The feature article in today’s edition of Foreign Affairs online marking the 10th anniversary of American intervention in Iraq represents full confirmation of the damning generalizations about the press and elite behavior set out in Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky’s classic work (1988) Manufacturing Consent. Read on….
Iraq in Retrospect: An Open Letter to Gideon Rose, Editor of Foreign Affairs Magazine
Your feature article in today’s edition of Foreign Affairs online marking the 10th anniversary of American intervention in Iraq is a very impressive tour d’horizon of FA war coverage, inviting the reader to draw his own conclusions about credits and debits.
It also represents a full confirmation of the generalizations about the press and elite behavior set out in Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky’s classic work (1988) Manufacturing Consent where they analyze media coverage of a similar anniversary relating to the Vietnam War – that other monumental disaster of American foreign policy to which you rightly compare the Iraqi adventure. At issue are the conceptual limitations of American elites, how you frame the questions and what you leave out.
You have framed the discussion in terms of how and what, i.e. questions of tactics, of competence of execution. You are ignoring the strategic question of why, which includes the legal and moral dimension of the decision to launch a war of choice which was publicly protested by several key allied governments as unwarranted, and which was protested by demonstrators in the streets of America, the United Kingdom and other countries for months in advance as immoral. You are ignoring the question of why only one voice in the US Senate, Harry Byrd, was raised in objection. In such a context of mob rule, not very different from passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, it is hard to see how anything resembling rational decision-making could – or in future will – prevail.
Several days ago former Congressman Dennis Kucinich called for creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to bring to public attention the responsibility (and shame) of those who led America into what was not merely a ‘mistake’ and a ‘failure’ but was an act of wanton aggression against a sovereign state which cost the lives of more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians (the lowest and most conservative estimate), that is to say, at least one third more than we bemoan today in the Syrian civil war. Since our political leaders lacked the guts to prosecute George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in impeachment proceedings, Kucinich’s proposal has great validity now: such an inquest will bring to public attention the institutional failures as well as personal culpability that has twice in our lifetime cast our country as a war criminal and rendered us so witheringly unpopular around the world.
© Gilbert Doctorow, 2013
G. Doctorow is an occasional guest lecturer at St. Petersburg State University and Research Fellow of the American University in Moscow. His latest book,Stepping Out of Line: Collected (Nonconformist) Essays on Russian-American Relations, 2008-12, is available in paperback and e-book from Amazon.com and affiliated websites worldwide. Also on sale in Sterling and Waterstone’s booksellers, Brussels.