Glenn Greenwald's most recent post at Salon about the O"Hanlon-Pollack op-ed is
worth looking up: a summary of the conditions of their seven and a half days in
Iraq. It turns out to have been an army-guided tour from start to finish. In a
political world that valued honesty, the reputations of both men would now be
smoking rubble; for it is plain that neither, going into the trip, possessed the
slightest local knowledge of Iraq beyond that of a citizen of average diligence.
The questions they posed to army officers and their Iraqi adjuncts, plus a few
"safe" civilian informants lined up by the Department of Defense, all took the
form: "So how are things going? Do you believe things are really improving?" A
probing follow-up (according to O'Hanlon) took the more stringent form: "Are
you really sure?"
And yet this farrago--a booster-brochure that ballooned to a thousand words and
ten thousand commendations--was published by the newspaper of record. It did
the trick, and turned the tide.
In the last three weeks, it seems, the whole American establishment from Time
(cover story, July 30) to the New York Times (lead editorial today), from the
Brookings Institution (where O'Hanlon and Pollack are resident scholars) to the
American Enterprise Institute, and from the leading Democrats to the leading
Republicans in the race for president--all these entities and persons have
implicitly agreed on the proposition: No significant troop reductions through
When the New York Times says, "The United States cannot walk away from the new
international terrorist front it created in Iraq," it has pragmatically
accepted the president's excuse: "We're fighting them over there so we don't
have to fight them here." The only difference concerns the origin of the
far-off terrorist front. The Times reserves the right to blame President Bush
for creating it, while he believes "this evil" of terrorism must already have
existed in a country where the people could think of shooting at Americans who
are shooting at them.
Such sudden and total adjustments of the vast body of centrist opinion, over so
short a period, are fascinating to trace the causes of. In December 2006, it
appeared that the war in Iraq had crept up to 1970 on the Vietnam clock; the
case against further devastation had been made, and the argument could turn to
the logistics of withdrawal. Now the clock is back to 1965. The president and
his general have been given permission. The next step is sure to be an increase
in the destructiveness of the air war.
Our new chamber of echoes comes from every imaginable source except conscience.
Partly, they are saying these things from the sheer, anxious, binding power of
conformity (the name of its god, for now, is Petraeus). But it is also the case
that many policy adepts--"experts" on the O'Hanlon-Pollack model of
expertise-- have been shown something ordinary Americans are not being
permitted to see. There is now an agreed-on, long-term U.S. strategy for the
Middle East, which requires a large military presence in Iraq as a permanent
base of operations.