by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
August 24, 2007
ON IRAQ, WHY IS THE RIGHT TAKEN SERIOUSLY?
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It still amazes me that newspapers still publish pieces by William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks and Thomas Friedman.
It still amazes me that people such as Fred Barnes, Rich Lowry, Michael Barone, the Kagan brothers, Dick Morris and Joe Klein still get taken seriously as pundits.
It still amazes me that people still think David Broder is relevant, that Sen. Joe Lieberman is still a Democrat or that we're winning the war in Iraq.
It amazes me because the right-wing pundits who have been wrong every step of the way for the last five years still have steady gigs. The people who didn't drink the conservative Kool-Aid are still on the outside looking in.
I'm fairly low on the media food chain and was not privy to the high-level discussions going on in Washington back in 2002, when the Bush Administration starting ginning up support for an invasion of Iraq.
Despite my absence from the official circles, I knew that Iraq did not have chemical, nuclear or biological weapons - and if there still were some chemical weapons hanging around, they were not in a usable form.
I knew that after more than a decade of economic sanctions and periodic bombing by U.S. and U.K. warplanes, Iraq was not a threat to its neighbors, let alone the United States.
I knew that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and had no relationship with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
I knew that, aside from trying to seize control of Iraq's oil reserves, there was no reason whatsoever to invade Iraq.
I knew that, far from stabilizing the Middle East, a U.S. invasion of Iraq would be a disaster on every level.
How did I know this? Because I was reading The Nation and The Progressive instead of The Weekly Standard or National Review. I was reading Truthout and Common Dreams on-line instead of Town Hall or WorldNetDaily. I was listening to the BBC or Democracy Now! instead of watching Fox News or CNN.
My editorial voice in 2002 and 2003 didn't carry as far as those of Molly Ivins, Paul Krugman, Amy Goodman, Howard Zinn, Robert Fisk, James Carroll or John Pilger. I wrote of their reporting and others' in an effort to add my voice to the anti-war chorus and to support their work.
Yes, we were outnumbered and outshouted by the right-wingers. We were called traitors and un-American. In the glow of victory after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, the right-wingers gloated and gleefully attacked all of us who were "wrong" about the war.
Except that we weren't.
Everything we knew and said before the invasion, came to pass. No "weapons of mass destruction" were found. U.S. soldiers were not greeted as liberators by wildly cheering throngs of Iraqis. The occupation turned out to be longer and deadlier than the invasion. Iraq became a new training ground for terrorists. The Middle East is more unstable than ever before.
Our reward for being right is continued obscurity. The Left is still marginalized and still outshouted by the Right in the media. We're still considered kooks by the so-called "respectable" people in the media.
Instead of seeing right-wingers hang their heads in shame for being utterly and totally wrong about the war, they keep popping up on the television and the op-ed pages, spouting off more misinformation about Iraq.
Granted, the ground has shifted considerably since 2002. Now, a majority of Americans think the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. There is considerable support for withdrawal. President Bush's approval ratings are at historic lows. Yet the same people who were wrong about Iraq still command an audience and are still taken seriously.
There is no grand conspiracy behind this. The managers at most media outlets are cautious by nature. They aren't creative and are deathly afraid of being seen as different or out of the mainstream. The conventional wisdom is all that matters, and in 2002, the thought that our President and all his men would deceive our nation into a war of choice was not conventional wisdom.
The late I.F. Stone once said, "Every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed." Those words should be hung on the wall of every newsroom in America, because they have been shown to be true time and time again.
The problem is that they aren't. Too many journalists and pundits believe what they are told and stick with the conventional wisdom because people who don't do so usually don't have long careers in the corporate media. So the people who were wrong about Iraq continue to have high-profile gigs while the people who challenged the conventional wisdom are still on the fringes of public debate.
Now, the same people who gave us the Iraq war are trying to gin up a war with Iran. The same arguments and the same tall tales are being trotted out again. And the people who were called loons and traitors in 2002 are again saying that attacking Iran would be an even bigger mistake. So, who is being listened to? The people who were wrong about Iraq, of course.
I'm not expecting to be on any Sunday news shows any time soon. I'm not expecting to be invited to pen an op-ed piece for The New York Times or The Washington Post. I'm not expecting anyone beyond the few thousand people who read this to even care about the media's track record since 9/11.
But when someone gets around to writing a history of our time, let the record show that I didn't drink the Kool-Aid. I didn't blindly wave the flag and support a war that was so blatantly wrong. I proudly stood with those who didn't believe the lies and tried my best to warn others.
During the McCarthy era, the Americans who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War - the people who opposed Franco and his German and Italian allies in what ultimately was the dress rehearsal for World War II - were labeled "premature anti-fascists." Even though they correctly anticipated the dangers of fascism years before other Americans, they were considered un-American because of their foresight.
Will we be labeled "prematurely anti-Iraq" because we correctly anticipated the kind of disaster the U.S. invasion and occupation would be? If those labels are being handed out, please send one my way.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.