier and crude single-party Vichy facade that the Nazi Empire which 'captured' and "Occupied" France c. 1940 tried-out less successfully more than 70 years ago --- apparently sucks at everything, including apologizing for ****ing us all.

But then, that's what Empires are best at --- ****ing us all.

Alan MacDonald

Anonymous said...

A different Anonymous left out in his catalogue of "whys" the important fact that the U.S. military-industrial complex needed another war, because their business was lagging under Pax Americana.
And oil.

Anonymous said...

Reading through this scorching piece, I kept wishing you'd included the links for the pieces you mention.

I'm going to try to google for them.

But, no surprise the WaPo would not publish. And it must drive them crazy that now people have alternatve sources to read what they don't want us to see. Or at least not see attached to their MCM (Mainstream Corporate Media) brand.

jawbone

Laurence Glavin said...

Long before demon booze vaporized innumerable brain cells of my cerebellum, I was very aware of the lies behind the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" that led to the country's incusion into Vietnam. Just because the political part ivolved in the run-up to invasion of Iraq wah different, I perceived that individuals at that level of power often think alike, to the extent that they will often achieve their desired ends by the same means. I hope Charles Pierce cites this episode in his never-ending quarrel with the WaPost, unless he is preoccuppied with Jennifer Rubin's appearance on te Faux Right-Wing Propaganda Network Sunday morning.

Anonymous said...

Sure, but even after all this, no one who correctly predicted what would happen has gained from being right. There was nothing gained by choosing correctly and nothing lost by choosing incorrectly. By comparison, Wall Street looks like honest work.

old new lefty said...

Everyone in the world outside of the US knew that Saddam had no NBC weapons. The International Atomic Energy Commission under Mohammed El-Baradi issued a report stating that there were no nukes. In fact, the IAEC monitors had to be pulled out of Iraq because W was declaring war. And once we get there ourselves, Surprise! No NBC. I wonder how that worked out?

So, Just Sayin' said...

Honestly, the piece seems a little light. Bill Moyers packed so much more into his Buying the War documentary.

Here's what I mean. You don't seem to have gone into any real depth to point out ways that reporters who wanted to be more than Pentagon/WH stenographers could have done more, as other reporters (like those as McClatchy) managed to do. There's not really any media criticism of the pre-war coverage itself - for example, you wave your hands about Judy Miller but don't go to any lengths to document how she so spectacularly failed. It feels like a very slight column to tease a fuller length book.

I think your column is exactly on point, and I think WaPo deserves its drubbings for dumping a critical piece in favor of masturbatory praise. But I wish that the opportunity created by WaPo's failure was that lots of readers were finding their way to a better piece.

Anonymous said...

If "outside the beltway" rubes like me all the way in California were asking why the hell we were invading Iraq (instead of Saudi Arabia where most of the alleged hijackers were from), we sure as hell got no answers from the MSM, which proves to me they were in on it. 911 way too easily filled the bill for PNAC's "new Pearl Harbor" requirement to get the American people to go along with the sandbox invasion for oil, ushering in a very dark time in our nation's history, which continues to this day since our emporer, er President has decreed that we're "looking forward not backward".
Until this ugly boil is peeled back, the U.S. is no better than a Banana republic, courtesy of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al.

Gnus2Me said...

The greatest evil the Bush administration ever committed was convincing the world that the Iraq war was the highest moral purpose and opposition was traitorous.

The media utterly failed in the run up to war when it stopped asking the obvious questions of why and what if.

Instead, we got the "reporting" of whispers from "highly placed," but unnamed administration sources.

Some stories evaded the conventional wisdom fairy tales, but they were marginalized and drown out by the drumbeats to war.

Ten years later, the media has still not run a definitive uncompromising account of what was accomplished, why it failed and when it will conclusively end.

The cadre of so-called smart people who either cheer leaded us into this diplomatic tar pit or remained silent, HAD to have known the potential for disaster.

If we, as a country, were given equal pros and cons of invading Iraq, I believe the vox populi would have overcome the political lies and charge forward.

Mark Burwinkel said...

Great piece. If you were paying attention and weren't kneeling at the corporate alter, you knew there were no WMD. And you knew Iraq was about oil, Saddam was our buddy till he nationalized the oil, we remember Cheney shaking Saddam's hand. A lot of people around the world knew Bush and Company were criminals. Thanks for setting them straight, we know the truth.

Anonymous said...

It is astonishing to me, an old, public-schooled, grey-haired, none-to-bright, boy from a high school of 98 kids, that highly educated people (which I assume "journalists" to be) could not see through the bull.

Perhaps, it's that Im from Texas and born BSer. We have a saying down here: "You can't BS a BSer".. Maybe that made it perfectly clear to many of us the entire thing was a fabrication.

But honestly, this 'nobody knew' defense is so full of holes that I think they're still BSing themselves.

Guy said...

The reason for the timing of the war was so that our troops didn't have to fight in the high heat of summer. Special weapons don't work quite as well at very high temperatures and obviously our troops wouldn't have been in as good a shape as the Iraqis fighting inside armored vehicles when the temperature was 120 degrees. The cooler the temperature, i.e., the earlier in the year the war took place, the better.

Anonymous said...

Have you gone back to listen to Ron Paul opposing the Iraq War? Check out YouTube it's not hard to find. He knew it was a bunch of BS and said it at the time.

Anonymous said...

All this is interesting, but I wonder if the same journalists who believed that Iraq had WMD and that Iraq was behind 9/11 were the people who never questioned why 3 skyscrapers fell symmetrically at freefall speed into their own footprints on 9/11. Exactly what journalistic courage is required to stand up for the laws of physics?

Anonymous said...

What Greg Mitchell doesn't even allude to which is so glaringly APPARENT here is that the entire Mainstream MEDIA was & is Owned & Operated by the US Govt! The Iraq WAR was a Sleaze Fest of US Govt Criminal Chicanery with the Media acting if it was being run by Nazi Propagandist Joseph Goebbels!

Archie1954 said...

It is long past time to put the blame for war crimes at their source. Bush, Cheney and the rest of the their miserable coterie of depraved monsters are still running around free to spew their evil (Cheney) until they are blue in the face, when they should be enjoying their well deserved repose in a penal institution at the state's expense.

Anonymous said...

Since I was well aware at the time that Colin Powell was completely misinformed and out-of-his-depth when he testified to Congress, and I was myself personally involved, immediately, in trying to start up a mass evacuation of Iraqi children, to get them away from the bombs & depleted uranium (& that went nowhere because we Americans are stupid, mindless robots who are attached by their navels to TV sets)-- all this while the ridiculous sabre-rattling rang out presaging death from the bunkers of the White House and 10 Downing Street -- what I did was just continue reading my solid internet sources, reliable since they had exposed the 9-11 travesty. And so today, I simply can't understand where the rest of you were all hiding, including all you totally execrable experts. And where are you today, with the ridiculous Benghazi excuses & the charade in Syria. Hello? God aren't you sick of yourselves?

Texas Aggie said...

I find it very difficult to believe that anyone seriously believed the story that there were WMD. All of the evidence that was presented turned out to be false BEFORE we went to war. The "centrifuge tubes" meme was shot down by the people who actually use centrifuges to concentrate uranium. The yellow cake story was shot down by numerous people, not just Wilson, who showed that the letters were forgeries "signed" by someone who had died nine years previously. German intelligence told Bush that Curveball was lying like a rug. And worst of all, the inspectors under Hans Blix found absolutely nothing.

Some commenters thought that the invasion was speeded up to help with Bush's reelection. While that may be, another reason was that if the inspectors continued to find nothing, it would spoil Bush's wonderful war.

Anonymous said...

Aa a French citizen living in the US at the time, it was absolutely clear without any doubt, that there was NO WMD and therefore NO reason to go against history and risk to loose the lives of so many people for nothing, except put money in the pocket of the war profiteering lobby ... and get the village idiot to wet his pants every morning saying in front of his mirror "I am the commander in chief of a country at war"
Just by looking at his face before the war, you could see it coming!
Just by looking at his VP's rictus, you could see it coming.

Anonymous said...

pAnonymous (you know who you are):

There's really no room to recap the exhaustive documentation from actual experts as to why 9/11 really was triggered by 11 guys in four planes. I'll just leave it at at two points:

1. I know 100 people who worked in WTC 2 that day. I worked there myself for a week, earlier that year. It takes months of very pervasive visible activity to rig a building for demolition. I and they saw zero evidence of anything resumbling this. There would have been thousands involved in the setup, execution and coverup. You can't keep a secret like that.

2. Google "Dunning Kruger Effect."

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the vast majority of the media people calling for, and supporting the war, were Jewish. Also interesting, is that Israel badly, and was very vocal about wanting, the U.S. in the Middle-East, and called for the invasion post-haste. Seems to me, some of these media people need to reflect on their allegiance to THIS country.

Keith Vance said...

I would agree with the Post editors that the story didn't offer "broader analytical points or insights."

It's really just a round-up of what a bunch of people said then and how they're backpedaling now.

If I were writing this story, I would have included many of the people who were against the war before it began like Hans Blix and that weapons inspector guy Scott Ritter (I can't remember his name).

There was plenty of easy to find information critical of the Bush administration's WMD garbage and linkages to Al Qaida back in 2002.

The media just chose to ignore it. For me, that's the real failure.

Whether or not op-ed columnists got duped by the Bush administration is less interesting than actual reporters failing to do their jobs.

Did the Post do the right thing spiking this entire story? That I can't answer, but I also can see where they're coming from.

The media's failure to do its job in 2002 is one of the reasons I felt compelled to become a journalist.

Matthew Holt said...

Oil price end-2002 = $19 a barrel
Oil Price early-2005 = $50 a barrel

If you need more evidence, Halliburton's stock price Jan 2003 = $9
Haliburton Stock Price Jan 2005 = $22

Anonymous said...

Why they might have rejected it ? Politics as usual, would be my guess. My feeling is this has more to do with current politics rather than the previous politics of the Iraq war.

Now we have Jeb Bush toying with a presidential run, he can't distance himself from his brother, so he is trying to paint (clue:paintings) a rosier picture of him.

Current statements referring to G.W.:

"History will be kind to my brother."

"to have that discipline, to be respectful of the president that hasn't been as respectful of him as he should have been."

If you look at the recent hacking that exposed G.W. paintings, two glaring things come to the surface.

1. It exposes a gentler side of G.W. Bush.

2. The same hacker also provides sensitive intel concerning Benghazi, should Hillary choose to run. They can beat that frenzied Benghazi drum again.

Your well reseached article keeps negative sentiment alive concerning G.W, which is counter productive to the political efforts currently being made to repackage his image for Jeb Bush.

Paul E. "Marbux" Merrell, J.D. said...

The better question is, I think, why are they still ignoring what happened? War crimes including the most heinous, waging wars of aggression, were committed by our nation's top officials and the Obama Administration refused to prosecute, despite our treaty obligation to do so. This is still a very live issue but deliberately shunted to the waste basket every day by mainstream media.

The enormity of the Obama Administration's decision to forego war crime prosecutions defies overstatement. The Nuremberg Trials and the U.N. treaty were intended to establish the principle that no one, victor or loser in war, was above peremptory norms of international law.

By refusing to prosecute, the Obama Administration very effectively announced that the U.S. is not after all subject to international law governing war crimes.

And mainstream media is still pretending that it has no responsibility to pound on that nail until the Rule of Law is restored in this nation's highest office.

Anonymous said...

I remember the invasion started while I was on my way to Milan, Italy. Once I landed, very early in the morning, I saw the front pages of the newspapers featuring horrific photos of the effects of "Shock and Awe," photos that never made it to the pages of any US paper or TV newscast.

I do remember those miserable months and years, yet all those who started the monstrosity and their media enablers have gotten away scott free. Get caught three times with more than a gram of weed, and they put you away for life. Kill a million Iraqis and 5,000 Americans and spend $3 trillion in the process, and you get to be a Washington Post tenured columnist.

For the record: Once the US troops "liberated" Baghdad, the one and only building they secured was not the Defense Ministry, or the Interior Ministry or any of Hussein's many palaces in search of WMD. No, the one building they secured was the Oil Ministry. And 5 years later, the precursors of this horror got their reward:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/19/world/middleeast/19iraq.html?_r=3&oref=login&ref=business&pagewanted=all

Ned said...

Have to agree that the WaPost made the right decision not to publish this piece. It fails (as the Post said) to explore the underlying dynamics at work during the run up to the war.

It is interesting to see how those who were not only wrong, but cheerleaders for the war, explain their earlier positions. But your article doesn't do that in enough depth to provide much help for the NEXT complete media fail. In fact, in some ways, your article represents THE reason for such a fail - it's overly concerned with inside the Beltway personalities, it is quick with a quote, but short on context or analysis, and while replete with examples, leaves out hard data (number and placement of stories, etc) which would make a better case.

Philipp Gruebler said...

Very good article. Maybe the business aspect is missing: KBR reaped contracts for $40bn.
The war in 2003, Powell's famous appearance at the UN, and the role of corporate media was a real eye opener for me personally regarding the credibility of governments and media.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I think the piece is missing: an example of someone who provides what you beleive to be a sincere and proper "mea culpa". Now, admittedly, I haven't SEEN anything like that I could cite. But without it this comes off as "a pox on all your summer homes in the Hamptons".

Jumper said...

Who can conquer a country but not "occupy" it, in the expensive sense, and hope to prevail? Who has accomplished this in history? No one. Why did the press not point out that obvious weirdness? Fire the Iraqui bureacracy yet not replace it with an occupation bureaucracy? It's as if the Bushites and the press WANTED the effort to fail, cost the country a trillion dollars, and bankrupt it.

Anonymous said...

You left Richard Perle off the list.

When asked by Renee Montange whether the cost of the Iraq invasion was worth it, he wouldn't even entertain the question.

Anonymous said...

If I were The Post, I would've spiked the piece, too -- it was abundantly pedestrian.

Jay Warren Clark said...

To Marshall: I knew before the war in Iraq, and you know now, that it doesn't matter which party has control of the White House. So, can't you look deeper than this politics-as-usual answer to what was going on. The arms industry doesn't care who is in the White House--as long as it isn't John Kennedy. There was a hint in the report, the war was going to happen no matter what anyone did or said--short of a general revolt here at home--one the press could not misrepresent or reduce the numbers of. It is the whole system sir. It is rigged; it is corrupt; it is deeply diseased and there is nothing recognizably "American" in it at all. That is gone sir. You and the others must go deeper. As one West Point graduate and Vietnam vet told me recently, "the only hope is to get 2 million angry citizens on the Mall in Washington." Politics as it is divides us and therefore it can not give us a healing solution to such a deep corruption, disease. We must get to the streets. JWC

VECO said...

Don't forget or forgive that even Farheed Zakaria was for the war. He stated on TV, (before he got his own show on CNN) that even his wife was surprised that he endorsed the war. I haven't heard many apologies from those who were for the war.
Not trusting GWB, I knew it was all an excuse to fo in there for oi and to avenge a man who "tried to kil my dady. He didn't have the guts to go to war himself, but sent our precious children to to the dirty work. Every time I see a soldier with missing limbs, sometimes ALL four, I can't imagine how he can sleep at night. Instead he spends his time painting dogs.

Anonymous said...

It was great to review the 400+ comments on Farhi's lame piece the Washington Post ran instead of yours -- almost entirely scathing... and raising many "substantive" points.

Here was mine:

In our culture of toughness, with both parties following a foreign policy based on full-spectrum global military power, it's easy to be pro-war.

And, as Farhi proves again, for journalists here, it's easy to be easy.

"Didn't fail"??? Doesn't GETTING THE STORY WRONG count?

Get only a few parts of the story right, occasionally, and then bury them deep -- but overwhelmingly recycle and amplify the warmongers' lies, often knowingly. That's now, it seems, "not succeeding."

To top it off, Farhi repeats three of the many prominent lapses that led our media astray:

1. Not looking outside the US. Lots of foreign journalists got it right, but there's not much about that – then from most media here, or from Fahri now.

2. Not paying enough attention to the financial imperatives.
We heard more then about the invasion "paying for itself" than we did about the role of oil interests in launching it.
Now we have the the media's major miscoverage analyzed without a word on the connections between major media owners and ownership of major “defense” contractors.
(Can we please wipe some dust off the phrase “follow the money”?)

3. Ignoring the protests. A great source for information and opinion to provide balance? Not then, not now....more

Tom Charles said...

George Will's comment,"if we only had known" is the one that gets me.
Eight years ago I attended a lecture given by a UN Weapons Inspector assigned to Iraq, Marine Major Scott Ritter. He told how they all knew that there were no WMDs, deliberately ignored that clear information and were determined to go to war.
It is said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those that start unnecessary wars. God I hope that is true.

Anonymous said...

It's hard for established pundits and institutions to admit they were massively wrong about an issue because they fear that doing so puts their entire world view at risk. For instance, it would be impossible for a conservative to suggest that we ought to raise taxes on the 1%, because there is the chance that if we actually did so, the economy might prosper and soar to unimaginable heights in spite of the tax hike, thereby decimating decades of conservative orthodoxy. These people are intellectually imprisoned by the status quo.

bill said...

I love George Will's comment about not knowing then what we know now. Didn't know about the absence of WMDs? Didn't know sectarian war would result from getting rid of Saddam? What does George think the State Department and, god help us, the CIA are for? Did he ever ask why Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld ignored the State Department study on how to manage post-war Iraq?

Whispers said...

" ‘What if Saddam is doing all this deception because he actually got rid of the WMD and he doesn’t want the Iranians to know?’ "

It was simpler than that, IMO. Saddam Hussein had to act in a defiant manner for reasons of domestic politics. How much power could he retain if he just rolled over for all the unreasonable demands the US was making?

As always, American pride in our refusal to develop any kind of empathy really bit us in the butt there. The purpose of empathy isn't just to be all touchy-feely and to get a glowy, ET-heart. It's to have a better idea of what a person's motivations actually are.

Given that a hidden store of WMDs would have given the US the excuse it (presumably would have) needed for an invasion, it seemed obvious to me at the time that Iraq was going to lay low. But simply announcing a strategy of appeasement would have been political suicide. And in Iraq, political suicide for a dictator is pretty much the same thing as literal suicide.

So Saddam kept up a partial facade.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that the invasion of Iraq would have proceeded anyway had the US corporate media done its job with integrity.

The overwhelming majority of world governments and their people opposed the unilateral US-led invasion. Recall that Bush & Blair avoided a final UN vote because it could not pass, and our own NATO ally Turkey refused to let US forces deploy from their soil.

The world majority opposed an invasion because in THOSE countries the news media did what the US media would not: call lies "lies" and report phony evidence of WMDs as "phony evidence."

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair et. al were discredited numerous times within hours of making false public statements; they were caught red-handed citing fake evidence (remember the fake satellite photos at the Bush-Blair presser? the non-existent IAEA report claiming Iraq was months from making a nuclear weapon? The forged letters from Niger?).

In other countries, these incidents were reported accurately: as "lies." The proponents were accurately described as "liars" attempting to deceive the public.

Had the US media been as honest and accurate in ITS reporting, I think public & political resistance would have been much stronger.

Richard Braverman said...

Why is anyone surprised ?
The so-called intelligentsia, the IN-crowd in Washington and New York don't care about Americans. Why would anyone be surprised that they don't care about Iraqis and don't care about Muslims.

Power in Washington and Media circles demands genuflection to Israel. To be liked, to be popular, to guarantee one's career, a politician or a journalist must defend and support pro-Israeli policies, no matter how harmful those policies maybe to the United States, no matter how horrific those policies may be to ordinary people throughout the world.

The real question is why do average Americans swallow these lies, these heresies, these evils every time.

To an Iraqi the guilty party is America not George Bush or Judith Miller.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to mention Knight-Ridder and their excellent pre-war pieces.

Let's give kudos where they're due.

IIRC, they separated themselves from the lame-stream media.

woid said...

I was horrified, but not at all surprised, to hear NPR's Morning Edition, in a piece about the 10th anniversary of this disaster, bringing on as an expert... Richard Perle.

The interview, if you can call it that, didn't challenge Perle in any substantial way. It just gave him a platform to rationalize the war. He and the other warmongers were right, you see. They just had a few facts wrong, you see, which of course was not their fault. The real problem (and not at all Perle's problem) was that no one could possibly have foreseen the sectarian violence the war touched off among those ungrateful Iraqis.

NPR neglected to give an address to which liberated Iraqis can send Perle fruit and flowers

Anonymous said...

David Frum could have at least tried self-immolation. It may not have stopped the war, but it would still have been worth it.

Anonymous said...

As for the timing of the war, it was rushed to prevent the UN from completing its investigation that was establishing that Iraq had no WMD.

Anonymous said...

With only two semesters of International Relations studies under my belt at the time of the invasion, I realized that the U.S., by invading Iraq and deposing its dictator would be giving Iran, Iraq's enemy in a long war , a great gift. History has proven me right and all those experts in Washington wrong. Can I get a job?

Paul E. "Marbux" Merrell, J.D. said...

@anonymous. Time will tell but given that Iran was placed on the neocon hit list years before Iraq was invaded and that Iran has already been hit with very stiff economic sanctions (an act of war), I think it's too soon to issue any job offers. :-)

-- Paul E. Merrell, J.D.

Paul E. "Marbux" Merrell, J.D. said...

@anonymous. Time will tell but given that Iran was placed on the neocon hit list years before Iraq was invaded and that Iran has already been hit with very stiff economic sanctions (an act of war), I think it's too soon to issue any job offers. :-)

Anonymous said...

The perpetrators of 9/11 were Saudis and Jihadists. Sadam Hussein ran a secular regime that opposed jihadists. That basic inconsistency had me thinking "bogus" from the get-go, plus the reports of inspectors that there were no WMDs. Such simple facts buried by "smoking gun" propaganda. So clearly a lack of a plan to follow the "pre-emptive' strike--itself a historical slap in the face to all Americans, just like torture. So many simple facts dropped in the dustbin. Guarding the Oil Ministry but not the repository of all the art and long history of a cradle of civilization. The swaggering draft-dodger son trying to outdo his daddy and be a war president to make himself so popular. Obvious facts, toss them out the window. The mainstream media deserves a huge amount of blame for the Iraq fiasco if even a simpleton like me, with no appropriate background, could spot all the holes and things that didn't add up. But the MSM, like all of Washington, refuses to take blame, no matter how horrific the outcome. Good grief, is there any hope for us?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article. The neocons once called us anti-American and in league with terrorist. It is now refreshing to have a bit of vindication; especially with the ever increasing volume of facts being released. This article is a good record of some of the bigger forces who dragged our country into the ill conceived & executed Iraq invasion.

PS: The Paul Farhi "press didn't fail" piece was an absolute disgrace to the printed word. The Washington Post needs to issue an apology for that mockery.