Zero tolerance for Iraq War pundits who blew it
BY Ted Rall
A year and a half late and 30,000 lives short, supporters of the war in Iraq finally admit that they were wrong.
When I appeared on Bill OReillys show recently, his bellicose bravado was M.I.A. We argued about Bush and war, but he studiously avoided talking about Iraq. The Fox News demagogue limited his attacks to my opposition to the war against Afghanistan. To his credit, OReilly, formerly a ferocious advocate of the Iraqi invasion, was one of the first media war promoters to concede that Iraq had never been a threat to the United States. I was wrong, he told ABC in February. I think every American should be very concerned that weapons of mass destruction have not been found.
Over at The New York Times, two pro-war columnists who repeatedly parroted the Bush party line arguing that Gulf War II was a noble experiment in Middle Eastern democracy, accusing opponents of appeasing Saddam and repeatedly ridiculing skeptics as knee-jerk pacifists who didnt care about the long-suffering Iraqis have ordered up a heaping plate of crow. We went into Iraq with what, in retrospect, seems like a childish fantasy, allows Republican war pimp David Brooks. We were going to topple Saddam, establish democracy and hand the country back to grateful Iraqis. We expected to be universally admired when it was all over. For us to succeed in Iraq, he concludes now, we have to lose [to the insurgency].
Thomas Friedman, a 1949-style Cold War liberal who spilled tens of thousands of words pushing a war sold using lies, confesses that he projected good intent on a White House where idealism was in short supply: I thought the administration would have to do the right things in Iraq from prewar planning and putting in enough troops to dismissing the secretary of defense for incompetence because surely this was the most important thing for the president and the country. But I was wrong.
I supported the war and now I feel foolish, says CNNs Tucker Carlson.
Back in August 2002, Newsweek hawk Fareed Zakaria argued: Done right, an invasion would be the single best path to reform the Arab world. Were Saddams totalitarian regime to be replaced by a state that respected human rights, enforced the rule of law and created a market economy, it could begin to transform that world. And if done right, tax cuts could have stimulated the economy. But Bush hadnt done anything right when Zakaria wrote that. The administrations brazenly dishonest and inept post-9/11 record not the Rights fictional knee-jerk Bush-bashing is why half the country never trusted his blandishments about W.M.D.s, the fictional Saddam-Osama link, or nation-building.
Ah, but the new and improved Zakaria finally gets it: On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq, [Bushs] assumptions and policies have been wrong. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw.
Were supposed to be grateful that Zakaria and his fellow war pimps are finally! recognizing reality. At least theyre better than Bush, who still thinks torture can convert the Iraqis to democracy: I wont yield, he said May 13. But these prominent pundits too have blood on their hands.
Had they stood firmly against the war and Bush, on the right side of history, they might have helped slow or even reverse the rush to war during the winter of 2002-03. Their failure to accurately assess the case for war, coupled with their willful blindness to this administrations neofascist tendencies, contributed to needless carnage, attacks on individual rights and the creation of dozens of covert C.I.A. gulags around the world. Every time someone was raped at Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Base or Gitmo, Tom Friedman and Christopher Hitchens and Bill OReilly and David Brooks were de facto accomplices.
The WordPerfect Warriors journalistic failings are even more pronounced than their moral ones. On an issue with enormous political and historical ramifications for our country, they got the story wrong. They believed in W.M.D.s at a time when the vintage of the governments evidence (none of it was more recent than 1998) ought to have tripped B.S. detectors. They trusted the White Houses promises to rebuild Iraq despite its dismal record in Afghanistan. They never considered that removing a dictator who had killed all of his major opponents might open up a power vacuum. And they never questioned Bushs original sin, his partisan politicization of 9/11.
They should have known better lots of us did. Or they did know better and lied about it. Whether their integrity or their intelligence was compromised, they should never again be taken seriously.
The pro-war pundits got the biggest story of their careers dead wrong. Now a lot of people are wrongly dead. The fact that this sorry lot still draw paychecks is a tribute to Americas infinite capacity for forgiveness.
Ralls most recent book is Gas War: The Truth Behind the American Occupation of Afghanistan.