A year after the President's "Mission Accomplished" Top Gun moment, the New York Times ran an apology to its readers for its failures in its pre-war Iraq coverage. Over the next four years many media outlets and personalities admitted to failing to give the public the vigilant reporting it deserved and assured us it would never happen again. The Fourth Estate was back on the job and our republic was safe once again -- or maybe not.
Last month, after former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's book, "What Happened? Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," gave an insider's account of how the Bush administration used propaganda to lead us into an unnecessary war and chided the "liberal media" for not doing its job -- the media returned to defending its coverage.
A week later, the Senate Intelligence Committee offered the media another chance at redemption when it finally released Phase II of its assessment on the administration's use of pre-war intelligence on Iraq, revealing that the
administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent in making the case for war.
These findings were consistent with a prior study released by Congressman Waxman and a Center for Public Integrity report that President Bush and administration officials made 935 false statements about Iraq in the two years following September 11th. Nonetheless, the media largely buried the story or ignored it altogether.
Enter the New Republic's neo-con apprentice James Kirchick who claims that Bush never lied to us about Iraq and that to make such a claim is "cowardly and dishonest". Kirchick "rebuts" the Senate Intelligence report by noting a prior Intelligence Committee report found no evidence that the administration attempted to coerce intelligence analysts to change their judgment, but this merely begs the question since, as Senator Feinstein noted in the report, the "cauldron boiling below the surface" was the question of whether information received from "the intelligence community, whether right or wrong, good or bad, were fairly represented to the Congress and to the American people."
Kirchick's one feeble assault on the actual findings of the report, is to claim victory as a result of the finding that the administration overstated limited contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda to falsely link the two "as a single threat" and insinuate "that Iraq played a role in 9/11," since this confirms there were links between the two (regardless of whether they were grossly overstated). He then follows White House talking points by noting the number of Democrats who spoke of Iraq as a dire threat prior to the war, ignoring the fact that those that did were relying upon the information supplied by the Bush administration and that 147 Democrats actually voted against the war.
Kirchick not only ignores the other reports detailing the Bush administration's pre-war lies, but he fails to address the many lies that followed the invasion or to recognize that the pre-war statements were part of the administration's "culture of deception" that, according to Nixon counsel John Dean, has elevated mendacity to the level of public policy. Dean's view is supported by McClellan's book and sworn testimony which charges that Bush failed "to be open and forthright on Iraq" and instead relied on propaganda to sell the war.
I launched BushLies.net shortly before the start of the war because I was frustrated by the media's failure to address the administration's pattern of falsehoods and half-truths which only a few sources such as theNew Republic and the Washington Post's Dana Milbank dared report. Five years and nearly 45,000 casualties later, little has changed.
In 2004, a woman who had lost of nephew to an IED in Iraq sent me a copy of a note she sent to the President pointedly asking
I want to know why you lied . . . I want to know how you found a link between the 9-11 attacks and Iraq that no one else had uncovered. . . . You owe me and America answers.
She is right, we deserve answers. Kirchick, apparently, has no interest in any answers that do not fit neatly in his neo-con world view but yet he has the audacity to call those who dare expose neo-con fallacies and sophistry "cowardly and dishonest."
It has been said that the role of a journalist is to speak the truth for the voiceless and in this case the voiceless include over 4,000 families who have lost loved ones in this war. Sadly, the McClellan revelations and the Phase II report reveal that, despite their public penance, much of the media would rather ignore this whole matter and thereby avoid a confrontation with the administration while allowing their past mistakes and the truth to be buried by the dust of history.