The third anniversary of the Iraq invasion is
bound to attract a lot of media coverage, but scant recognition will go to the
pundits who helped to make it all possible.
Continuing with long service to the Bush administration's agenda-setting for
war, prominent media commentators were very busy in the weeks before the invasion.
At the Washington Post, the op-ed page's fervor hit a new peak on Feb.
6, 2003, the day after Colin Powell's mendacious speech to the U.N. Security
Post columnist Richard Cohen explained that Powell was utterly convincing.
"The evidence he presented to the United Nations some of it circumstantial,
some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail had to prove to anyone
that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but
without a doubt still retains them," Cohen wrote. "Only a fool
or possibly a Frenchman could conclude otherwise."
Meanwhile, another one of the Post's syndicated savants, Jim Hoagland,
led with this declaration: "Colin Powell did more than present the world
with a convincing and detailed X-ray of Iraq's secret weapons and terrorism
programs yesterday. He also exposed the enduring bad faith of several key members
of the U.N. Security Council when it comes to Iraq and its 'web of lies,' in
Powell's phrase." Hoagland's closing words banished doubt: "To continue
to say that the Bush administration has not made its case, you must now believe
that Colin Powell lied in the most serious statement he will ever make, or was
taken in by manufactured evidence. I don't believe that. Today, neither should
Impatience grew among pundits who depicted the U.N.'s inspection
process as a charade because Saddam Hussein's regime obviously
possessed weapons of mass destruction. In an essay appearing on Feb.
13, 2003, Christopher Hitchens wrote: "Those who are calling for more
time in this process should be aware that they are calling for more
time for Saddam's people to complete their humiliation and subversion
of the inspectors."
A few weeks later, on March 17, President Bush prefaced the imminent
invasion by claiming in a televised speech: "Should Saddam Hussein
choose confrontation, the American people can know that every measure
has been taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to win
In the same speech, noting that "many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a
translated radio broadcast," Bush offered reassurance. "I have a
message for them: If we must begin a military campaign, it will be
directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not
The next day, Hitchens came out with an essay featuring similar
assurances, telling readers that "the Defense Department has evolved
highly selective and accurate munitions that can sharply reduce the
need to take or receive casualties. The predictions of widespread
mayhem turned out to be false last time when the weapons [in the
Gulf War] were nothing like so accurate." And, he added, "it can now
be proposed as a practical matter that one is able to fight against a
regime and not a people or a nation."
With the full-scale attack underway, the practicalities were evident from
network TV studios. "The American public knows the importance of this war,"
Fox News pundit and Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes proclaimed
a few days after the invasion began. "They are not as casualty sensitive
as the weenies in the American press are."
And what about the punditry after the ballyhooed "victory" in Iraq?
Researchers at the media watch group FAIR (where I'm an associate)
have exhumed statements made by prominent media cheerleaders who were
flush with triumph. Often showing elation as Baghdad fell, U.S.
journalists lavished praise on the invasion and sometimes aimed
derisive salvos at American opponents of the military action.
One of the most gleeful commentators on network television was MSNBC's "Hardball"
host Chris Matthews. "We're all neocons now," he crowed on April 9,
2003, hours after a Saddam Hussein statue tumbled in Baghdad.
Weeks later, Matthews was still at it, making categorical
declarations: "We're proud of our president. Americans love having a
guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical,
who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or
Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president.
Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this
war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple."
Simplistic was more like it. And, in the rush of stateside enthusiasm
for war on Iraq, centrist pundits like Matthews apt to sway with
the prevailing wind were hardly inclined to buck the jingoistic
Pseudo-patriotic hot air remained at gale force on Fox News Channel,
still blowing strong. "Tommy Franks and the coalition forces have
demonstrated the old axiom that boldness on the battlefield produces
swift and relatively bloodless victory," Tony Snow told viewers in
late April. "The three-week swing through Iraq has utterly shattered
What passes for liberalism on Fox also cheered and gloated. Sean Hannity's
weak debating partner, Alan Colmes, threw down a baiting challenge on April
25. "Now that the war in Iraq is all but over," Colmes demanded, "should
the people in Hollywood who opposed the president admit they were wrong?"
Part of this article has been adapted from Norman Solomon's latest book,
War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.
For information, go to: www.WarMadeEasy.com