Weimar Watch I

The stab-in-the-back right is, alas, only entrenching itself as the need to deny reality in Iraq grows. Glenn Reynolds links approvingly to this strange Victor Davis Hanson splutter at NRO. Let's fisk it, shall we?

After reviewing the latest critique of the CIA's failures to foresee the pre-9/11 dangers of radical Islam ...

This, it appears, is something that Hanson believes we should not have done. No scrutiny for an intelligence agency that failed to prevent the worst terror attack in American history? No accountability? Or such accountability should be kept under wraps? I'm baffled. Read the story this morning on the report. And remember: Hanson apparently wishes you didn't know any of this. Off-message, you see. Tenet, it appears, should be given a Medal of Freedom for failing on 9/11, and instituting torture. But internal criticism? Nah.

and while reading the final sordid details surrounding the Pvt. Beauchamp fables published at The New Republic ...

Again, it is fascinating that this tiny incident, in which a soldier's account of his time in the Iraq war has been disputed by his superiors, and in which we have not yet heard the final word, is of such immense importance to the pro-Bush right. It cannot be about the reported soldier offenses, which have been documented elsewhere (like cruelty to dogs or gallows humor with body parts) or are utterly within the bounds of military life (like misogynist humor directed at an injured woman). Surely Hanson is not shocked - shocked! - to hear that soldiers in a war-zone are not exactly renowned for drawing room manners or political correctness. So Hanson is really complaining here about some kind of anti-military or anti-war bias that may have led TNR's editors (I wrote may) to place too much trust in an anti-war soldier. Now recall that TNR has a long history of proud liberal interventionism and supported the current war. Even they are slimed. And the Bush right wonders why they have lost the argument.

and viewing the latest phony wire-photos from Iraq (the poor victimized Iraqi woman holding unfired cartridges as 'proof' of coalition bullets that hit her home), I was wondering who will monitor our self-righteous monitors?

I saw those pictures; I cannot verify their entire context. If they were staged, and packaged deceptively, Hanson is right to expose and complain (although if I were VDH, I wouldn't mock an Iraqi civilian in the mayhem his own arguments helped create). But again, some of this is inevitable in wartime. Propaganda has a way of infiltrating news. Hanson is right to expose this when he sees it; but the media surely isn't the only one with blemishes. The military gave us the first tales of Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman. I'm not sure why their lies are not as reprehensible as a few in the media.

The answer, like it or not, in theĀ  post-Plame, post-Scheuer, post-Tenet era is that no one believes much what the CIA says any more about the Middle East ...

I'm not so sure about that. Skepticism toward the CIA is surely merited, but I don't get the impression that no one trusts the organization any more. Its reports on the situation in Iraq have recently had an air of realism.

no one believes that a wire-photo from there is genuine or its caption accurate;

Hyperbole much? Plenty of photos there are legit as are the vast majority of captions.

and no one necessarily believes anything in once respected magazines, whether the Periscope section of Newsweek or anything published in The New Republic.

This is unhinged. Note also the swipe at Newsweek, whose sole mistake was to report the flushing of a Koran down the toilet (while getting the broader story of Koran abuse at Gitmo totally right). In fact, what has occurred at Gitmo - the torture regime Hanson has done nothing to stop and much to foment - is far, far graver than any minor error in a magazine. But this is how partisanship warps the mind. For Hanson, it seems to be a genuinely bigger scandal that Newsweek bungled one small aspect of a more broadly accurate story about Koran abuse at Gitmo (confirmed in another instance by the Pentagon, no less), than that the U.S. has effectively and secretly reneged on the Geneva Conventions, and instituted war-crimes as the core of its anti-terror strategy.

The common gripe is that the administration lied to the public about WMD in Iraq ...

This is a common gripe? The fundamental casus belli wrong? This massive, unmistakable, fatal flaw in the entire enterprise, the thing that has done more than anything else to make this war indefensible and unwinnable, this is a "common gripe"? Well excuuuse us. It is and was one of the biggest blunders in the history of American intelligence and warfare. A slightly bigger deal than one misleading photo caption or one disputed Baghdad Diarist.

but what is lost is that once revered institutions proved disingenuous in their accusations and unreliable in their performance...

He's not referring to the Rumsfeld Pentagon, it seems. Just the press. For the record, I do not believe that pointing out failures of intelligence, politically-incorrect soldiering, and the systematic imposition of abuse and torture in detainee policy are disingenuous activities. Is the media imperfect? You bet. Newsweek apologized for the tiny bit it got wrong in a wider story it got right; TNR's alleged fabulist has yet to be debunked in any transparent way - but if he is, I have no doubt, TNR will be held accountable (as if they haven't already); if photos are staged, the editors and photographers should be investigated and disciplined. All such criticism is a good thing. But when it is used to distract from much more profound mismanagement and indecency in the government, it is itself a form of propaganda.

After all, in the context of one of the biggest blunders in American warfare, these are minor matters, right? In the context of a war fought on false pretenses with too few troops and a surge that cannot create a national government and has not prevented a sectarian civil war, these minor points of accountability among third parties are trivial, right? A military historian like Hanson is going to be more concerned to see how such errors were made, how we can avoid them in future, what realistic options we have for triage in the country, and how best to remove our forces in a manner that best serves our national interest, right?

Nah. He's going to fixate on the press and the part of the CIA that seeks to account for its own mistakes. There's only one plausible expanation of this and it's simply a function of lashing out. Hanson's entire argument for this war has crumbled under him. His failure - intellectual as well as political - is profound. But sadly, one thing we have learned about many on the pro-war right and in the Bush administration is their refusal and inability to face the fact of their own failures and errors. It is always someone else's fault. If Hanson wants to excoriate writers and pundits for their mistakes in this war, fine. But he'd do well to start by examining his own record as well. Accountability really begins at home. We're waiting.