What the liberal hawks got wrong

Slate has an interesting series of articles posted by several liberals who supported the Iraq war in its early stages, entitled “Why Did We Get It Wrong?” I applaud their willingness to recognize that they were indeed wrong, but I wonder why they’re not asking the other question — why didn’t they listen to the people who had it right? There certainly were a lot of them who did have the right answers, but they were pretty much shit on and ignored by Slate and lots of other liberal hawks.

Reading each of the essays is an exercise in skepticism, because none of their arguments really ring all that true. They sound like excuse-making after the fact. Among the cheap rationalizations, Richard Cohen’s argument stands out in my mind as particularly pathetic:

Anthrax. Remember anthrax? It seems no one does anymore–at least it’s never mentioned. But right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, letters laced with anthrax were received at the New York Post and Tom Brokaw’s office at NBC. In the following days, more anthrax-contaminated letters were received by other news organizations–CBS News and, presumably, ABC, where traces of anthrax were found in the newsroom. Weirdly, even the Sun, a supermarket tabloid, also got a letter, and a photo editor, Bob Stevens, was fatally infected. Other letters were sent to Sen. Tom Daschle’s Capitol Hill office, and in Washington, D.C., a postal worker, Thomas L. Morris Jr., died. There was ample reason to be afraid.

For this and other reasons, the anthrax letters appeared linked to the awful events of Sept. 11. It all seemed one and the same.

Anthrax is never mentioned because people on the right want it swept under the rug. I said it at the time and still believe it — the Anthrax letters were sent by a domestic, right-wing Christian terrorist. It’s the only explanation that makes sense, given the targets of the attacks — liberal politicians, the figures prominently labeled as “liberal” media. Notice no one from Fox News got a letter.

Another telling clue is that false Anthrax scares had been directed at abortion clinics country-wide, including here in Indianapolis, for months and years before the real ones took place in 2001 and 2002.

(In fact, that’s where I first met the late Julia Carson — at a candlelight vigil on the Circle to call attention to the threats here in Indianapolis, sometime in 1998 or 1999. No one had called her and asked her to speak; she just showed up because she heard about the vigil and wanted to light a candle and stand with a group of women. I had a long conversation with her about Planned Parenthood, women’s rights, gay marriage and a number of other topics. She was funny, articulate and very kind.)

But back to the point — Anyone with eyeballs could see that the two threats had nothing to do with one another. I can’t imagine why Cohen is making the excuse that they’re linked. He suggests Saddam had “messed with anthrax” but I never heard any evidence of that. It was clear from news accounts the source was from inside the United States; that it wasn’t smuggled into the country, there wasn’t any evidence that any foreign-born person could have gotten close to getting ahold of the substance; all the links to the strain used were domestic, and people with right-wing Christian beliefs. His excuse is just silly, and strains credulity.

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