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Finally: Iraq Crisis Brings Swift Rebuke of Iraq Architects
Mendacious Media Appearances Attract Ire and Condemnation
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“That anyone pays [attention] to neocons after their serial disasters is eloquent testimony to [the] irresponsibility of US foreign policy institutions” — Stephen Walt, on Twitter, June 17.

If Walt is correct, then these foreign policy institutions, as well as the mainstream media, were pretty irresponsible in the days following the domino-like overrun of Iraqi cities by Sunni-led ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) this month. While the very architects and defenders of the Bush Administration’s War in Iraq were scheduled in rapid succession on that first weekend’s round of talk shows, The New York Times actually sent a reporter out to Robert Kagan’s house to talk about his exhausting New Republic treatise promoting – again – America as both the reluctant and righteous superpower that must intervene to keep the world right.

In the NYT article, “Events in Iraq Open Door for Interventionist Revival, Historian Says ,” Jason Horowitz takes a sycophantic turn on the shopworn story of the “Kagan clan,” and while Iraq is literally burning, expends precious ink telling us “Mr. Kagan, who often works in a book-lined studio of his cedar home here in the Washington suburbs, exudes a Cocoa-Puffs-pouring, stay-at-home-dad charm.”

If that weren’t cringeworthy enough, there is a color photo of Professor Coco-Puff in his one-percenter studio in the Washington ’burbs, and a line about how he fell in love with his now-Assistant Secretary of State wife Victoria Nuland, “talking about democracy and the role of America in the world.”

But the swift rebuke of Kagan, his family and ilk in the last week indicates that, like the Twisted Sister declaration of war against the shackles of self expression in the 1980’s, “we’re not going to take it anymore,” the sorry predominance of the warmonger in our mainstream discourse – at least on the issue of Iraq – is coming to an end.

“With Iraq in the news again, a whole host of war boosters have re-entered the public conversation, despite their utter lack of credibility,” wrote Slate’s Jamelle Bouie “Neocons deserve one thing: to be ignored.”

The Atlantic’s James Fallows, who has been criticizing the Washington media hive for decades, is usually a soft touch. But the re-emergence of the folks like Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan’s little brother Fred Kagan appeared to set his teeth on edge.

“We now live with (and many, many people have died because of) the consequences of their gross misjudgments a dozen years ago,” he wrote last week.

“In the circumstances, they might have the decency to shut the hell up on this particular topic for a while. They helped create the disaster Iraqis and others are now dealing with. They have earned the right not to be listened to.”

There was this Tweet from Mother Jones, reacting, as many across the Twitter universe did, to Paul Wolfowitz making the June 15 Sunday talk show rounds.

“Why in the hell are people letting Paul Wolfowitz act like he’s an expert on Iraq?” the magazine demanded, leading to a piece by David Corn, who reminded that Wolfowitz had not only been wrong on how many troops it would take to stabilize the country after tearing it up in 2003, but had early-on dismissed the idea of a sectarian civil war (between Shia and Sunni).

And hadn’t he said the Iraqis would be able to pay for their own reconstruction and “relatively soon”?

Now, the deputy secretary of defense is on TV insisting, as he did with Chuck Todd on MSNBC the other day that he was “no architect” of the war in Iraq. “If I had been the architect, things would have been run very differently. So, that’s not a correct label.” He said the same to CNN’s Chris Cuomo who introduced him as such. It seems he has been denying it for years.

But the real question is, what was he doing on television anyway?” demanded Corn, adding:

Like his neocon comrades—Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Kagan, and others—Wolfowitz does not deserve to be presented as an expert with important ideas about the ongoing mess. He and the rest of this gang should have had their pundit licenses revoked after the Iraq War.

Matt Berman at The National Journal seems to suggest these neocons are a bit delusional about their cache with the American public. He pointed to a recent op-ed by former vice president Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz Cheney in The Wall Street Journal. The Cheneys, “without a hint of self-awareness,” writes Berman, attempt to blame Obama for the current situation in Iraq, at one point writing, “rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”

You may remember that when Dick Cheney left office in 2009, his approval rating was at 13 percent. At that same time, just 25 percent of Americans approved of how the Bush administration handled the war in Iraq during his presidency. Cheney may not know it, but this isn’t a particularly trusted foreign policy brain trust we’re talking about.

But that hasn’t stopped anyone from booking them. It’s mendacity only Burl “Big Daddy” Ives could approve of, and it seems to be sprouting all over the airwaves like, well, “turd blossoms.”

Luckily, when one of these blossoms pops up on Morning Joe or CNN, there is someone to pluck it out of the dung. Example: former Iraq viceroy Paul Bremer, who is often credited with singlehandedly losing the first and most important battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, did his circuit last week. CNN’s Erin Burnett didn’t skip a beat.

“A lot of people are watching you right now and they’re —they’re hearing you give your ideas of what to do. And they’re saying, ‘but aren’t you the guy who got us in this mess?'”

Erin Burnett, arguably one of the most corporate of the corporate mainstream anchors on cable today, nonetheless seemed genuinely flummoxed over Bremer’s suggestion that another intervention into Iraq was in order. She pummeled him to the point where he sputtered, “Usually the system goes, you ask a question, the guest answers is, then you ask your next question.”

Former Bush Ambassador to the UN John Bolton got equally flustered in a interview with “The Independents,” a panel of libertarians on the Fox Business channel. Host Kennedy came out swinging on the issue of his culpability, leaving Bolton to charge, “I am not responsible for Iraq today. That’s because of what Barack Obama did!”

Things got decidedly more interesting as some of the architects have decided to double down and advocate for more war, including airstrikes and “boots on the ground.”

Blaming Obama was one thing – petty, politically predictable – but asking America to put more men and women at personal risk after so many had been killed and maimed — and for what? – this is the height of Big Daddy Mendacity. Especially hearing this from Wolfowitz, Kristol, Fred Kagan, and Sen. John McCain, the orchestrators and promoters of the so-called “surge” in 2007. That spectacular plan, touted as the key to saving Iraq, didn’t “win” the war but likely helped put Iraq on the path we see now.

Even David Ignatius, who could hardly be called “critical” of anything most of the time, blamed “America’s failed intervention in Iraq” for the shattering of the “rough balance in the region” in a column June 17. Talk about losing the narrative.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” John Heilemann, Bloomberg Politics managing editor, told Kristol to his face on Morning Joe when Kristol suggested U.S. soldiers in Iraq once more.

“This is American blood you’re talking about! You want to send people into another intervention in which most people in the country believe that this is a centuries-old sectarian violence that we have no place and no ability to solve!”

But what did he really expect from Kristol, who in 2003 told Terry Gross on NPR that “I think there’s been a certain amount of, frankly, Terry, a kind of pop sociology in America, that, you know, somehow the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni.”

Jim Newell at Salon questions the judgment of the “upper echelons of the media” for letting these guys trot out their demands for open-ended intervention in Iraq – a plan which poll after poll indicates the American people are squarely against.

“There are probably only 10 or 20 people total in the United States now who agree with the neocon consensus that Iraq must be reinvaded indefinitely,” he wrote. “Why offer such a fringe opinion such ample media space? What sense does that make?”

It doesn’t make any sense unless they give ample space to the other side – Stephen Walt, Andrew Bacevich (check out his delicious takedown of Robert Kagan on June 4), and others who’ve been critical of the War in Iraq all along, not just when Obama won the White House.

Until then, the strident media pushback will have to do. And there is no one better than Jon Stewart who last week called out the media’s “rush to get the band back together” with “old Johnny Rotten” McCain as the proverbial front man.

“Johnny Rotten judgment: His advocacy of the Iraq war was legend, his sophisticated knowledge of the region unparalleled — in that it did not parallel with anybody who had knowledge of the region” …

“Since John McCain was one of the wrongest before and during the war it’s only fitting in this current crisis he was on so many shows you’d think he just won Dancing With the Stars” …

“John McCain’s military victory plan for America is the same as the John McCain media strategy – be everywhere, forever.”

Jon Stewart may not look like Dee Snider, but he’s a Twisted Sister insofar as he can say “we’re not gonna take it” better than anyone else.


Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer, is a longtime political reporter for, a regular contributor to, and a contributing editor at The American Conservative. She is also a Washington correspondent for Border News Network. Follow her on Twitter @KelleyBVlahos

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, Neocons, Robert Kagan, Victoria Nuland 
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  1. Don Nash says: • Website

    Back To Iraq! Or maybe not. How is it the warmongering freaks that ginned up Iraq War Vol. 2 The Mission Accomplished Version, have STILL not been held to account? As in war crimes tribunals?
    You’d think that Dark Cheney would be smart enough to simply dummy up and keep the low profile. Oh well, the grandiose fools will turn a profit any chance that presents itself.
    I think it’s still not too late for war crimes tribunals.

  2. Kiza says:

    What an example that the US Government and most US corporations are the same. Their common principle is: private profit public loss. If a bank makes a profit – the profit is divided up between management and stockholders, but if it makes a loss the taxpayers/society must cover it. Any new US intervention in Iraq is likely to make things even worse, but where did Collin Powell and his Pottery Barn Rule: “You brake it, you own it”, disappear? Instead, the same Neocons are smash-grabbing Ukraine and risking a nuclear war with Russia. How’s that for a folly? Killing millions in Iraq was just a play-in-the-sand compared with the big game against Russia. Big deal some got a light dressing down by the presstitutes and talking heads, the Neocons are still in control and driving US into oblivion. Criticism is water off a duck’s back.

  3. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says: • Website


    When globo-elites on Wall Street messed up the financial markets, what did ‘we’ do? ‘We’ gave them trillions and the key to even more power over the economy.

    When globo-elites in foreign policy department messes up the Middle East, what do ‘we’ do? ‘We’ ask them for more advice on how the problems should be fixed.

    Even when they’re wrong, they’re always right. Now, that is some power.

    Globo-elites are like the new Stalin. Even after Stalin totally failed to foresee Hitler’s threat and exposed the USSR to all-out invasion by Germans, his henchmen and the entire nation turned to him for leadership.

  4. John says:

    Clearly, the reason that the old line neocons are getting TV face time is that the media ownership wants it that way – nothing has changed – same owners now as then.

    What we Americans see from the media is never the whole story. It is only the partial story that the media ownership wants us to see.

    p.s. NBC is just disgusting.

  5. Lorraine says:

    Ha!! Brilliant, Kelley. You hit the nail on the heads – too bad somebody can’t really nail these guys for what they are – WAR CRIMINALS!! And that includes, I am sad to say, Johnny-never saw a conflict he didn’t want to butt in – Rotten McCain. They all still seem to think they’ve got to destroy the village to save it. What perverse bloodlust! What unmitigated hubris, and evil.

  6. KA says:

    Kagan,Wolfowitz ,Bolton do not appreciate the attitude of the American people . They are not alone .Feith Abrams,Lutty,Shulksy,Kristol,Podohorertz,Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes all of them would have responded and reacted in similar fashion. Blaming other is their way of doing any job and responding to any criticism. Actually they convinced America ,following 911 that there was no need for self appraisal. Blame everybody – either you are with us or against us, was a Bush philosophy but it was built around the worldview promoted by these neocons. Now that world view is being shattered,these neocons want to escape from the shards of that falling and breaking glass . They want us to believe that they did not do it or they are not responsible for it . These neocons use following time tested method 1 Deny any association with the crimes by citing some obscure,irrelevant,forgotten comment . 2 Deny any managerial or advisorial role by informing of his or her official position or lack pf it ( even today with no official position. Kagan gets the time and exposure and makes President respond to it . He gets NYT dance to his tune. This is the sorry state of affairs in US that the neocons can hammer ,can attack,can force media to spew their views,can force government official take note of them can affect the standing of the cabinet members and of the president by repeated misrepresentation of facts and by offering stupidest suggestion and still can get away with claims that they are not responsible ) or by suggesting that they only had a junior role . 3 Their finest hour always lies in asserting that they would have done it differently and successfully if they were in charge.
    One wonders what stopped them from offering that golden advice when their job was not actual fighting but offerring advice from a safe place thousands of miles away from battlefield. One wonders why they were criticizing everybody who were suggesting path and route different than what chosen at that moment.
    They are at it again on Syria and Iran. They are getting heard and they are being feted and they ate being appeased but not to their 100 percent satisfaction . They want that their advice be followed to the hilt ,to the whole hog,to the tee. Their extreme position is repeatedly backfiring but they want America to believe that they have or had no role for the neocons were not listened 100 percent , it was never 100 percent . ( It is easy to hide behind this formila . Any siggestion or policy matter will always get modified at the practical application of the theory . Neocons will use this wellknown phenomenon to absolve thrmselves from any wrongdoing)
    But the neocons were heard 100 percent on Iraq and Afghanistan and on Iran until now.
    Lying is in their foreign DNA. Any crisis raises their destructive hope of wrecking havoc again.
    But they do not change their behaviors that lie at the heart of the crisis. Is their any parallel to it? Doesn’t Israel behave exactly same way ? Doesn’t it deny any responsibility ? Has it ever accepted any responsibility? Hasn’t it told the world to listen to its advice despite repeated negative result to the rest? Hasn’t it always blamed US and the west for not following its advice despite the fact that its policy was incorporated overtly and covertly through Congress,treasury,military,and intelligence and blackmailing?
    Worse aspect of the neocons that when certain policy succeed despite their opposition. ( Bush 1 in first Gulf war ) ,they would desecend in town with banners and megaphone to denounce that policy. That’s what they and Israel now doing against Obama on Iran and on Syria .

  7. Lorraine says:

    KA, we might call this neocon approach the “deny, obscure, dispute, obfuscate” rule, or DO-DO for short, a multipurpose acronym that describes the neocon policy (as in, “full of —“) and the type of individuals holding to neocon mindset (ancient, extinct brainless creatures that still somehow manage to capture the imagination).

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Great article; but why not tell it like it really is: the Jews pushed us into the disaster of Iraq, on behalf of Israel. And the Jewish media is continuing to give them the mike as they demand we go back in again.

  9. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “Cachet” please, not “cache”.

  10. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    If I am not mistaken, the document is called – A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm. It was written for the benefit of Ben Netanyahu in 1996 by neoconservatives at Project for a New American Century (PNAC), such as Cheney, Wolfowitz, Richard Pearl, etc,. I believe it argues for an end to negotiations with Palestinians and the breakup of some states, including Syria and Iraq.

  11. moi says:

    No mention of Mr. Shock and Awe–Harlan Ullman his-self…

  12. KA says:


    2002 Sept . Guardian (UK)
    Playing skittles with Saddam
    The gameplan among Washington’s hawks has long been to reshape the Middle East along US-Israeli lines, writes Brian Whitaker

  13. KA says:

    Fragmented Middle East ‘s new map–map was prepared by Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters. It was published in the Armed Forces Journal in June 2006, Peters is a retired colonel of the U.S. National War Academy. (Map Copyright Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters 2006).

    Although the map does not officially reflect Pentagon doctrine, it has been used in a training program at NATO’s Defense College for senior military officers”. (See Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East” By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Global Research, November 2006)–

    Prophecy of Oded Yinon-

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