Hawks at the Washington Post | The Nation


Hawks at the Washington Post

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Needless to say, the Post does run dissenting voices on Iraq. It has featured William Potter, an analyst at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, on the possibility that war will make Saddam Hussein even more likely to use his biological weapons; John Mueller, a professor at Ohio State University, on how the United States is exaggerating the scale of the threats it faces; Fawaz Gerges, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, on the difficulties the United States would likely face in building democracy in a post-invasion Iraq; and James Webb, a former Secretary of the Navy, on how an attack on Iraq could actually increase the likelihood of Muslim aggression against the United States. The paper also ran a stinging attack on Bush policy by former President Jimmy Carter. Decrying the Administration's backsliding on human rights and its turn away from "laboriously negotiated" international accords, Carter attributed the Administration's unilateralist approach to "a core group of conservatives who are trying to realize long-pent-up ambitions under the cover of the proclaimed war against terrorism."

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Michael Massing
Michael Massing, a New York writer, is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and Columbia Journalism...

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Some of the Post's liberal columnists have been sharply critical of the Administration as well. William Raspberry, in particular, seems to have been roused from torpor by Bush's policy. "Our Insane Focus on Iraq," ran the headline atop one of his columns. Mary McGrory, too, has gotten in some barbs.

But these voices have been drowned out by the din from the hawks. Hoagland, Kelly, Krauthammer, Novak, Will--week after week they appear, relentlessly demanding that the United States unseat Saddam Hussein. Hoagland writes about the issue so regularly (and monotonously) that he felt compelled to defend himself in a mid-October column. Weekly, Michael Kelly weighs in with his own special brand of nastiness. After Al Gore gave his speech criticizing the President, for instance, Kelly called him a "disgrace." Joining in the chorus are several columnists who normally seem more moderate--Jackson Diehl, David Ignatius and Sebastian Mallaby. In late September, for instance, Diehl called the Administration's new national security doctrine "a bold--and mostly brilliant--synthesis, one that conceivably could cause national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who executed it, to be remembered as the policymaker who defined a new era."

Meanwhile, some of the Post's in-house liberals have seemed ill at ease with the Iraq issue. E.J. Dionne approaches it mainly in terms of its effects on the political fortunes of the Democratic Party. ("The president's decision yesterday to ask Congress for the broad authority to wage war on Saddam Hussein...will only aggravate hard feelings in Democratic ranks," went a sample passage in a September 20 column.) Michael Kinsley excels at picking apart the weaknesses in others' arguments (including George Bush's) but generally avoids taking a position of his own. And Richard Cohen is all over the place, confessing doubts one week, declaring support for the President the next. Finally, on October 10 he came down squarely in Bush's corner, calling the removal of Saddam Hussein "a worthy and sensible goal." Such wishy-washiness makes the advocates of war seem all the more forceful.

To an extent, the tilt on the Post's Op-Ed page may reflect the difficulties liberals in this country have had in articulating the case against military action. The magnitude of Saddam's cruelty, his lurid history of aggression and mass murder, his clear determination to obtain weapons that could disrupt world peace--all have placed critics of war on the defensive. That's why so many have taken refuge in calls for deliberation, diplomacy and multilateralism.

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