Syndicated Columnists and the Iraq War

February 21st, 2014 · No Comments · journalism

By Arthur Alpert

The Albuquerque Journal just added David Ignatius as a regular columnist. I hadn’t realized the newspaper was in dire need of still another essayist who got Iraq wrong, but wait, let’s not jump to conclusions.

Born to the purple, the son of a former Navy Secretary and a descendant of Cotton Mather, he attended the St. Albans School, Harvard and Cambridge. He did some excellent journalism domestically and from overseas for the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, where he’s now associate editor and columnist.

And he’s a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Establishment, obviously, but read on and the picture becomes more complex.

Yes, he favored the war, but Ignatius criticized the George W. Bush administration for torturing captives.

Also, he moderated a conversation between Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft for a 2008 volume entitled “America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy”.

Neither of those guys is simple-minded.

At this point, I saw Ignatius as upper class, sophisticated and informed, nothing like a neo-con wing nut.

Then I came across a revealing, positive nugget. Ignatius published a WaPo piece March 20, 2013 headlined “The painful lessons of Iraq” in which he apologized to readers “for being wrong on the overriding question of whether the war made sense.”

“Invading Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein a decade ago was one of the biggest strategic errors in modern American history,” he wrote.

OK, a lot of us knew that from Day One. Jeff Bingaman voted “no.” But how many public figures, including journalists, admit being wrong?

The contrast with passionate, unrepentant Charles Krauthammer is inescapable and leads to further thoughts on the Journal’s roster of syndicated columnists.

Surely you’ve noticed the daily uses Krauthammer as point man on the Middle East, presumably because of his near-perfect record of getting the Middle East wrong.

This in a daily whose editorials habitually demand accountability!

You may have noticed, too, that George Will, who (after an initial misstep) joined fellow “libertarians” to oppose neo-conservative follies, is the Journal’s point man on economics. They don’t print him on Iraq or its consequences.

And, finally, you’ve noted the Journal’s preferred commentators on that Middle East disaster and its current ugly reverberations (there and here) remain neo-cons like Krauthammer or partisans like Cal Thomas, Jonah Goldberg and Victor Davis Hanson.

Heck, the Journal publishes only three left-of-center commentators (E.J. Dionne Jr., Leonard Pitts and Amy Goodman) and not that often.

No, I haven’t forgotten Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson. The editors haven’t used him much lately and the Journal website no longer lists him as a contributor. Could be an oversight or maybe Ignatius replaces Robinson. I don’t know.

What I do know is the Journal lineup of syndicated writers matters because that’s where the newspaper’s narrative flowers. So I’ll pick up the subject soon, considering, for example, if opinion writers have any responsibility to be fair.

Cannot wait to deal with Victor Davis Hanson, the “classicist” whose Feb. 19 essay on Orwellian doublespeak deserves the closest attention because, as you’ll see, it’s Orwellian doublespeak.

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