Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 15, 2005
WAR: Sorry About The Mess

Badly-sourced Newsweek report retracted; only 15 people were killed as a result. Another day, another dollar. Instapundit, as always, has more.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:07 PM | War 2005 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I do believe I may be sick...

Posted by: Richard at May 16, 2005 1:55 AM

Downing Street Memo makes Newsweek "scandal" look like child's play. When is the "liberal" media going to give this front and center?

May 16, 2005
Staying What Course?
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Is there any point, now that November's election is behind us, in revisiting the history of the Iraq war? Yes: any path out of the quagmire will be blocked by people who call their opponents weak on national security, and portray themselves as tough guys who will keep America safe. So it's important to understand how the tough guys made America weak.

There has been notably little U.S. coverage of the "Downing Street memo" - actually the minutes of a British prime minister's meeting on July 23, 2002, during which officials reported on talks with the Bush administration about Iraq. But the memo, which was leaked to The Times of London during the British election campaign, confirms what apologists for the war have always denied: the Bush administration cooked up a case for a war it wanted.

Here's a sample: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and W.M.D. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

(You can read the whole thing at www.downingstreetmemo.com.)

Why did the administration want to invade Iraq, when, as the memo noted, "the case was thin" and Saddam's "W.M.D. capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran"? Iraq was perceived as a soft target; a quick victory there, its domestic political advantages aside, could serve as a demonstration of American military might, one that would shock and awe the world.

But the Iraq war has, instead, demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies. Why should Kim Jong Il fear us, when we can't even secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?

At this point, the echoes of Vietnam are unmistakable. Reports from the recent offensive near the Syrian border sound just like those from a 1960's search-and-destroy mission, body count and all. Stories filed by reporters actually with the troops suggest that the insurgents, forewarned, mostly melted away, accepting battle only where and when they chose.

Meanwhile, America's strategic position is steadily deteriorating.

Next year, reports Jane's Defense Industry, the United States will spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. Yet the Pentagon now admits that our military is having severe trouble attracting recruits, and would have difficulty dealing with potential foes - those that, unlike Saddam's Iraq, might pose a real threat.

In other words, the people who got us into Iraq have done exactly what they falsely accused Bill Clinton of doing: they have stripped America of its capacity to respond to real threats.

So what's the plan?

The people who sold us this war continue to insist that success is just around the corner, and that things would be fine if the media would just stop reporting bad news. But the administration has declared victory in Iraq at least four times. January's election, it seems, was yet another turning point that wasn't.

Yet it's very hard to discuss getting out. Even most of those who vehemently opposed the war say that we have to stay on in Iraq now that we're there.

In effect, America has been taken hostage. Nobody wants to take responsibility for the terrible scenes that will surely unfold if we leave (even though terrible scenes are unfolding while we're there). Nobody wants to tell the grieving parents of American soldiers that their children died in vain. And nobody wants to be accused, by an administration always ready to impugn other people's patriotism, of stabbing the troops in the back.

But the American military isn't just bogged down in Iraq; it's deteriorating under the strain. We may already be in real danger: what threats, exactly, can we make against the North Koreans? That John Bolton will yell at them? And every year that the war goes on, our military gets weaker.

So we need to get beyond the clich├ęs - please, no more "pottery barn principles" or "staying the course." I'm not advocating an immediate pullout, but we have to tell the Iraqi government that our stay is time-limited, and that it has to find a way to take care of itself. The point is that something has to give. We either need a much bigger army - which means a draft - or we need to find a way out of Iraq.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com

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Posted by: Steve at May 16, 2005 1:23 PM

You're saying the media hasn't discussed charges that the Bush Administration manipulated the pre-Iraq War intelligence? Really? No, really?

Please do not cut and paste entire Paul Krugman columns into the comments. The persuasive value of Krugman is roughly zero anyway.

Posted by: The Crank at May 16, 2005 3:23 PM

Criticizing Newsweek for sloppy reporting is perfectly legitimate; trying to lay these corpses at their door is a bad joke. As far as I'm concerned, Andrew Sullivan got it almost exactly right - click on my name for his take.

Posted by: Devin McCullen at May 16, 2005 5:05 PM

Crank,

You're conflating general discussion about the manipulation of intelligence with discussion about a near-smoking gun memo on the same issue. Drawing inferences and speculation is one thing. The memo is quite another. Hand-wringing about Dan Rather and Newsweek is fine. But the larger question is whether Bush and Co. manipulated intelligence and public opinion. I guarantee that the Newsweek issue will get 10 times the coverage. The following link shows that only 2 major newspapers have covered this issue. Let's face it, Bush still gets the benefit of the doubt in the "liberal media."

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000920839

Posted by: Steve at May 16, 2005 5:13 PM

So, the point of the memo is that a guy in British intelligence didn't like the Administration's intelligence case? We knew all along that people in the intelligence business were having all sorts of arguments about some of the details. Note that the quoted portion speaks of his WMD capability as an existing fact, which doesn't exactly support the idea that it was a fiction. And "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours" is a pretty blinkered view of the regional realities.

I just don't see anything new here.

Posted by: The Crank at May 16, 2005 5:33 PM

The Newsweek thing reeks of intentional interference. It is not as if they got their info from Vinny on the corner and decided to run with it. There is no way they took random information and printed it. This stinks of someone either high up in the administration or extremely well-connected to the administration leaking "information" that is credible because of a) their place in the hierarchy and b) the number of blatant abuses that have been perpetrated by the US. Then to get everyone talking the info is revealed to be false so this one thing becomes the lightning rod rather than truth of the matter. While this only tangentially falls into this category one of the best forms of propaganda is to take a true story, falsify it in some way and then denounce the falsification as being untrue so as to cast doubt (or at least a shadow) on the whole story. This is what our administration is a master at.

To accuse Newsweek of being directly responsible for 15 deaths is egregious and disgusting. These deaths occured because there are some people that are pretty f***ing mad about true abuses.

Posted by: jim at May 18, 2005 11:45 AM

Um, yeah. Newsweek's reporters got the report from mind rays Karl Rove sent to their dental fillings.

At least Mickey Kaus' suggestion that this was a plant by Clinton to get back at Isikoff had the virtue of being original and amusing.

The real responsibility for the deaths belongs to the rioters, but Newsweek contributed to the problem, and would not have if its reporters had acted responsibly.

Posted by: The Crank at May 18, 2005 11:53 AM

Sullivan most definitely does NOT have it right. He has it exactly wrong. For him Newsweek's story was plausible so it doesn't matter that it's not true. Please explain what the hell does that have to do with journalism?

Posted by: Gardner at May 18, 2005 12:53 PM

I doubt it was from the mind rays of Karl Rove but would not put it past a simple phone call from him. Um, if the US had acted responsibly and not perpetrated torture, disappearances, etc. then there would never have been a story in the first place. If this story existed in a vacuum, no doubt, there would not have been the type of rioting that occurred. Because our military and the contractors the administration has chosen to hire has done their worst in certain situations this "story" became a lightning rod.

Posted by: jim at May 18, 2005 2:05 PM

no try

Posted by: terere at July 17, 2005 9:42 PM
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