Saturday, June 11, 2005

From Beyond the Lunatic Fringe

Frank Rich, in the New York Times, laments the unwillingness of the "supine media" to run Bush=Nixon propoganda:
Only once during the Deep Throat rollout did I see a palpable, if perhaps unconscious, effort to link the White House of 1972 with that of 2005. It occurred at the start, when ABC News, with the first comprehensive report on Vanity Fair's scoop, interrupted President Bush's post-Memorial Day Rose Garden news conference to break the story. Suddenly the image of the current president blathering on about how hunky-dory everything is in Iraq was usurped by repeated showings of the scene in which the newly resigned Nixon walked across the adjacent White House lawn to the helicopter that would carry him into exile.
To Rich, this is how the news ought to operate, if the Administration hadn't beaten the spine out of them.
In the most recent example, all the president's men slimed and intimidated Newsweek by accusing it of being an accessory to 17 deaths for its errant Koran story; led by Scott McClellan, they said it was unthinkable that any American guard could be disrespectful of Islam's holy book. These neo-Colsons easily drowned out Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, both of whom said that the riots that led to the 17 deaths were unrelated to Newsweek. Then came the pièce de résistance of Nixon mimicry: a Pentagon report certifying desecrations of the Koran by American guards was released two weeks after the Newsweek imbroglio, at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday, to assure it would miss the evening newscasts and be buried in the Memorial Day weekend's little-read papers.
Newsweek made a specific allegation-that a guard had deliberately flushed a Koran down a toilet, which even Newsweek has acknowledged cannot be substantiated. And far from granting Newsweek absolution, Karzai and other Afghan institutions have firmly condemned them for false reporting.

Rich complains that nobody is paying attention to the 'smoking gun' from London:
The attacks continue to be so successful that even now, long after many news organizations, including The Times, have been found guilty of failing to puncture the administration's prewar W.M.D. hype, new details on that same story are still being ignored or left uninvestigated. The July 2002 "Downing Street memo," the minutes of a meeting in which Tony Blair and his advisers learned of a White House effort to fix "the intelligence and facts" to justify the war in Iraq, was published by The London Sunday Times on May 1. Yet in the 19 daily Scott McClellan briefings that followed, the memo was the subject of only 2 out of the approximately 940 questions asked by the White House press corps, according to Eric Boehlert of Salon.
Well. Here's the snippet that Rich is jumping on:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
If anybody actually read the memo, they'd find this on the next page:
On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.

For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.
Whatever "C" meant by "fixing intelligence and facts around policy", to the British Cabinet it did not suggest falsification of Saddam's WMD capability; such capability was a serious concern to the Cabinet and a factor affecting their cooperation with the Pentagon.

But it would be unfair to expect Frank Rich to read everything he writes about. He can't even count.
You are more likely to hear instead of how Watergate inspired too much "gotcha" journalism. That's a rather absurd premise given that no "gotcha" journalist got the goods on the biggest story of our time: the false intimations of incipient mushroom clouds peddled by American officials to sell a war that now threatens to match the unpopularity and marathon length of Vietnam.
Depending on whether you count the American Vietnam experience beginning with the deployment of Green Berets under Kennedy, or with the Gulf of Tonkin, Iraq has lasted less than a third as long. No matter how long you consider the Vietnam war to have lasted, it's apparent that we're in far better position three years into Iraq than we were in 1973 in Vietnam; for that reason, and because of the absence of the draft, this war is nowhere near as unpopular as Vietnam by any measure: polls, anti-war rallies, riots, desertion.

Informed people know that regime change was affirmed as US policy by Congress and President Clinton in the Iraqi Liberation Act in 1998.

They know that the Security Council unanimously professed its belief that Saddam had not proven the destruction of his WMD program, with resolution 1441.

They know that active chemical warheads were found in Iraq by coalition forces.

They know that the Washington press corps is still blushing over hideous errors against its own code of accuracy and professionalism.

But they'd know these things because they didn't rely on the New York Times.

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