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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Eleven Years Ago: David Brooks, Iraq War Hawk

You'd never know from his claims over the past few years, but New York Times pundit David Brooks was a full-throated hawk for the tragic U.S. invasion of Iraq and swallowed all of the Bush administration claims  about WMD whole.   He attempted to muddy the waters, long ago, after WMD were not found and the "liberation" proved to be a disaster by blaming the post-invasion disaster all on Rumsfeld, perhaps figuring that if he became known as a war critic folks would forget that he'd promoted the conflict from the beginning.  Not a chance, in my case.   Brooks, meet elephant in room.  (And see my new e-book, So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits and the President Failed on Iraq, with preface by Bruce Springsteen.)

Here's an excerpt from a column he wrote  at his then-home, The Weekly Standard, March 10, 2003:
The American commentariat is gravely concerned. Over the past week, George W. Bush has shown a disturbing tendency not to waffle when it comes to Iraq. There has been an appalling clarity and coherence to his position. There has been a reckless tendency not to be murky, hesitant, or evasive. Naturally, questions are being raised about President Bush's leadership skills.
Meanwhile, among the smart set, Hamlet-like indecision has become the intellectual fashion. The liberal columnist E. J. Dionne wrote in the Washington Post that he is uncomfortable with the pro and antiwar camps. He praised the doubters and raised his colors on behalf of ‘heroic ambivalence.’ The New York Times, venturing deep into the territory of self-parody, ran a full-page editorial calling for ‘still more discussion’ on whether or not to go to war.

In certain circles, it is not only important what opinion you hold, but how you hold it. It is important to be seen dancing with complexity, sliding among shades of gray. Any poor rube can come to a simple conclusion--that President Saddam Hussein is a menace who must be disarmed--but the refined ratiocinators want to be seen luxuriating amid the difficulties, donning the jewels of nuance, even to the point of self-paralysis. …
But those who actually have to lead and protect, and actually have to build one step on another, have to bring some questions to a close. Bush gave Saddam time to disarm. Saddam did not. Hence, the issue of whether to disarm him forcibly is settled. The French and the Germans and the domestic critics may keep debating, which is their luxury, but the people who actually make the decisions have moved on to more practical concerns….
From his Weekly Standard column on March 24, two weeks later:
The president has remained resolute. Momentum to liberate Iraq continues to build. The situation has clarified, and history will allow clear judgments about which leaders and which institutions were up to the challenge posed by Saddam and which were not.

Over the past 12 years the United States has sought to disarm or depose Saddam--more forcefully since September 11 than before. Throughout that time, France and Russia have sought to undermine sanctions and fend off the ousting of Saddam. They opposed Clinton's efforts to bomb Saddam, just as they oppose Bush's push for regime change. Through the fog and verbiage, that is the essential confrontation. Events will show who was right, George W. Bush or Jacques Chirac.

What matters, and what ultimately sprang the U.N. trap, is American resolve. The administration simply wouldn't let up. It didn't matter how Hans Blix muddied the waters with his reports on this or that weapons system. Under the U.N. resolutions, it was up to Saddam to disarm, administration officials repeated ad nauseam, and he wasn't doing it. It was and is sheer relentlessness that has driven us to where we are today.
Which is ironic. We are in this situation because the first Bush administration was not relentless in its pursuit of Saddam Hussein. That is a mistake this Bush administration will not repeat.
Also see my new piece recalling 16 or the worst media outrages re: Iraq.

Greg Mitchell's influential book "So Wrong For So Long," on the media and the Iraq war, has been published in an updated edition and for the first time as an e-book. 


Anonymous said...

David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, Peter Beinart, right wing lapdogs like George Will and Bill Kristol... There was a whole smattering of Iraq invasion cheerleaders in their cute little cheerleading outfits, waving their pom-pons and cheering on George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Richard Perle and the rest of the PNAC neocons.

The ones that particularly galled me were the Beinarts of the world who attacked critics on the left while claiming to be "of the left."

Most of us knew that David Brooks was Karl Rove's ventriloquist dummy, mouthing whatever Karl had just whispered in his ear.

I'm glad you're reminding Brooks. But, of course, he has no shame. He'll just write some pseudo-intellectual/psychological drivel justifying his earlier position.

Or, more likely, he won't mention his hypocrisy and duplicity at all.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Ezra Klein and the vile Chris Hitchens. His "fifth column" piece was particularly disgusting.
We weren't just critics of the ill-advised and monumentally ill-planned invasion and occupation of Iraq, we were to be viewed with suspicion.

Ezra Klein wasn't so much Dubya's lapdog as David Broder's. He was a cheerleader when that was the popular position and the antithesis when the tide turned against the war. He wrote a mea culpa for his support but it was a half-measure that all but blamed the anti war movement for not being civilized enough to be taken seriously. Hitchens is dead but Ezra has shiny new venture paid for by someone who has more money than imagination.

The point is, the pundits and opinion makers who cheered a war that stacked dead bodies like cord wood, continue to write and speak and get booked on TV. What this proves is our pundit class is dysfunctional. We need an upgrade.
They're some of the most vapid, self absorbed people on the face of the planet.

Anonymous said...

"Fifth column" remarkd was made by Sullivan....another guy WRONG on the war.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget about the odious Chris Tweety Matthews who goes on and on NOW about he was against the war but he was SO for it at the time. Supposedly he and Russert went to the head of BSNBC and got Phil Donahue fired from his show for being anti-war. And I clearly remember watching Tweety and G. Gordon Liddy (!) sitting there watching the Mission Accomplished farce drooling all over themselves about the codpiece Smirk was wearing and how he was a hero and women love war and oh my gosh I have to go take a shower.

Anonymous said...

The "fifth column" lie was published by Andrew Sullivan.

Anonymous said...

In response to the comment before mine, the "fifth column" piece was by Andrew Sullivan a few days after 9/11, not by Chris Hitchens about the Iraq War, unless I missed something the latter wrote (which is certainly possible).

Anonymous said...

Brooks is particularly annoying for he is now publishing articles about some inexplicable democratic defecit which just happened to pop up after the "fall of the Soviet Union." Brooks dispassionately observes the deficit to result from the lack of a worthwhile opponent to the apparently visionless free world, completing ignoring the effect an illegal/useless war has had on citizens of democracies, particularly the most powerful one. To paraphrase the late Christopher Hitchens, warmongers should be out on the street, selling pencils from a cup.