Standing Up Against the War Party

by , May 31, 2008

One has to wonder at the depths of deception engaged in by this administration when even their own spokesman turns against them. Scott McClellan, in his recent book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, avers that the White House’s effort to sell the Iraq war was "less than honest and candid" – and, more, that the administration’s public pronouncements amounted to a “political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people.”

Karl Rove’s response – that McClellan "sounds like a left-wing blogger" – is hardly a refutation of the former White House official’s contention. Indeed, it underscores the irony: after all, here is someone who was, in his words, a "believer," a loyal foot-soldier in the War Party’s relentless campaign to drag us into an unnecessary and disastrous war. If he now sounds like Atrios – or, more credibly, Glenn Greenwald – then what does that say about this White House?

“I gave them the benefit of the doubt just like a lot of Americans,” says McClellan. “Looking back and reflecting on it now, I don’t think I should have.”

Yet the White House did not conduct its campaign of deception in a vacuum. It had plenty of accomplices, first and foremost in the "mainstream" media. While today everybody knows that there were no "weapons of mass destruction," at the time only Scott Ritter, a few others, and Antiwar.com dared contradict the received wisdom that Iraq was on the verge of going nuclear. While people now routinely scoff at the – on the face of it – counterintuitive claim that Saddam Hussein was collaborating with Osama bin Laden, during the run-up to war this was another administration talking point aided and abetted by "mainstream" reporters, who simply repeated those talking points as if they were fact.

While it’s quite popular, today – even fashionable – to be against the war, and to treat the administration’s pre-war twisting of "intelligence" with disdain, you’ll remember that – at the time – very few stood up against the war drum-beaters. Back then, anyone who questioned the administration’s rationale for invading was treated like some sort of Benedict Arnold – including by some who are now loudest in their condemnations of the war and the President who launched it. Andrew Sullivan, you’ll recall, was calling the antiwar movement a "fifth column, and branding Antiwar.com, in particular, as being tied to alleged Islamic terrorists. Another blogger for The Atlantic, Matthew Yglesias – today an articulate opponent of the administration’s foreign policy, and author of a trenchant book on the subject – was for the war when it was the safe thing to do.

That’s one thing that separates Antiwar.com from the rest of the crowd: we don’t predicate our editorial stance on what’s safe, and what’s not. We were right from the beginning about this war, and weren’t afraid to say so. Indeed, we were afraid not to say so – because we knew the stakes were high, and that the costs would be higher than hardly anyone imagined.

The "mainstream" media – both the reporters and the pundits – were the reason all too many ordinary Americans gave the administration the benefit of a doubt. If all these newsmen were the chorus to the war cries of the neocons, then surely there must’ve been something to it – except there wasn’t.

Americans had to turn to the "alternative" media to gain any real perspective on the War Party’s outrageously obvious lies, which were being repeated on the front page of the New York Times and taken as gospel truth by the arbiters of the conventional wisdom. First and foremost of these non-"mainstream" sources was and is Antiwar.com.

While it may be in somewhat dubious taste to say "I told you so," the reality is that we did tell you so – consistently and loudly, warning that a wider war against Iraq’s neighbors (namely, Iran and Syria) was also in the cards.

We don’t have the material resources at the disposal of the mainstream media, nor do we have anything that even begins to approach the clout and big bucks available to the War Party’s propaganda outlets, and yet we brought the truth to the American people and the world. Our audience grew, as the truth began to dawn – and yet, today, we are struggling to survive, while the War Party’s pet pundits prosper.

Bill Kristol, the little Napoleon of the neocons, has been rewarded for his catalytic role in setting this cavalcade of lies into motion with a prominent spot as a columnist on the New York Times op ed page. Thomas Friedman, another Times denizen, who declared that the war was both necessary and winnnable, was charging less than fifty thousand bucks a pop for speaking engagements before he got his wish; today, he’s charging $65,000-plus, and getting it. Unlike most Americans, he’s not having any trouble paying his mortgage: but, then again, unlike most Americans, he’s living in a $9.3 million mansion. He may have been wrong, but he’s far from broke. So much for the merits of America’s alleged meritocracy.

Then there’s the ubiquitous Peter Beinart, the gap-toothed boy wonder of left-neoconnery, whose prewar prognostications included the assertion that opponents of going to war were "abject pacifists." According to him, anyone who questioned the Saddam-has-WMD doctrine was being "disingenuous." Beinart was rewarded for his stubborn wrongheadedness with a gig at the Washington Post as a regular columnist. He retains his post as editor of The New Republic – in spite of a vertiginous drop in that magazine’s circulation – and has since become a regular talking head at MSNBC, where he’s allowed to babble on as if his prewar pontifications had never been uttered.

And in the rogues gallery of prewar purveyors of puerile propaganda, surely Jeffrey Goldberg of the New Yorker deserves a special place. His "The Great Terror" was cited by both Bush and Cheney as confirming their contention that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq posed a terrible danger, a 16,000-word compendium of every half-cooked bit of ersatz "intelligence" that came out of the Office of Special Plans somewhat extravagant imagination. According to Goldberg, Saddam was conspiring with Osama, Arab terrorists were about to take over Paraguay, and the Iraqis were building a "super weapon" that would exterminate 100,000 Israelis – out of bread mold!

It sounds funny now, if you like your humor black, but at the time the public was taking this sort of nonsense seriously – egged on by the "mainstream" media, which reduced itself to the role of court stenographer. In the grisly aftermath of it all, as thousands fall in the bloodstained sands of Iraq, and a new war – this time with Iran – is being ginned up by the usual suspects, fools prosper, while prophets go broke: Antiwar.com is scrounging for pennies, while the Kristol-Friedman-Goldberg axis of asininity is laughing all the way to the bank?

Are we to be spared nothing?

Where oh where is justice?

Look here: this just isn’t right. Why should we be behind – waaaay behind – in our online fundraising campaign this quarter, while the liars, the ass-kissers, and the preening pusillanimous pundits are floating in dough?

Yes, times are tough financially: I know that. I also know that Antiwar.com is the single most valuable resource for antiwar activists, and, indeed, for anyone who wants to know the truth about American foreign policy. As such, it’s worth paying for – and it’s not at all expensive. Unlike your average nonprofit foundation, we run a very tight ship. No frills, no pretensions, and no nonsense: that’s our journalistic credo as well as our organizational style. For over a decade, we’ve been bringing you the real news and the best commentary on the foreign policy front – but we just won’t be able to continue if we don’t get a huge surge of support from you, our readers and supporters.

Unless you come through for us, we’ll be out of business in fairly short order. No kidding. No exaggeration. Just the hard truth.

So don’t just sit there – act! Make your 100% tax-deductible contribution today.

Read more by Justin Raimondo