Joe Conason's Journal

Anyone who reads the Washington Post should have strongly suspected that false premises underpinned the war.

By Salon Staff

Published September 18, 2003 5:46PM (EDT)

Post mortem
Suddenly the president, the vice president and sundry other administration officials are publicly "correcting" certain aspects of the propaganda campaign that drove the United States into war with Iraq. Yet anyone who reads the Washington Post -- which means most of the people in and around the United States government and the national press corps -- should have strongly suspected that false premises underpinned the war. To find the Post's path-breaking stories, however, most of which were reported by Walter Pincus, readers had to thumb their way back to Page A20 or deeper.

The Post editors buried nearly all of the scoops by Pincus (and his colleagues Dana Priest, Dana Milbank, Barton Gellman and Karen DeYoung) until after the president declared victory. Why did a leading newspaper (often wrongly described as "liberal") behave so timorously?

"The Post was scared," according to Pincus, interviewed by Ari Berman for this excellent Nation story about the paper's Iraq coverage. "I believe papers ought to crusade when we're on to something." As Pincus wisely observes, the increasing difficulties in Iraq have emboldened journalists and editors. "This is a country in which it doesn't matter what you say if you succeed. But if you fail, people go back and look at why." The changing political atmosphere has enabled Pincus and others to speak up about pre-war journalistic cowardice, including Christiane Amanpour (as I note in this column for the Guardian).

This hectic life, including hurricanes
Isabel's arrival is likely to delay my scheduled departure for California. I'll do my best to file from the road while signing copies of "Big Lies" and appearing on TV and radio in various locations, but please excuse any gaps in this journal.

If somehow I do get to California on schedule tomorrow, I plan to be at the Salon party in San Francisco on Friday evening. Then on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. I will be at Cody's Books in Berkeley, and on Monday at 7 p.m. I will be at Book Passage in Corte Madera. Media appearances over the next few days will include "Sunday Salon" on KPFA-FM at 10 a.m.; "Mornings on 2," KTVU-TV at 8:30 a.m. on Monday; and "The Bernie Ward Show," Monday night from 11 p.m. to midnight on KGO AM.

An astute reader has pointed out that former deputy independent counsel John Bates was not among the authors of the Starr Report, as I stated incorrectly last Monday. I regret the error.

Salon Staff

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