More on Hoagland
Following up on my earlier post about the Jim Hoagland column from today’s WashPost, after reading his column late last night as it was posted to the Post website, I did in fact fire off this email to Mr. Hoagland:
You have forgotten more about foreign policy than I will ever know. But your willingness to let the Bush Administration off with a relatively light slap on the wrist in your column today seems a whitewash.
You state that if Bush was wrong about WMDs, then so were Chirac and Schroeder on the basis that "your source" convinces you that they had the same evidence of Saddam's WMDs that Bush did. Well, I have to trust your source, because you do not reveal this person. Yet such a "they were wrong too" argument glosses over several things. First, these other countries knew from the moment that Colin Powell soiled himself at the UN in February with the Niger aluminum tubes story that the US was using faulty intelligence to sell a story to the world. Second, both Bush and Blair claimed from the disgraced dossier and other sources that an immediate invasion was necessary because Saddam had the means to launch WMDs within 45 minutes, and this had to be stopped. Both Schroeder and Chirac, while maybe agreeing the Saddam had WMDs, did not necessarily think the "45 minutes" scare tactic was accurate because they read the same account from the Iraqi son-in-law about Saddam's WMDs that the CIA had, and knew that he had said most of the stocks had been destroyed post 1991. So even though they both may have agreed with the possibility that Saddam may have still had WMDs, neither one of them agreed with the urgency that Blair and Bush placed on his capabilities.
Second, you express a great deal of faith in the ability of the American people to use common sense and analyze claims about Iraq. You state:
"The American public has shown a steady ability to sort through news, propaganda and self-serving embellishment, usually without mistaking any or all of them for unalloyed, revealed "truth." You won't find truth in that pure a form in a newspaper or an intelligence report.
You find truth only in common sense -- in the process of comparing and analyzing information yourself and then applying your life experiences to it to see where, how or even if it fits into the larger scheme of things. Americans by and large did and continue to do just that about Bush and Iraq. He should give them credit for that, and refrain from any embellishment."
Yet when you place such great faith in the American people to sort out truths and lies about Iraq, please tell me how that squares with the fact that large majorities of these same common-sense Americans still believe that Saddam was behind 9/11, and that the terrorists were Iraqi, and not Saudi? This great faith you seem to place in our people is blinded to the ability of this administration to allow a story to be put out there and allow it to fester and grow in the right-wing media when it is factually false but helps their case in selling this war. Yet you have no criticism of the Administration for not being clear with the American people on this point or trying to set the record straight.
I submit to you that the American people have not done as good a job as you would like to believe they have analyzing the rationales for the war in Iraq. Part of this is the right-wing media drum beat for this war to help the Administration; part of it is the lack of the mainstream press to hold the Administration accountable when they lie or allow lies to fester (and that frankly includes your paper), and part of that regrettably is that America by and large is largely ignorant of the real world beyond our borders, as evidenced in the months before and after 9/11, and stays largely ignorant regrettably to this day. If you want proof, ask Americans how things are going now in Afghanistan, Iraq, or who was behind 9/11.
I appreciate your work, but you leave the Administration and frankly the American people off the hook too easily. Despite the best efforts of seasoned foreign affairs journalists like yourself, this Administration is a dangerous manipulator of a chronically lazy and uninformed electorate, as evidenced by the Iraq war ramp-up. Want proof? Let's see how long it takes these guys to finalize plans to go into Iran when the domestic rebound falters before the election next year.
Regardless of my criticisms, I appreciate your work.
To my surprise, I did receive a response from Mr. Hoagland very early this afternoon, but needless to say it floored me.
Subj: RE: Column: Clarity is the Best Weapon
Date: 6/1/03 12:24:58 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jim Hoagland)
“Dear Mr. Soto, Thank you for your serious letter, and for the very civil
way in which you expressed your disagreements with the points I made, as
well as your views about Bush and Blair. You may be able to help me out on
one point: Do you have a citation on Bush (or Cheney or Powell or Rumsfeld
for that matter) using the 45-minute bit? I must have missed it, but since
it is coming up I need to check on it. Again, thank you. I enjoy spirited
reasonable rebuttal. JH”
Yikes! What is to be inferred from his response? Is he saying that he was unaware of the 45-minute claim itself and the point I was trying to make about the bogus nature of the imminent threat claim, based as it was on the Blair dossier that was repeated by Bush as a justification over and over again? Or is he simply lazy and wants to see if I can pull up a citation to prove my point?
Is it me, or is this just plain stunning? I sent him one link to an actual White House announcement (from Google) where Bush is referencing Blair's claim as proof that Saddam is an imminent threat. I have yet to hear back from him.
I have always assumed, as maybe you have, that the media has simply been rolled by the Bushies into submission so that they don't cover Bush with the same scrutiny that they showed Clinton. But this tells me that maybe there is another explanation. These guys are all busy covering many stories and leads. Is it possible that they are just uninformed of all that is said and already out there in the public domain on this stuff, and that is the reason they let Bush get away with it? Could that really be the reason? Or are they flat-out lazy?
Without an attack machine to browbeat them with facts or story leads, like the right did with Clinton, the media may be just lazy, sloppy, or uninformed. Since the left has no such organized machine in place to do the same to the media now, could that be what is really going on here? Again, Hoagland is not some guy who just fell off the turnip truck. He is their number one foreign policy guy. And he seems to not have known that Bush built his case for immediate invasion on a "45 minute" claim that was based on a discredited dossier.
Amazing. Well, Mr. Hoagland better get up to speed on the history and fallacies behind the "45 minute" claim because it is about to be looked at very closely, at least overseas.