Every Sunday, I tape This Week With George Stephanopoulos, one of the Sunday talk shows, in which Big Name journalists interview Big Name guests, followed by a panel discussion by ‘political experts’, carefully balanced between liberals and conservatives, except for when its not, in which case it’s always overbalanced right-ward. It’s an awful show, really, and I usually can’t bring myself to actually watch it until Tuesday or Wednesday. But it’s valuable, in that it gives you some insight into mainstream Beltway attitudes.
Anyway, this past Sunday’s show dealt mostly with Iraq, with quick-strike successes of ISIS, a Sunni insurgency. Isis‘ stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or Iraq and Syria; depends on how your news outlet translates the name. They’re scary, brutal, well-armed and on the move. They keep taking cities in the Sunni north-west part of Iraq, and the well-trained (we were told), well-armed Iraqi army has mostly dealt with the threat Isis poses using the strategy “feet, don’t fail me now.” (Little-known fact: ‘feets don’t fail me now’ was the catchphrase popularized by African-American actor Mantan Moreland. Character actor, 1930s-40s, played a nervous, cowardly black stereotype, also worked standup. Hey, it was a living.)
Anyway, Isis. Scary, brutal, taking city after city, meeting minimal Iraqi army resistance. And so ABC News was on the story, pointing out that Americans are, like, joining Isis by the dozens, so what if they came back to the States and decide to stay terrorists. So President Obama needs to ‘do something.’ Everyone agreed on that. The President needs to ‘act.’
So ABC’s panel, in addition to Stephanopoulos, consisted of Donna Brazile, Matthew Dowd, Bill Kristol and Katrina vanden Heuvel. I’ve always liked Donna Brazile, a good-natured and sensible woman who seems mostly amused by the political vagaries of Washington politics. Dowd is a former Bush staffer-turned-journalist (just as Stephanopoulos is a Clinton staffer-turned-journalist), but a bright, thoughtful political commentator. He’s a good match for Brazile–you sense that if you put them in a room together and asked them to solve, say, immigration politics, they’d put their heads together and come up with something bi-partisan and sensible. Bill Kristol, from the Weekly Standard, is a neo-conservative icon, and one of the most prominent and effective cheerleaders for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor and publisher of The Nation, and a liberal. I mostly can’t stand her. She can be self-righteous and dismissive and annoying, the kind of liberal that makes conservatives hate liberals. Some call her the ‘Ann Coulter of the left.’ She’s not that bad–she’s not off-her-meds nuts–but she’s bad enough. I groaned when I saw that she was on the show.
But I gotta hand it to Katrina. Bill Kristol’s all ‘President Obama needs to act’ (clearly code for ‘we need to send troops back there’). And she called him out. And it was a beautiful thing to watch. And then Matthew Dowd weighed in (Dowd’s at the six minute mark), and if anything, he was more passionate on the subject than she was.
I have a son who served in Iraq, two tours of duty in Iraq. We all know . . . everybody . . . most everybody knows that this has been a colossal waste of money and men and women, the blood of the men and women of our country. Over five thousand of our people have been killed from our armed services, and its going to end up costing us probably three trillion dollars. . . . we don’t fix a first mistake by continuing to make a second mistake, and if you ask anyone who’s an enlisted person in this, they will tell you that the only way this is going to get solved is that you have to commit troops there for a hundred years. And that is not going to happen.
It just astonishes me how little accountability there has been over Iraq. The standard line goes something like this: well, everyone thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Everyone agreed on that point, that Saddam was a dangerous threat. So Bush needed to act.’ But this mainstream talking point is arrant nonsense.
The fact is, the United Nations had a weapons’ inspection team in Iraq, led by Hans Blix, throughout 2002 and 2003, before the invasion. And Blix was desperate to get his message out, and his message was ‘we have found no WMD anywhere, and there’s no evidence of any actual threat. Give us another two months. You don’t need to invade. I have good people on the ground, and in two months, they’ll have a definitive report. And it’s almost certain to show no WMD.’ But no one in the mainstream media would give him a platform. They were too busy saying ‘The President needs to act.’
And of course, Blix was right. Saddam was not a threat to the US or to US interests. “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” which came out of Bush’s White House Iraq Group, made for a nice marketing slogan, but it was never anything but nonsense. Read Disarming Iraq, Blix’ book. He was right, entirely right, well in advance of the invasion. I knew perfectly well Saddam had no WMD, and that even a good man like Colin Powell was telling us things that weren’t true about Saddam’s nuclear capabilities.
The fact is, the American mainstream news media had all basically turned cheerleader for war by 2002. They always will. A show like This Week proves it. The ‘journalists’ on that show love international ‘threats.’ They always, always will want the President to ‘do something.’ They’re obsessed with terrorism. Here we are in 2014, and some of the biggest sporting events of the past six months have included the Olympics, the World Cup, the Boston Marathon, Wimbledon. ABC News has done major stories on each of these events, each of them almost entirely focused on the possibility of a terrorist attack, and what precautions are we taking, and what is the likelihood of an attack, and what more should we be doing. This Week has devoted entire episodes on the terror threat of each major sporting event as it happens.
Meanwhile, Syria is in crisis, and so is Egypt, and Lebanon’s getting dragged in, and let’s not forget what Russia’s doing in Ukraine, and of course there’s always Iran. And these are all ‘dangerous situations,’ and the President absolutely needs to ‘do something’ about each of them. And the something he’s supposed to do always, in every instance, involves some kind of military intervention.
So Katrina vanden Heuvel, who I mostly don’t like, finally, finally called someone out. And Matthew Dowd, who has a son serving, backed her up. And the other commentators stood around looking embarrassed.
And of course, this is the pressure that President Obama is constantly under. “Act!” I think it’s very much to his credit that we don’t have troops in Ukraine, Syria and Egypt right now, with more flying back to Iraq. If ABC News had its way, we probably would. If Bill Kristol had his way, for sure we would.
But of course, mainstream media has a liberal bias. Everyone knows that.