Count the mea culpas


Stephen W. Stromberg
June 23, 2004 6:34PM (UTC)

Not everyone is buying the New Republic's kinda-sorta mea culpa on the Iraq war. The Nation's David Corn, in a skeptical blog post, says:

"The editorial acknowledges 'we should have paid more attention to these warning signs.' Yet it reports,'we feel regret--but no shame.' That is because the 'moral' rationale--liberating Iraq and countering 'the forces of ignorance, fanaticism and bigotry' in the Arab world--has not collapsed. While this argument for war may have been mugged by reality, the magazine argues, it has not been negated."

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"But before the war, TNR had a different take. In an editorial posted on August 22, 2002, and entitled 'Best Case,' the editors dismissed going to war because Hussein was evil. ('He is not the only evil leader in the world, and we are not proposing to act against other evil leaders.') It pooh-poohed invading Iraq to bring democracy to Mesopotamia. ('But this, too, cannot explain why the absence of democracy in Iraq is more odious and more threatening than the absence of democracy in many other states.') But there was 'one spectacular thing' that made the 'villain in Baghdad' an appropriate target: 'He is the only leader in the world with weapons of mass destruction who has used them....That is the case.'"

The New Republic's issue features reconsiderations of pre-war positions by owner Martin Peretz, literary editor Leon Wieseltier, editor Peter Beinart, Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum and Sens. Joe Biden and John McCain. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reported on Sunday that The New Republic magazine was among a plethora of publications and politicians reconsidering their support for the war.

Among the others questioning their support for the war, or coverage leading up to the war, are the New York Times, Washington Post, and even CNN commentator Tucker Carlson.

Salon's Right Hook has also reported that New York Times columnist David Brooks and Weekly Standard editors Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, all prolific war hawks, had toned down their enthusiasm for the Iraq invasion.

After the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the Economist magazine, a resolute supporter of toppling Saddam, called for Rumsfeld's resignation. It also had this to say in April: "Contrary to Mr Bush's assertions, the war was one of choice, not necessity. Given that, it was foolish to exaggerate Saddam's weaponry, downright misleading to imply a link between the Iraqi leader and al-Qaeda, and hubristic to do so little to prepare for post-war reconstruction."

But don't expect backtracking from the Bush White House any time soon -- after all, the president can't even think of one mistake he's made after 9/11.

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Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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