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'NYT' and Keller Promote a US Attack on Syria: Iraq WMD Revisited? | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

'NYT' and Keller Promote a US Attack on Syria: Iraq WMD Revisited?


New York Times columnist Bill Keller has now called for the United States to launch missiles at Syrian government installations. (Reuters/Phil McCarten.)

Hail, hail, the gang’s nearly all here. Michael Gordon, Thomas Friedman, now Bill Keller. Paging Judy Miller! The New York Times in recent days on its front page and at top of its site has been promoting the meme of Syria regime as chemical weapons abuser, thereby pushing Obama to jump over his “red line” and bomb or otherwise attack there. Tom Friedman weighed in Sunday by calling for an international force to occupy the entire country (surely they would only need to stay one Friedman Unit, or six months).

Now, after this weekend’s Israeli warplane assaults, the threat grows even more dire.

And Bill Keller, the self-derided “reluctant hawk” on invading Iraq in 2003, returns with a column today stating right in its headline, “Syria Is Not Iraq,” and urging Obama and all of us to finally “get over Iraq.” He boasts that he has.

The Times in its news pages, via Sanger, Gordon and Jodi Rudoren, has been highlighting claims of Syria’s use of chem agents for quite some time, highlighted by last week’s top story swallowing nearly whole the latest Israeli claims. Days later, Obama said evidence was far from certain—even if chemicals were used it was very limited—and some of our allies who made same claims also expressed new skepticism. The Times editorial page urged caution. Jon Stewart mocked the hawks. But that hardly halted the foreign desk!

Yesterday, Reuters reported on one of the four United Nations investigators stating that if sarin was used in Syria it was more likely by the the rebels, not the regime. Still, David Sanger, later Sunday, continued (at least in his early drafts) to push the chem claims at the top of his story—while not noting the UN prober’s charge. He also highlighted John McCain’s calls for fast action, while burying contradictory claims, an old trick for the Times and The Washington Post from the run-up to Iraq war.

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Then Bill Keller posted his Monday column. He declared that our mistakes in that country should not prevent us from intervening in Syria, which is “not Iraq.” He says he was gun-shy after his Iraq flub—but no more! Now he derides Obama for “looking for excuses to stand pat.” He also provides several reasons why Syria is “not Iraq,” and how now his hawkishness is based on reality: This time we really can hurt the terrorists gathered there, really can calm tensions in the region, and so on. Instead of a “mushroom cloud,” he warns of the next chemical “atrocity.” And he claims there’s a broader coaiition of the willing this time.

He even revives the good old “domino theory,” endorsing the view that if we don’t do something in Syria it will embolden China, North Korea and Iran. And I love this one, straight from 2003: Doing nothing “includes the danger that if we stay away now, we will get drawn in later (and bigger), when, for example, a desperate Assad drops sarin on a Damascus suburb….” If a surge in aid for those Al Qaeda–lovin’ rebels fails against Assad, then we “send missiles against his military installations until he, or more likely those around him, calculate that they should sue for peace.” Yeah, how did that work out in Iraq in the long run?

At least Keller provides some comic relief when he admits, “I don’t mean to make this sound easy.” (To grasp why Keller is turning “hawk” on Syria, see my review of his recent column on his FUBAR re Iraq.)

Keller concludes: “Whatever we decide, getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.” Then we can get over Syria—with Iran? Remember when Iraq was supposed to help us “get over” Vietnam?

See my book So Wrong for So Long on how the media—including the Times and Keller—helped get us into that mess for ten years.

Israel’s throwing a big war in the Middle East, and the United States is invited. Read Robert Dreyfuss on Israel’s bombing of Syrian government forces.

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