Six Years Ago on Eve of Iraq War: Judy Miller vs. Paul Krugman

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By: Greg Mitchell

(Commentary) Perhaps revealing a masochistic streak, I spent a few minutes today in the The New York Times archives looking over most of the articles and columns related to Iraq that appeared there in print or online on this day exactly six years ago on the eve of our invasion. There were dozens, of course.

It was fascinating to re-read Judith Miller previewing how we would go about locating those WMDs she was so sure Saddam possessed. And Thomas Friedman stating again that he backed the war but (I did not recall this) also hitting Bush hard for not gaining enough allies or doing the right diplomatic work. The Times’ editorial also criticized Bush on this but, unlike Friedman, opposed war at that time. Plus: the complete text of Bush’s final pre-war speech to the nation, where he gave Saddam and his kids 48 hours to get out of Dodge — and repeated the false claims that the Iraqi ruler he had WMD and helped al-Qaeda.

You may find this amusing, from the Times’ Jim Rutenberg: “Yesterday, the Media Research Center, a conservative group, released a report criticizing ABC News for what it called liberal bias. The group said ABC News was the worst ‘offender’ among the networks for ‘channeling Iraqi propaganda,’ ‘sanitizing radical protesters’ and ‘championing France and the U.N. over the U.S.”’

On the other hand: There was Paul Krugman.

In his regular column, he hit nearly every nail on the head in predicting what would follow. Yet consider the scorn he has had to endure from so many in the years since, who got it nearly 100% wrong.

Here are some brief excerpts.

“Of course we’ll win on the battlefield, probably with ease. I’m not a military expert, but I can do the numbers: the most recent U.S. military budget was $400 billion, while Iraq spent only $1.4 billion.

“What frightens me is the aftermath — and I’m not just talking about the problems of postwar occupation. I’m worried about what will happen beyond Iraq — in the world at large, and here at home.

“The members of the Bush team don’t seem bothered by the enormous ill will they have generated in the rest of the world.”

And:

“Victory in Iraq won’t end the world’s distrust of the United States because the Bush administration has made it clear, over and over again, that it doesn’t play by the rules … nor, as we’ve just seen, is military power a substitute for trust …

“Meanwhile, consider this: we need $400 billion a year of foreign investment to cover our trade deficit, or the dollar will plunge and our surging budget deficit will become much harder to finance — and there are already signs that the flow of foreign investment is drying up, just when it seems that America may be about to fight a whole series of wars.”

Finally:

“It’s a matter of public record that this war with Iraq is largely the brainchild of a group of neoconservative intellectuals, who view it as a pilot project …

“What scares me most, however, is the home front. Look at how this war happened. There is a case for getting tough with Iraq; bear in mind that an exasperated Clinton administration considered a bombing campaign in 1998. But it’s not a case that the Bush administration ever made. Instead we got assertions about a nuclear program that turned out to be based on flawed or faked evidence; we got assertions about a link to Al Qaeda that people inside the intelligence services regard as nonsense. Yet those serial embarrassments went almost unreported by our domestic news media. So most Americans have no idea why the rest of the world doesn’t trust the Bush administration’s motives. And once the shooting starts, the already loud chorus that denounces any criticism as unpatriotic will become deafening.

“So now the administration knows that it can make unsubstantiated claims, without paying a price when those claims prove false, and that saber rattling gains it votes and silences opposition. Maybe it will honorably refuse to act on this dangerous knowledge. But I can’t help worrying that in domestic politics, as in foreign policy, this war will turn out to have been the shape of things to come.”

Greg Mitchell’s new book is “Why Obama Won.” One year ago he wrote a book on Iraq and the media, “So Wrong for So Long.”

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