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Step off, old man!
Thursday, 13 January 2005
James Wolcott says
This is from

"I do believe in being skeptical at all times, and I would assume any writer or commentator would wish to have a healthy skepticism as standard operating equipment. I was skeptical about the claims and rationales for the war in Iraq, and three years later I don't think such skepticism was unjustified. Today we learned that the search for WMDs is being wrapped up with no evidence of banned weapons being discovered. Now Simon has posted that the WMD threat was never the primary reason he supported the war. That may be. But that's how it was sold to the American people with scare talk to convince us that we must act now before it was Too Late and, as Condi Rice said more than once, the next smoking gun turned out to be a mushroom cloud. And again and again warbloggers would pounce upon a discovery of this mobile lab or that stash of shells or that trace of ricin and say aha! here they are, why aren't the MSM reporting this?--only to learn a few days later this was rusty material left over from the Iran-Iraq war.

Simon is palsy-walsy with Michael Ledeen, who sometimes posts on Simon's site and is (or was) collaborating with him on a screenplay. Ten days after the 9/11 attacks, Ledeen published a column called "Creative Destruction"--neocons love creative destruction, especially the destruction part--in which he tee'd Iraq and Iran for regime change, even though at at this point the U.S. hadn't engaged the Taliban. Ledeen lamented that the intelligence and foreign policy establishment had done so little to fan the flames of freedom in the region. To wit,

"In Iraq, we have halfheartedly supported an umbrella organization, the Iraqi National Congress, under the outstanding leadership of Ahmed Chalabi.

"Yet the State Department, as recently as yesterday, was still telling them that they must not, under any circumstances, operate inside Iraq. That is sheer folly, for it guarantees that we get the worst of both worlds: We enrage Saddam even further, but ensure that we won't be able to get close to his throat. The president should order these embarrassing restrictions removed, give full support to this democratic resistance movement, and encourage the downtrodden and long suffering Iraqi people to join Chalabi and win their freedom."

Well, the Bushies heeded Ledeen and his fellow neocons and embraced the "outstanding leadership" of Chalabi and the Iraqi exiles, who fed them and us factoids and fantasies about what would unfold in Iraq when the tanks liberated Baghdad. Jim Lobe, delving into a 220 page report from the Defense Science Board regarding the preplanning for the war, writes:

"Before the war, the Pentagon civilians, who were backed by Vice President Dick Cheney, sought to exclude the State Department or the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from postwar planning and operations largely because of their belief that the two agencies would promote Sunni Arab nationalists in the place of Saddam Hussein. They, on the other hand, supported exile leader Ahmed Chalabi, a secular Shi'ite who, they believed, was committed to a thorough de-Ba'athification of Iraq and staunch alignment with the U.S. and even Israel.

"They also believed Chalabi's repeated assurances that U.S. troops would be greeted as 'liberators' by virtually all Iraqis, rather than as 'occupiers' and so planned to quickly draw down the 140,000 troops who invaded the country to only about 30,000 by early 2005."

Well, we've seen how well that panned out. Pessimism, schmessifism. It doesn't matter if the glass is half-empty or half full if the glass is filled with blood needlessly shed.

And today Simon is all caffeinated about another urgent summons from Norman Podhoretz to gird our loins and show the fortitude to wage World War IV. Ledeen, Chalabi, Podhoretz--these are your comrades, Mr. Simon, and you're welcome to them.

01.12.05 1:28PM ? LINK ? Pings (3)

Howard Fineman: Still Searching for the Perfect Shade of Lipstick
Posted by James Wolcott
Tbogg, wincing, directs us to a demure pile of Howard Fineman fingernail parings about how "Rathergate" spells the demise of the "Media Party."

Forget for a moment that Fineman, a mucky-mucky at Newsweek and MSNBC pundit who preens like a courtier, jeers at the "Media Party" as if he weren't a fully paid-up club member with spa privileges. When he writes, "It's hard to know now who, if anyone, in the 'media' has any credibility," it doesn't penetrate his pancake makeup that few have less credibility than he, and not because he's tilted at too many windmills and missed.

No, what's startling is Fineman's ignorance of the history and dynamics of his own profession. He now looks at journalism not through the eyes of a journalist but through the contemptuous eyes of those he covers, sharing their disdain.

One supremely, fatuously blithe sentence says it all. Writing about the media's bloodhound pursuit of the truth about the war in Southeast Asia and Watergate, Fineman, lolling in the comfort of hindsight, observes, "The crusades of Vietnam and Watergate seemed like a good idea at the time, even a noble one, not only to the press but perhaps to a majority of Americans."

1) I would say that those "crusades" also seem like pretty goddam good ideas in retrospect, considering that the alternatives were endless slaughter in Vietnam and the complete subversion of the Constitution and a gangster mentality unchained had Watergate never been investigated. I have to believe that if Howard Fineman had been an editor in 1972, he would have shrugged off Watergate and assigned his reporters to meatier stories, such as finding out who's designing Mrs. Nixon's inauguration gown and how well it drapes.

2) The notion that Vietnam and Watergate were press "crusades" is an ignorant and idiotic telescoping of history. During much of the buildup and carnage in Vietnam, the establishment papers and newsweeklies (Time, particularly) were resolutely for the war as a bulwark against Communist incursion in Southeast Asia (the domino theory), as were the American people. The opposition came from the fringe--Ramparts, Evergreen Review, underground papers, I. F. Stone's Weekly (I.F. Stone, who should be the patron saint of Koufax bloggers)--and bled into the mainstream middle as the carnage continued unabated with no end in sight. Reporters in the field who saw how badly the war was going constantly fought with their editors in NY and DC, who watered down their dispatches. The press turned against Vietnam when the chasm between what was coming out of the Pentagon and White House and what their own reporters were telling them and their cameras showing them became too wide to bridge. It was an unfolding process. (If Walter Cronkite had said the Vietnam war was unwinnable in 1966, he would have sounded like a mad prophet. By 1968, when he issued his dire prognosis, he was voicing what so many knew but had been reluctant to say.) The public slowly turned against the war because of the mounting casualties, deaths that seemed more and more futile. The Gallup Poll today showing that 50% of the American people now believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake reflects the same pattern of attrition.

As for Watergate, Fineman makes it sound like the entire press suited up in armor and mounted their steeds into battle at the first trumpet. Hardly. The Watergate breakin was dismissed as a second-rate burglary of trifling interest with Woodward and Bernstein's digging being dismissed at the outset as a snipe hunt by the loftier placed in the media. Watergate didn't become a "crusade" until the story became so juicy, the evidence of corruption so pervasive, and the testimonies so riveting, that the entire nation was transfixed.

When you see how gullibly the media swallowed the lies and claims from the Bush administration and their neocon mouthpieces about WMDs in Iraq, it's pretty damned hard to accept the notion that the Media Party suffers from an excess of prosecutorial zeal, and that we're all better off with the ghost of Edward R. Murrow finally being sucked into the ventilator so that reporters can resume a more modest role shining Karl Rove's shoes.

Posted by brettdavey at 1:14 PM EST
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