Hyenas vs. Rhinos: Who could the NYT get to write an Op-ed on Iraq? Hmm…

By Juan Cole

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan did a quick study and found that critics of the paper of record over its preference for Iraq War hawks as sources and commentators in the past two weeks are justified in their feeling that Iraq War critics have been slighted. This lack of balance grates in part because in 2002-2003 then editor in chief Bill Keller showed himself gullible in swallowing the lies of the Bush war machine, e.g. hyping aluminum tubing that could not in fact be used for nuclear centrifuges and committing other elementary errors that could have been avoided by simply checking with the IAEA and other real experts.

By the way, we need to put away this “hawk” versus “dove” imagery. Who wants to be a “dove”? How about we replace it with “hyena” vs. “rhino”? Hyenas attack the weak and eat carrion; rhinos are peaceful vegetarians unless you rile them up, when they are good at defending themselves

So here is a list of people that the NYT could ask to write op-eds on the current crisis who might not buy into the inside-the-Beltway perennial conviction that “We can fix this, we must intervene, preferably militarily!”

1. Brent Scowcroft, George H.W. Bush’s National Security Advisor, who warned in an op-ed in August of 2002 against the building war against Iraq. He is 89, and still speaking publicly.

2. Clare Short. Now an independent, she was a long time Labour Party politician who resigned from the cabinet of Tony Blair in May of 2003 over the illegality of his planned Iraq War.

3. Joseph Wilson VI. The last acting ambassador to Iraq before the Gulf War, he was asked by the Bush administration to go to Niger in West Africa and investigate the bona fides of the infamous forgery produced by a former Italian and French intelligence operative alleging that Iraq had bought yellow cake uranium from Niger. Wilson found that the officials listed on the document had been out of office for ten years on its supposed date, and that the nuclear industry was tightly under the control of the French, and that the whole thing was completely implausible. His after-trip report appears to have been buried by the Neocons. When Wilson annoyedly wrote an op-ed laying all this out after the invasion and the failure to find WMD in Iraq, then Vice President Dick Cheney ordered his staff to punish Wilson.

4. Valerie Plame. One way the Bushies tried to punish Wilson was to try very hard to out his wife, a NOC or undercover CIA field officer, Valerie Plame. She was working against Iranian nuclear proliferation. Apparently Cheney, Scooter Libby, and the rest of that freak show thought that Plame and the CIA were against the Iraq War and were using Wilson to undermine the administration, and that if they outed Plame it would make it clear to those inside the Beltway that Wilson had an agenda and could not be taken at face value. Although Cheney’s own crew were not the ones who succeeded in getting Plame’s cover blown, it was the papers they left around as part of their effort that caught Richard Armitage’s eye, so they were still responsible for it. And they all called reporters all day long trying to make it happen.

5. John H. Brown , a career Foreign Service Officer, resigned from the State Department on March 12, 2003, to protest the plans to aggressively launch a war on Iraq. He went on to head a project and a newsletter on public diplomacy. Knowledgeable, experienced and worldly people like Brown who put their career and their lives on the line for principle deserve to be treated as “wise men” and “wise women” by the American press, rather than being consigned to obscurity because they no longer are close to power.

6. John W. Dower, Emeritus Professor at MIT. When the Neocons kept repeating the idiotic assertion that American-occupied Iraq would be just like American-occupied Japan and would work out just as well, Dower, a prize-winning historian of Japan in the post-war period, wrote an influential op-ed pointing out that Iraq today is not very much like Japan then. As it turns out, also the intelligence and competency of the top officers of the US government had rather declined drastically in the interim, as well.

7. John Mearsheimer, eminent political scientist at the University of Chicago and a whole gaggle of other such experts (some of whom voted for or advised Bush senior) tried to head that thing off at the pass. Let’s go back to them now, since, like, they were right.

8. Barbara Boxer , a sitting senator who voted against the war.

9. Raed Jarrar, Iraqi activist and anti-war voice. Because he actually knows something about the actually existing Iraq.

10. In January-March 2003, some 36 million persons around the world took part in 3,000 protests against the US plan to fall on Iraq. Pretty much any of those 36 million have more sense than any of the Neocons or other Washington hawks. You could ask one of them.

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Related video:

TheRealNews: “The New York Times and “Liberal Media” Helped Sell the Iraq War”

19 Responses

  1. You forgot one more important person, General Anthony Zinni, the head of Central Command prior to the war. He commissioned the Operation Desert Crossing war game that showed the Iraq War would be a failure and remained opposed throughout the war.

  2. Come on, Juan Cole is top foreign affairs commentator of the left, and he had Iraq about right throughout. (Although I can’t remember his thoughts on surge in late 2006, and his support of Libya intervention may disqualify him with anti-war purists.)

    Barry Posen is good:
    link to politico.com

    Can’t think of politicians so articulate on Iraq, they have so many issues to keep up with. Barbara Boxer? Well, OK. Eleanor Holmes Norton impresses me.

    Hey, Al Gore called Iraq the great foreign policy disaster in history. He’s rested and ready.

    • Playing devils advocate.

      What if Barry Posen is wrong about ISIS falling apart? Having a lot of money is the glue that holds ISIS together. They are well organized as well as well funded. ISIS also controls a huge area in Iraq and Syria.

      ISIS could be more dangerous than many non-interventionists realize. The real question is what can be done, if anything, to contain their threat? What would happen if Europeans and even Americans fighting with ISIS return home and commit acts of terror like Obama just warned about?

  3. Still got a thing for the Old Gray Lady, Professor?
    The old girl will never admit there may be a fundamental flaw in the system. When a paper voluntarily submits to censorship by the Israeli and American government you can’t really believe anything it says.
    If your waiting for the Times to question the system, I’m waiting for the Times to open an Office in Gaza and hire a Palestinian Women to run it.

    • Our MSM has forgiven itself for their war cheering, and would prefer we all just forget all about it. As I’m sure you already know.

  4. In numbered paragraph 3, you have “the nuclear industry was tightly in control of the French,” surely that should be “the nuclear industry was tightly under the control of the French,” if I recall correctly from when it all went down.

  5. Your comment about Keller reminds me of a long, pointless op-ed piece he wrote after it was obvious that the NYT was guilty of repeated serious errors on Iraq. By that time, I had already lost respect for the man, but that judgment was confirmed by his own words. I quote from memory, but what has stuck in my mind was a phrase along these lines: “putting aside those critics who were against the war from the start.” Keller obviously wasn’t concerned about them. They didn’t deserve credit for being right, nor consideration. They were not (to use Paul Krugman’s phrase) Very Serious Persons, whose opinions mattered. Keller seemingly was only concerned with criticism from those who supported the war initially. It seemed a bizarre, contorted, column that reflected a bizarre, contorted world view.

  6. What about Representative Barbara Lee? She’s been right about policies such as the AUMF. A piece of legislative buffoonery that predates our march to Baghdad.

  7. What’s the goal, the endpoint of all this violence and chicanery and wealth transfer, again? Bearing in mind that the “economy” that lies behind the frieze of Politics and the Game is Use It All Up, who cares about future generations or the borrow of the present?

  8. Few analysts in 2003 picked up on the fact that the bogus case for war was part of a larger and longer pattern of outragrous lies, so in all modesty, allow me to nominate myself . . The only major paper that was willing to publish this was in New Zealand, of all places !!

    NZ can ignore heavy American tut-tutting

    4:56 AM Thursday Apr 3, 2003
    New Zealand

    Comment by ARNOLD OLIVER*

    As an American political scientist visiting New Zealand, I have followed your debate on the war in Iraq with interest. At first I was reluctant to enter the discussion, recognising that the future of this country is yours alone to decide. But now that the Clark Government is being subjected to the kind of heavy-handed pressure that passes for diplomacy in the Bush Administration, it is appropriate that I respond.

    It should go without saying that governments in democratic nations have no more fundamental responsibility than to explain to their citizens, accurately and fully, why it is that war is necessary. When the youth of the country are being called upon to kill and die, political leaders owe the people nothing less than the whole unvarnished truth.

    It pains me to have to argue that the United States Government has been derelict in this most important duty. American officials have played so fast and loose with the facts of the Gulf conflicts, and for so long, that one has to question their respect for the democratic process, or for the legitimacy of international institutions.

    With respect to the Gulf, official deception in Washington is nothing new. Many of the officials who have led us into this war are the same ones who in 1990 orchestrated a public relations campaign to rally public support for Desert Storm.

    During the run-up to the first Gulf War, we were presented with the vision of a weeping young Kuwaiti girl testifying before Congress about the brutal Iraqi soldiers she had seen in a Kuwaiti hospital, taking babies out of incubators and stealing the machines.

    Then there was the claim that American troops had to be rushed to Saudi Arabia to defend it from the threat of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi troops and hundreds of tanks massed for an invasion.

    The incubator story, it turned out, was a fabrication. The teary-eyed girl was in fact the daughter of a Kuwaiti diplomat in the US, and had not even been in Kuwait when the alleged offences occurred.

    And the troop build-up story was almost certainly black propaganda. Commercial satellite photos taken at the time showed no Iraqi forces threatening Saudi Arabia, and the US Government has for 12 years refused to declassify the photos it claimed as evidence.

    Now, George W. Bush’s national security team, sitting at the apex of a gargantuan intelligence bureaucracy with a combined annual budget of more than US$50 billion, is at it again. From the start it has been wholly unable to organise a factual case as to why this war is necessary.

    For openers, all their impressive resources apparently did not reveal to them that the British intelligence dossier that Secretary of State Colin Powell praised as “exquisite” in his United Nations speech on February 5 was mostly clumsy plagiarism. Far from being top secret, key parts had been lifted from an out-of-date journal article written by a student who had never been to Iraq.

    And with a faith in a compliant American media that could almost be touching were not its implications so terrifying, the Bush regime has even dared to rewrite history. In a September 7 speech, the President referred to a 1998 International Atomic Energy Agency report revealing that Iraq was only months away from having nuclear weapons.

    There was no such report. On the contrary, IAEA chief inspector Mohammed El Baradei has denied all along that Iraq has an active nuclear weapons programme, and during his March 7 report to the Security Council he revealed that documents describing Iraqi attempts in 1998 to buy uranium in Africa were transparent forgeries.

    While it is true that Iraqi compliance was not complete, UN weapons inspectors began to refer to US intelligence tips as “garbage after garbage” (CBS news), almost entirely wild goose chases that revealed no mobile weapons labs, no new activity at Iraqi nuclear sites, or, most importantly, any immediate threat from weapons of mass destruction.

    Further, no connection between Iraq and the September 11 attacks was established, much less that, in Powell’s words, Iraq and al Qaeda were “partners”.

    We are left with several possibilities. Either the Bush Administration was trying to subvert the work of the UN inspectors, or it really did not have much of a clue as to what was happening inside Iraq. Or both. Subsequent events point to the both.

    The Bush Administration’s persuasive techniques have thus far consisted of throwing mud at the wall in the hope that something might stick, and never admitting – much less correcting – any mistakes.

    This singular lack of candour does a grave disservice to the American people and the world community, especially to those being torn from their families and sent away to fight. Unless and until the US Government can be far more honest with us, it has no right to demand that Americans or New Zealanders yield up our youth. If living in a democracy means anything, it has to mean that.

    Neither CNN nor the US Embassy in Wellington represent the views of tens of millions of Americans who are opposed to this illegal and disastrous war. Many of us are grateful for your Government’s courageous decision to challenge it.

    We, not that clique in Washington, are your real traditional allies.

    * Arnold Oliver is a professor of political science at Heidelberg College in Ohio.

  9. Juan

    As a Brit I object to the inclusion of Clare Short on your list here.

    She had the opportunity to resign prior to the invasion and publicly threatened to do so. She was sweet talked into staying in the cabinet and her non resignation at this point was certainly a factor in assisting Tony Bliar on winning the Commons vote on going to war. For me this makes her as much a war criminal as the rest of the UK cabinet who supported the illegal invasion of Iraq.

    Having a crisis of conscience afterwards does not excuse her crimes…..

      • Non sequitur ! Being less crazy and mendacious than Bush & Co really is the faintest of praise.
        I’ve been on cattle drives and if steers were as well behaved and as easily led as the MSM and the Important People it would have been an easer job

  10. To paraphrase Orwell’s character from “1984”, Goldstein, “the purpose of war is to use up the surplus, so that the proles never realize that there is absolutely no reason why they can’t have things that will make their lives better.”

  11. Professor, you are too modest. Seriously. You should be on every network’s short list of talking heads (sorry…).

    I found your site in early 2003, before the invasion, when I Googled “neoconservative.” Interestingly, Google showed about 6,000 hits at the time. Among them was you, near the top. I don’t recall what your article said that day, but the mere fact that you were anti-invasion made you important to me. I have checked your site every day since. You were right about the results then, and you have continued to be right since then.

    Please, keep going.

  12. Some of us were screaming from the beginning:
    link to members.surfbest.net
    BUSH’s WANTON WAR- Liberal Slant Saddam is a monster, but Bush’s militancy is due to the ’93 plot to kill his father and upcoming elections, not any imminent danger or 9-11 guilt. Punishing enemies is a family tradition, where he started his career- Bartcop 10/12/02 LOCAL Smk Chp vers.

    FIRM of MIND, SOFT on FACTS – In the News, Exclusive Liberal Slant, Bartcop ARCHIVE Bush has, with a steady stream of lies, deceptions, and propaganda, has managed to convince half the country that Saddam supports Al Qaida or even was behind 9-11. Iraq invasion historic blunder that may echo through the decades- 3-17-03 ALT WARBLOG 3/19-5/19/03
    link to hammernews.com

  13. Sullivan claims that Times editors and columnists have not called for intervention in Iraq, but Roger Cohen’s column “The Diplomacy of Force” is a pretty blatant call for military force in general and specifically in Iraq. He seems to be a Times insider; not only is he a regular columnist but also the “foreign editor”. What was he saying about the Iraq invasion? He has also written very jingoistically about the Ukraine. The Times editors are also obviously biased on one side of this conflict.

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