Spreading the Plame

It's time more journalists were called on the carpet for bad judgment

Jim Hoagland, Washington Post: This is sort of the Post's version of Miller, only he gets more leeway because he's an op-ed columnist. A veritable Dr. Strangelove of the war, he carried on a bizarre one-way discourse with Saddam Hussein before it started, referring to the dictator as "old chum" and gleefully chiding him about his imminent destruction. At the heart of Hoagland's madness was Ahmad Chalabi, the huckster who ran the Iraqi National Congress and was used as a chief source by the Bush administration in the buildup to war. Hoagland, to his great detriment, forged a too-close, 30-year friendship with Chalabi. It obviously skewed the man's logic. In 2001, he criticized the L.A. Times for repeating claims that Chalabi, wanted on embezzlement charges in Jordan, was a "crook." Then he waxed poetic about how Chalabi sacrificed "most of his fortune so he can risk his life to fight Saddam." Too bad he forgot to report that the man and the INC were paid tens of millions of dollars by the Pentagon for Chalabi's often faulty — but oh so handy — "intelligence." If Hoagland had any left, he'd pull a Murtha.

Kingsley Guy, Sun-Sentinel. I put Guy's name here only because he runs the Sun-Sentinel's editorial page, where numerous unsigned and unintelligible commentaries have appeared regarding Iraq. And the Sun-Sentinel isn't really a major player in the media's failure, just a good example of a medium-sized newspaper that blew it on Iraq in an XL way. During the buildup, the editorialists wrote repeatedly of how "strong" the case was for war. On October 12, 2002, they made like Thomas Paine when they wrote, "The United States can't stand by as Hussein seeks nuclear weapons and refines his other weapons of mass destruction." March, young man, march. Shortly after the bombing began, Guy's guys wrote, "It's time for Americans to unite behind their president and their troops." Troops, yes, but president? That's flat-out un-American. Repent, Kingsley.

Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times. Kristof didn't cheerlead for the war. In fact, he routinely refers to himself, gaggingly, as a "dove." But reading his columns during the past couple of years reveals something more akin to a chicken. Or maybe a dodo. A month before the invasion, he wrote: "President Bush and Colin Powell have adroitly shown that Iraq is hiding weapons." A week later, he typed: "As best one can tell, the war plans are now smart, meticulous, and comprehensive." Brilliant analysis there, Nick. If anyone so much as suggested that Bush might have oil or revenge on his mind, Kristof gave them a right-good smack. Last year, he compared blaming Bush for his oil-lust or revenge for his father to arguing that Bill Clinton was a serial killer. Kristof has repeatedly written that if there's anything wrong with this war, it's that America was suffering from "an overdose of moral clarity." We're just too darned good, people. After bombs began falling on Baghdad, he wrote: "Let's be clear: Iraq will not turn into another Vietnam... [T]he U.S. will easily win this war." He added that it would wind up like Lebanon or Gaza only forgot to say it would be more like Lebanon and Gaza on crack. Here's my advice to Mr. Kristof: Stop trying to fly with the hawks. They're smarter and meaner than you are. If you're a dove, be a damned dove.

Tom Friedman (center) shares a laugh with former New York Times Editor Howell Raines (left) and current Publisher Art Sulzberger Jr.
James Estrin
Tom Friedman (center) shares a laugh with former New York Times Editor Howell Raines (left) and current Publisher Art Sulzberger Jr.
Kingsley Guy, Sun-Sentinel editorial page gatekeeper.
Kingsley Guy, Sun-Sentinel editorial page gatekeeper.

Jeffrey Goldberg, New Yorker. In fairness, I believe that all the journalists so far mentioned thought they were doing the right thing. I'm not sure with Goldberg, though. Apparently under the direction of Paul Wolfowitz, Goldberg ginned up fears in the pages of what was once my favorite magazine that Saddam was going to unleash a horrible chemical assault on the "countries of the West" and bolstered the equally false notion that the dictator was walking arm-in-arm with Osama bin Laden (see his 2002 award-winning masterpiece "The Great Terror"). There seemed to be design in Goldberg's drivel, which was lauded around the world by the Bush administration. I think Vanity Fair writer James Wolcott got it right when he described Goldberg's prose as "neocon propaganda and scaremongering disseminated under the guise of reporting." Such tripe should never have appeared in the pages of the once-great magazine. To blame is Editor David Remnick, who himself gave mealy-mouthed support to the war (only Seymour Hersh saved the magazine from absolute disgrace). And how has Remnick responded to the failures? He promoted Goldberg to Washington Bureau chief and hired Packer after they all got it wrong.

Now for the good news. All these guys — even Goldberg, God help us — can still come clean. They just need to admit they were dead wrong and stop writing specious pieces that continue to rationalize one of the worst crimes in American history.

Then we can all go back to doing what we should have been doing in the first place. Bashing Judith Miller.

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