Saturday, May 31, 2008

Seriously...What Happened?

When Ari Fleischer's book, Taking Heat, was released in 2005, was there much fanfare? Did he get an invitation to spoon with Keith Olbermann? No. Mainstream journalists didn't seem to particularly like it.

I understand that part of the media attention is merely that "controversy sells". But another aspect is anti-Bush bias on the part of a lazy media, that's already written the narrative that "Bush lied, people died".

Those who already have it in for the Bush Administration, want to make more out of Scott McClellan's perspective than is probably warranted, when he talks of how the Iraq War was sold to the American people with a sophisticated "political propaganda campaign" and aimed at "manipulating sources of public opinion" and "downplaying the major reason for going to war."

I am not automatically arguing that Scott McClellan is lying; he may well believe what is written in his book, and reflects his feelings accurately. But are facts shaping his perception and perspective? Or are his perspective and perception shaping the facts?

WSJ lead editorial:
The problem is that Mr. McClellan presents no major new detail to support his conclusions about Iraq, or even about the Administration's deliberations about how to sell the war. This may be because he was the deputy press secretary for domestic issues during the run-up to war and thus rarely attended war strategy sessions.
Someone else who recently saw his book release with moderate fanfare (namely, because it's not an anti-Bush "tell-all"), is Douglas Feith's "War and Decision". As Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from July 2001 to August 2005, and one of the architects of the War in Iraq, Douglas Feith's book should carry more weight on matters related to the run-up to war.

This weekend, I will go down to the bookstore and peruse McClellan's memoir. From the sounds of it, McClellan's book reads like a 30-pieces-of-silver-store gossip novel, filled more with opinions and impressions, than with concrete facts (apparently, no footnotes).

I haven't read all of Feith's book; but it is a serious work, well-sourced with a rich, detailed appendix. Anyone who downright dismisses its scholarly relevance and historical importance out of partisan prejudice, does themselves a disservice.

I admit that my partisanship makes me knee-jerk suspicious of McClellan's book; but it also seems to contradict information that I know to be well-documented (not just right-wing spin, but from actual intell documents, Senate Intell Committee hearings, etc.). Seth Leibsohn sums it up:
The evidence I’ve seen does in fact show that the administration had different justifications for the liberation of Iraq — but we saw them plainly and in the open before as well as after the invasion. The president, the secretary of state, the VP, and many others gave lots of reasons for the invasion of Iraq. There were international legal cases, there were public policy cases, there were national security cases all to be made. And they were. The idea that the press didn’t do its job and was too soft on the president — as McClellan writes — is, frankly, laughable. Raise your hand if you have any evidence that the press was too soft on the administration.
Also, from the WSJ editorial I linked to earlier:
His talking points are merely the well-trod claims that the Administration oversold the evidence about WMD and al Qaeda.

Three independent investigations have looked into these claims, and all of them concluded that political actors did not skew intelligence to sell the war. These include the Senate Intelligence Committee report of 2004, the Robb-Silberman report of 2005, and Britain's Butler report. They explain that U.S. – and all Western – intelligence was mistaken but not distorted. Saddam Hussein himself told U.S. interrogators that he kept the fact that he lacked WMD even from many of his own generals.

If one wants a serious "insider's account" on what happened after 9/11 to bring us into concluding the war against Saddam Hussein which began in 1991, start with the book written by the number 3 civilian war architect in the Pentagon.

Another contrast between the two books? ALL of the revenue to Feith's book is going to charities that help veterans and military families.

Just one more reason to purchase a serious book of history over a frivolous personal gossip memoir, if one only had $30 to slap down on the table.

Previous posts on Douglas Feith:
The New Douglas Feith Book On Iraq

Feith on Iraq: Not a retaliatory response to 9/11
War and Decision

Previous posts on Scott McClellan:
The Rehabilitation Of A Bad Legacy

The McClellan Fiasco Continues

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Blogger Gayle said...

It's a very informative post you've put together, Wordsmith, although I will say that I personally believe McClellan to be an outright liar.

Have you seen this?

Saturday, May 31, 2008 8:09:00 AM  
Blogger airforcewife said...

Did he get an invitation to spoon with Keith Olbermann?

That was true genius in writing, right there.

I also think part of McClellan's problem is that he has a bit of middle child syndrome. He was never very good at his job, and he followed Ari Fleischer (excellent) and was followed by Tony Snow (absolutely masterful - and much better looking). When you're known as the dumpy guy who didn't speak too well, you end up with an ax to grind.

Saturday, May 31, 2008 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous KenHoop said...

As Buchanan proved, Feith is an Israeli loyalist. He got slapped on the wrist, rather than being tried for treason, for providing false intelligence. Yeah, he's the guy to evaluate the belatedly opportunistic McClellan. Nice that he at least helps the troops so they can keep fighting Israel's wars,though.

Saturday, May 31, 2008 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Indigo Red said...

The mistake that Bush made in the War run-up was made with a group of Democrat Senators.

Bush made all the arguements about laws, agreements, UN resolutions, terrorism, humanitarian, and that we were technically still at war with Iraq.

But, Senators lead by Joe Biden and the almost-late Ted Kennedy told Bush they would not support a war resolution UNLESS the primary cause was WMD. The President gave it to them and it's been the story ever since.

Saturday, May 31, 2008 9:08:00 PM  
Blogger Dee said...

I too loved the spooning with Keith Olbermann line, LOL :-))). I just got done watching Bill O'Reilly interview Scott McClellan and my blood pressure is at an all time high. I just want to spit nails I'm so mad at the guy.

This post is extremely well-researched and well-done as always. Great job!! I too am going to do another follow-up post because I'm so riled up about this issue. I don't have time tonight but soon.

Mary Katherine Ham from Townhall also brought up the book you mention here by Feith on O'Reilly's show.

Monday, June 02, 2008 8:54:00 PM  
Blogger James Manning said...

First time posting here!!! I'm really having a hard time getting emotional about this book. I think Scott is scorned but I think there is some truth to what he writes - but I also think Bush is a spawn of the devil - so my opinion is not objective.

My gut tells me that Iraq will turn into a secular version of Pakistan at best.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008 6:37:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Welcome James!

Don't fret: neither are my opinions objective; but you and I knowing this, I think makes us more thoughtful in our assessments, sometimes.

I don't discount that Scott McClellan's perspectives adds some color to the narrative. It's like trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle. We won't "know" everything until everyone's memoirs comes out, including Barney the dog's. I think Peggy Noonan (who I have not liked these days) has it right in noting that everyone weighing in, both pro and anti-Bush, enriches the picture. An astute, discerning mind, might be able to read between the lines and all the filtercarb, and ascertain what might be the facts from the author's opinions coloring the facts.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008 6:54:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Robert Novak takes him to the woodshed over Plame.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008 10:03:00 AM  

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