April 11, 2008—One of the many annoyances about living in George W. Bush’s Washington is to read the commentaries about the Iraq War on the editorial pages of the Washington Post. Possibly never in modern times has a major newspaper been more wrong, more consistently with more arrogance than has the Post on this vital issue.
Beyond getting almost nothing right – from the Post’s certitude over Iraq’s WMD to its reverence for Colin Powell’s U.N. testimony to its excitement over the purple-ink elections to its enthusiasm over whatever latest corner has been turned – the Post also has this obnoxious tendency to mock Americans who don’t share the paper’s wisdom.
One might have thought that editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt and the Graham family would have learned a few lessons in humility from their wretched record as cheerleader for what even many Republicans now acknowledge has been a disastrous war.
As Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher, wrote in a column dated March 11, 2007:
“By now, nearly four years into the Iraq War and related controversies, one is tempted to simply disregard the Washington Post editorial page, and some of its regular columnists, on those matters: They have been so wrong on nearly everything for so long.” [See Mitchell’s new book, So Wrong for So Long.]
But self-criticism is not the Post’s way. Instead the editorial page is back again, mocking those who haven’t submitted to the new conventional wisdom about Bush’s courageous “surge” decision and its brilliant implementation by Gen. David Petraeus.
So, after Petraeus’s Senate testimony on April 8, Hiatt and his team were chortling about politicians – particularly Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – who had doubted that the surge would turn the war around.
In its April 9 lead editorial, the Post noted that when Petraeus last testified in September 2007, “the military results of the U.S. troop surge in Iraq, though significant, were still so preliminary that much of the debate centered on whether they were real.”
When Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker returned this time, “the reduction of violence had been so great as to be undeniable. Sen. Barack Obama, who predicted that the surge would not slow the bloodshed, was among the Democrats who acknowledged yesterday that it had.”
The Post also was awed by the progress on Iraq’s political front.
“Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker have gotten more confident about calling the surge a success, and rightly so,” the Post exclaimed.
It was almost as if the editorial had been written before the latest upsurge in violence and the outbreak of new political disorder in Iraq, with Shiite factions now battling among themselves as well as against Sunnis – with rockets raining down on the heavily fortified Green Zone and with casualties, including American dead, spiking.
The greatest “success” of the surge seemingly was to buy time for President Bush to run out the clock so he could end his presidency with roughly the same number of troops in Iraq as were there when the voters overturned the Republican congressional majorities in 2006.
It’s also clear that other developments – such as Sunni tribes accepting U.S. money not to shoot at American soldiers, Moqtada al-Sadr declaring a unilateral cease-fire for his Shiite militia, and de facto ethnic cleansing – also contributed to the drop in the horrendous levels of violence in 2006. But little of lasting substance actually had occurred.
Still, what was perhaps most galling about the Post’s editorial was its smug attitude that only Iraq War supporters respect the facts while the war's critics are lost in their destructive partisan fantasies.
This up-is-down hubris has been a hallmark of Washington neoconservatives for years, especially as they constructed the make-believe world that has left 4,000 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead. [For more on the neocons, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege or Neck Deep.]
Yet, as the Post presents it, the neocons recognize the reality of success in Iraq, while the war's critics insist on seeking cheap political gain.
The Post continued: “What hasn’t changed is the partisan debate over Iraq, which as Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) lamented, remains resistant even to established facts. ... Democrats, including presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mr. Obama, remain locked within the ‘this war is lost’ prism the party adopted a year ago.”
But what also hasn’t changed is the Post’s disrespect for Americans who have been right much more often than the Post.
The newspaper never acknowledges how thoroughly wrong its editorial writers have been for so many years, never admits that war critics have been much closer to the mark than the Post’s “best and brightest” columnists, never shows the proper respect for dissent, and always suggests that to object to Bush’s open-ended war in Iraq is somehow unpatriotic or deranged.
At the end of the latest editorial, the Post favorably cites Ambassador Crocker’s opinion – that “an early or unconditional withdrawal would ... invite disaster ‘with devastating consequences for the region and the world.’”
One might respond that the Post’s mindless enthusiasm for an aggressive, brutal war against a country that was not threatening the United States has, if nothing else, achieved exactly that – “devastating consequences for the region and the world,” not to mention the United States of America.
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This story was published on April 11, 2008.