Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Powell speech: Five years later

Strange that if you use the words "Powell speech" in front of anyone with any sapience, they immediately know what you mean. A sad reflection on that day, and on that man's career, thrown away for Dubya's political machinations and blood-lust.

From Editor & Publisher, we have Greg Mitchell's account:
On February 3, a New York Times story was topped with: “All Aboard: America’s War Train is Leaving the Station.” Naturally, the world—and the media commentators—anxiously awaited Secretary of State Colin Powell’s appearance at the United Nations on February 5, when he was expected to make the administration’s case for war before a skeptical body.

While most pundits were already sold on the invasion, polls showed that the public was divided—or simply misinformed or confused. So the performance of the much-respected and moderate Powell could go a long way to greasing the skids for war.
"[O]r simply misinformed or confused?" Nope. That'd be the maladministration, the neocons, and their flacks and sycophants ... plus all the "red-blooded all-'Merkuns" who really just wanted to give someone a good butt-kicking after 9/11....
Afterward, few pundits felt that they needed to do much fact-checking before declaring that Powell had, indeed, made his case. The invasion came six weeks later. Several months after that, it became clear that much of Powell's presentation was based on wrong or cooked intelligence, and he and his aides have expressed varying degrees of regret about it since.
Imagine my surprise. In fact, surprise that the media didn't do any real fact-checking, and surprise that they should have, and if they did they wouldn't have gotten it so wrong. I mean, what did they think their job was, anyway?
Looking back on that day, it only took hours after Powell’s speech before the U.N. Security Council for TV commentators and newspaper editorials, and even many liberal pundits, to declare their support for the Bush administration’s hard-line stance on Iraq.

CNN’s Bill Schneider said that “no one” disputed Powell’s findings. Bob Woodward, asked by Larry King on CNN what happens if we go to war and don’t find any WMD, answered: “I think the chance of that happening is about zero. There’s just too much there.” George Will suggested that Powell’s speech would “change all minds open to evidence.”

The Washingotn Post's liberal columnist, Mary McGrory, wrote that Powell “persuaded me, and I was as tough as France to convince.” She even likened the Powell report to the day John Dean “unloaded” on Nixon in the Watergate hearings. Another liberal at that paper, Richard Cohen, declared that Powell’s testimony “had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool—or possibly a Frenchman—could conclude otherwise.”
Outside of the fact that Richard Cohen's a first-class a$$hole (and not a "liberal") and should be shunned by civilised people, I'd really like to know why any of these people have any positions of responsibility in any job, much less in the media.
As recently as a week earlier —following weapons inspector Hans Blix’s report to the United Nations and the president’s State of the Union address—more than two-thirds of the nation’s leading editorial pages, E&P had found, called for the release of more detailed evidence and increased diplomatic maneuvering. The 80-minute presentation by Powell seemed to have silenced most of the critics.
As well [the nation's papers] should [have called for release of more evidence and such]. Blix was finding nothing. It was in the freakin' papers. How much of a moron do you have to be to not figure out that perhaps the Dubya "narrative" might have a few holes in it? Why would Powell's speech change anyone's mind? Are we truly in a PowerPoint Society, where any slick presentation will sell anything, even if controverted by actual facts?!?!?
Consider the day-after editorial endorsements, all from sources not always on the side of the White House. As media writer Mark Jurkowitz put it in the Boston Globe, Powell’s speech may not have convinced France of the need to topple Saddam but “it seemed to work wonders on opinion makers and editorial shakers in the media universe.... [tons more similar snipped; see original article]”
Their job wasn't to uncover the facts, obviously.

I knew better at the time. It wasn't really any state secret.

And then we have the tragedy of Saad Tawfiq's effort to get the truth out, and the unwillingness of the maladministration to look at it....

(h/t to Atrios and to ThinkProgress)

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