In an elegant “Talk of the Town” piece on the subject of George Tenet’s new book in the current issue of The New Yorker, George Packer levels a strong indictment against the Bush Administration for coming “close to perfecting the art of unaccountability.”
Packer’s comment, titled “No Shame, No Blame,” is smart and on point. Yet, after reading it, I sat bolt upright in bed astonished that Packer could describe what he calls “styles of unaccountability” without including a critical (and self-critical) inventory of pro-war writers and pundits’ role in the Iraq debacle. We know about the responsibility Bush officials bear for taking us into the most colossal foreign policy disaster in US history. But what about the wordsmiths who, like Thomas Friedman and Packer himself, came out in favor of this blood-soaked war. Remember Friedman’s line — “something in Mr. Bush’s audacious shake of the dice appeals to me”? Or what about the New Yorker‘s own Jeffrey Goldberg who floated now discredited theories that Saddam was working closely with Al Qaeda?
For a scathing article about how these and other pro-war (but “now I’ve seen the light”) pundits have escaped real accountability, check out Radar‘s “The Iraq Gamble: At the Pundits’ Table, The Losing Bet Still Takes the Pot,” by Jebediah Reed. It’s a disturbing tale of journalistic “no blame, no shame”. Eight pundits are profiled. Four of them, as “Radar” puts it, ” were ‘the most influentially and disturbingly misguided in their pro-war arguments” and played “a central role in our national decision-making process; The other four writer/pundits were the “most prescient and forceful in their opposition.”
In it’s cheeky “where are they now” survey, Radar “found that something is rotten in the fourth estate.” After all, “surely, those who warned us not to invade Iraq have been recognized and rewarded, and those who pushed for this disaster face tattered credibility and waning career prospects Could it be any other way in America?”
Yes. It turns out that these (and other) pundits who made the case for war are doing just fine. Regular appearances on influential TV chat shows, columns in major US newspapers and magazines, lucrative speaking engagements, Council on Foreign Relations’ fellowships and various journalistic awards. While those who opposed the war, often fending off ferocious attacks on their patriotism and arguments, are, as Radar puts it, “Right but Poor.” (Full disclosure: Jonathan Schell, a valued Nation contributor, is profiled here as one of the leading writers who argued against the war. “There doesn’t seem to be a rush to find people who were right about Iraq and install them in the mainstream media,” Schell tells “Radar”.)
Like their brethren in Bush officialdom, these journalists appear to have escaped real accountability for their role in this catastrophe. “No shame, no blame.”