Watchdog Blog

Gilbert Cranberg: Iraq, a spectacular failure in many ways

Posted at 12:41 pm, October 24th, 2011
Gilbert Cranberg Mug

As American troops prepare to head for the exit in Iraq, pundits prepare to critique the war. Let me contribute my two cents worth: the war was a spectacular failure for the vaunted American system of checks and balances.

The only checks in evidence were those written to pay for the trillion or so dollars in war costs. The opposition party abdicated its responsibility and was virtually mute. The 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq had the support of a majority of Senate Democrats. In both houses, the blank check for war resolution was sponsored by the Democratic leadership.

As for the press, supposedly a key informal component of the checks and balances system, most of it was out to lunch during the build up to war. Instead of questioning the rationale for war, many were cheerleading for hostilities The editors of the country’s two most influential newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post, either favored the war personally or favored it in their coverage, downplaying or disregarding skeptical views.

The single most consequential event in swinging public opinion in favor of the march to war was Colin Powell’s speech in February 2003 to the U.N. Security Council. The speech was seriously flawed, but the press was oblivious. To read press comment at the time, you would have thought Powell had delivered an oratorical equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount: “a smoking fusillade…a persuasive case for anyone who is still persuadable….Colin Powell delivered the goods on Saddam Hussein….only the most gullible and wishful thinking souls can now deny that Iraq is harboring and hiding weapons of mass destruction…” On and on went the editorial praise for Powell’s flimsy case for war in what surely must rank as one of the worst performances in editorial annals.

The press has a lot to answer for, as does Colin Powell. His 1995 book, “My American Journey,” concludes before the second Iraq war, but he recently signed a contract for another work. It will be interesting to see if, in that book, there are apologies for his part in convincing Americans to support an unnecessary war.

One Response to “Iraq, a spectacular failure in many ways”

  1. Barbara Ruether says:

    McClatchy (Ridder) news always questioned and sought to dig out the truth during and afther the Iraq War began. They were the only journalists, real journalists doing what should have been expected of the profession. The two reporters who really should have won pulitizers were never recognized until much later, when appearing as guests on the PBS program hosted by Bill Moyers. Why do you not acknowledge these two reporters?

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