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Oxblog oddness

June 13, 2005

David Adesnik takes an odd swipe at the mainstream media.

What the WaPo actually reported on Sunday’s front page was that

Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a “protracted and costly” postwar occupation of that country.

As Kevin Drum points out, this isn’t exactly a revelation (even if Juan Cole calls it a “bombshell”). No one needed secret intelligence, even in 2002, to discover that the Bush administration hadn’t done enough to prepare for the occupation of Iraq. Even so, slightly more evidence in favor of this obvious point still gets front page coverage in the Post.

He continues:

But what about the other side of the story? What about the fact that no one other than Bush seemed to believe that the people of Iraq would display tremendous enthusiasm for democracy once liberated from Saddam Hussein? If a British memo from 2002 had predicted what would happen in the elections of January 2005, that would really be news.

Why does David believe that “no one other than Bush seemed to believe” that a great many Iraqis wanted a democratic form of government? I, for one, wasn’t aware that this was a hotly contested issue among opponents and proponents of the war. The real question was whether nationalism, ethnic politics, or other factors would make that enthusiasm insufficient to render the occupation a cakewalk.

What David, and by extension the reporters he’s criticizing, should really be asking is: “why did only certain supporters of the war, including Bush, seem to believe that democracy would be some sort of a ‘magic wand’ that would enable an easy occupation?”

David also reads the Downing Street memo and comes to the following conclusion:

So it seems that the British Cabinet was profoundly concerned about Iraqi chemical and biological weapons. Relying on my Sherlock Holmes-ian powers of inference, I therefore infer that the Cabinet was wholly convinced that Saddam actually had chemical and biological weapons. If only they had lied and told us he didn’t…

The real issue, of course, is not whether Blair (and Bush) believed there were biological and chemical capabilities in Iraq – most educated observers did – but whether Blair and Bush lied about the evidence in order to make those capabilities seem more threatening than they actually were.

And here we’re not even considering the nuclear capabilities debate, which is where the most egregious deceit took place.

Filed as:, occupation, media bias, and oxblog

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.