The “Monday morning quarterback” is commonly disparaged for criticizing,
with the advantage of hindsight, those whose earlier reports and
predictions, based necessarily upon limited and faulty information,
prove to be false. To be sure, such “hindsighters,” when they “rub it
in,” can be quite disagreeable.
And yet, if reports and predictions that turn out to be false are not
critically examined in retrospect, then, as Santayana warned, having
failed to learn from history, we may be condemned to repeat it.
Equally disagreeable are those mistaken reporters and prophets who
attempt to excuse their errors by revising history. For example, the
Judith Miller of the
New York Times reflects: “WMD – I got it
totally wrong... The analysts, the experts and the journalists who
covered them – we were all wrong.”
Alas, poor Judith is undone by Google and the written
record. For in fact,
as Arianna Huffington cites, numerous reporters and experts “got
it right” in advance of this dreadful fiasco of a war. So too did
some ten million ordinary citizens throughout the world who took to the
streets to protest the pending war.
Ms. Miller’s excuse? “If your sources are wrong, you are wrong. I did
the best job that I could." Not really. If your primary source is Ahmed
Chalabi, a convicted embezzler who aspires to be installed by US forces
as the next President of Iraq, and not Hans Blix, Mohamed ElBaradei, and
the UN inspectors in Iraq who are finding no WMDs, then you are not
doing the best job that you can. One would suppose that an ability to
scrupulously evaluate one’s sources should be a fundamental
qualification for a job with the New York Times.
While there was abundant reason not to believe
administration’s lies that led us into the war, the mainstream
media, for the most part, reported those lies without critical analysis
and rebuttal. Among them:
“Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam
Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin,
mustard, and VX nerve agent.” (George W. Bush, State of the Union,
January 28, 2003).
The British government has learned that Saddam
Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from
“We believe [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted
nuclear weapons.” (Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003).
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam
Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt
that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our
allies, and against us.” (Dick Cheney, August 26, 2002).
“We know where [the WMDs] are. They're in the area
around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.”
(Donald Rumsfeld, March 30, 2003).
And who can forget Colin Powell’s show-and-tell before
the UN Security Council, featuring the Winnebagos of Death and the
deadly vial of anthrax (don’t drop it, Colin!).
The MSM bought it
all, without a peep of skepticism. We now know that it was a tissue
Early on, most of the public believed the Bushevik lies: that Saddam had
WMDs and was hard at work pursuing nuclear weapons, that Saddam’s Iraq
was involved in the 9/11 attacks, and that Saddam was in cahoots with
Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. And who can blame them? Judith Miller’s
delusions were being printed on the front page of the New York Times,
“the newspaper of historical record.” Colin Powell’s credibility was
pure gold. And surely, the President, the Veep, and the SecDef wouldn’t
say such things if they were flat-out false. Ari Fleischer told us so on
December 5, 2002:
The president of the United States and the secretary
of defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that
Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they
did not have a solid basis for saying it.
But an alert, skeptical and resourceful media should
have known better; that same media that could for eight years, search
relentlessly, if futilely, to find some criminality in Bill and Hillary
Clinton’s real estate investments.
So we return now to our implied opening question: is it fair today to
hold the mainstream media, and to be sure, members of Congress,
responsible for their pre-war endorsement of Bush and Cheney’s invasion
and subsequent occupation of Iraq?
I submit that it is fair to do so. There are compelling and enduring
facts that anyone, including Tom Friedman, Fareed Zakaria, Peter Beinart,
Christopher Hitchens, etc., should have known – facts that clearly
indicated, before the war, that such a war would be the disaster that it
has turned out to be. These facts and their implications were equally
accessible to the 77 Senators (29 Democrats) and 296 House members (81
Democrats) when they voted for the Iraq War Resolution in October, 2002.
What We Should Have Known.
Saddam’s alleged WMDs were being extensively searched for, with
negative results. In the fall of 2002, Saddam complied with UN
Resolution 1441 and allowed UN inspectors to travel freely throughout
Iraq. Up to the time they were warned to leave, days before the US
invasion, the inspectors found no evidence of WMDs. Had there been no US
attack, the UN inspectors would surely have continued their work and, as
we now know, would have found no WMDs. There was no justification in
halting these inspections, and compelling reason to continue them.
The Bushevik lies were readily refutable. Informed individuals in
the media and in Congress knew full-well (or at least could have known)
that there were no Iraqis among the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, and that
Saddam and bin Laden were sworn enemies. There was no evidence that
Saddam was in any way involved in the 9/11 attacks. (In a careless
moment, George Bush admitted as much). According to nuclear
experts, the aluminum tubes that had excited Judith Miller’s concern
had no application in nuclear weapons production. Informed individuals
were also well-aware that the UN inspectors had found no WMDs in Iraq.
The lies of Bush (“...uranium from Africa”), Cheney (“there is no doubt...”)
and Rumsfeld (“We know where they are...”) were never accompanied with
evidence, because, as we now know, there was none. Accordingly, it was
abundantly clear to those open to an objective analysis of available
evidence, that Iraq posed no immediate threat to the United States.
The UN Security Council did not sanction a US invasion of Iraq.
The Bush claim that they had such approval was another lie. On November
8, 2002, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1441 which
warned Saddam of “serious consequences” if he failed to comply fully
with the UN inspectors. And as noted above, Saddam was in compliance of
that order. On March 7, 2003, the US proposed a resolution which would,
in effect, authorize war if Iraq failed to agree to disarm
unconditionally. When France and Russia indicated that they would veto
the measure, it was not brought to a vote. Two weeks later, on
March 20, Bush launched the Iraq war without the sanction of the United
Nations Security Council.
Wars cause the death and the mutilation of innocent
men, women and children, and cause others to lose their homes and
livelihood. Read the pre-war incitements of the Iraq hawks, or
of the Iran hawks today, and ask yourself: how often and how much do
these inevitable human miseries enter into their calculations?
Astonishingly and appallingly little, by my recollection.
Nations, including those that might welcome
“liberation,” will not tolerate occupation. This compelling truth applies, not to those
who advocated invasion, but to those who defend the ongoing occupation.
And if there are any lessons of history, this must be prominent among
There are laws that prohibit aggressive warfare
against unthreatening nations. The most important compelling and enduring fact is this:
the Iraq war, against an unthreatening nation and without Security
Council sanction, is illegal. The Nuremberg Accords, signed by the
United States and thus with the status of law (Article Six of the US
Constitution), expressly forbids wars of aggression. As Justice Robert
Jackson, chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trial of 1946 wrote, "To
initiate a war of aggression ... is not only an international crime; it
is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes
in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
Iran with Foresight.
One can understand and contemplate all of these considerations (the
inspection issue aside) in advance of the impending hostilities against Iran. The Bush/Cheney lies
about Iran are readily refutable, Iran poses no immediate threat to the
United States, there is no United Nations sanction for an attack, the
costs in human death and suffering are intolerable, and
such an attack would be a violation of international law.
In addition, we know now that such an attack would seriously constrict
the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, likely bring Russia and China
into an alliance with Iran, unite the Islamic nations against us, and
alienate the rest of the world from the United States.
And yet, a sizeable portion of the mainstream media is cranking up the
same propaganda points that we heard on the run-up to the Iraq war, with
little more than a change in the final consonant of the name of the
alleged “enemy.” The opposing president is “another Hitler,” he is
giving material support to our “enemies,” he is developing weapons of
mass destruction to use against us, etc.
If we proceed with this folly and attack Iran, the survivors, surveying
the wreckage around them, will have no justification in lamenting, “How
could we have known beforehand that it would come to this?”
Copyright 2007 by Ernest Partridge