Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Is the McClellan Iraq War Disclosure a Surprise?

The former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has come under blistering attacks from the Bush surrogates and the media for his memoirs implicating Bush, Cheney, Rove, and the media in the Iraq war deception. McClellan writes in "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception" that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated "political propaganda campaign" led by President Bush and aimed at "manipulating sources of public opinion" and "downplaying the major reason for going to war."

McClellan writes in the new book that President Bush "veered terribly off course" and "rushed" to an unnecessary war in Iraq.

Regarding the media complicity, McClellan writes, "And through it all, the media would serve as complicit enablers. Their primary focus would be on covering the campaign to sell the war, rather than aggressively questioning the rationale for war or pursuing the truth behind it… the media would neglect their watchdog role, focusing less on truth and accuracy and more on whether the campaign was succeeding."

While the Bush team and the media are expressing utter surprise and shock at these revelations, the fact is that other former Bush officials have said similar things after their departure, though not as explicitly as McClellan has.

"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill told CBS, after the release of his tell-all book in 2004. "For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap." The implication in O'Neill's remark is that the Iraq war decision was made well before any of the "facts" such as Saddam's WMD were invented to support it.

"The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason," former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in a Pentagon transcript of an interview with Vanity Fair in 2003.

In terms of media complicity, the term "embedded journalists" was invented during the Iraq war. The deceptive selling of Iraq war was exemplified by the WMD reporting by Judith Miller for the New York Times. She was eventually let go by NY Times after her reputation was completely tarnished for her false WMD reports and involvement in the Valerie Plame affair. Earlier, Judith Miller was accepted in media circles to be an expert in weapons of mass destruction as well as on Islam, despite her lack of a science background and her inability to speak Arabic. When she initially joined the Times staff, Miller’s beat was the banking and securities industry.

It is clear that both the Bush supporters and the media are faking a surprise here at McClellan's "revelations". Too many of them were participants in the conspiracy to invade Iraq. What the Americans need now is to be alert to the coming deception to invade Iran or Pakistan or some other country in the last days of the trigger-happy Bush-Cheney administration. Such an invasion would create another huge mess for the next president who'd already be saddled with massive deficits generated by what Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz calls "The Three Trillion Dollar War".


Riaz Haq said...

Jessica Yellen on CNN said in her coverage of the McClellan story that she personally felt a lot of p0ressure from the media execs and editors to present positive stories about President Bush and the war prior to and at the start of the Iraq war. Her pieces were either heavily edited or not given the space/time or both. She hastened to add that she wasn't with CNN at the time. I believe she was with ABC and MSNBC prior to joining CNN.

Riaz Haq said...

Katie Couric of CBS has expressed similar sentiments as Jessica Yellin. She says there was pressure by corp media execs to support the administration in its march toward the Iraq war.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Paul Krugman's Op Ed in NY Times on 10th anniversary of Iraq war:

So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it.

The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that “everyone” thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents — but they were out of the mainstream.

The trouble with this argument is that it was and is circular: support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration. This was true in political circles; it was equally true of much of the press, which effectively took sides and joined the war party.

CNN’s Howard Kurtz, who was at The Washington Post at the time, recently wrote about how this process worked, how skeptical reporting, no matter how solid, was discouraged and rejected. “Pieces questioning the evidence or rationale for war,” he wrote, “were frequently buried, minimized or spiked.”

Closely associated with this taking of sides was an exaggerated and inappropriate reverence for authority. Only people in positions of power were considered worthy of respect. Mr. Kurtz tells us, for example, that The Post killed a piece on war doubts by its own senior defense reporter on the grounds that it relied on retired military officials and outside experts — “in other words, those with sufficient independence to question the rationale for war.”

All in all, it was an object lesson in the dangers of groupthink, a demonstration of how important it is to listen to skeptical voices and separate reporting from advocacy. But as I said, it’s a lesson that doesn’t seem to have been learned. Consider, as evidence, the deficit obsession that has dominated our political scene for the past three years.

Now, I don’t want to push the analogy too far. Bad economic policy isn’t the moral equivalent of a war fought on false pretenses, and while the predictions of deficit scolds have been wrong time and again, there hasn’t been any development either as decisive or as shocking as the complete failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Best of all, these days dissenters don’t operate in the atmosphere of menace, the sense that raising doubts could have devastating personal and career consequences, that was so pervasive in 2002 and 2003. (Remember the hate campaign against the Dixie Chicks?)

But now as then we have the illusion of consensus, an illusion based on a process in which anyone questioning the preferred narrative is immediately marginalized, no matter how strong his or her credentials. And now as then the press often seems to have taken sides. It has been especially striking how often questionable assertions are reported as fact. How many times, for example, have you seen news articles simply asserting that the United States has a “debt crisis,” even though many economists would argue that it faces no such thing?

In fact, in some ways the line between news and opinion has been even more blurred on fiscal issues than it was in the march to war. As The Post’s Ezra Klein noted last month, it seems that “the rules of reportorial neutrality don’t apply when it comes to the deficit.”

What we should have learned from the Iraq debacle was that you should always be skeptical and that you should never rely on supposed authority. If you hear that “everyone” supports a policy, whether it’s a war of choice or fiscal austerity, you should ask whether “everyone” has been defined to exclude anyone expressing a different opinion. ...

Riaz Haq said...

I'm sorry: #UK Ex PM #Blair takes blame for #Iraq War, Creation of #ISIS. #BlairWarCriminal via @MailOnline

Former PM makes the confession after 12 years of refusing to apologise
Blair says he is sorry for his conduct which has now led to 'hell' in Iraq
Says there is an element of truth that the war caused the rise of ISIS
Comes after Lord Blunkett revealed he had challenged Blair about the war

Tony Blair has finally said sorry for the Iraq War – and admitted he could be partly to blame for the rise of Islamic State.
The extraordinary confession by the former Prime Minister comes after 12 years in which he refused to apologise for the conflict.
Blair makes his dramatic ‘mea culpa’ during a TV interview about the ‘hell’ caused by his and George Bush’s decision to oust Saddam Hussein.