Judis joins Corn on the anti-war front!


Where he too failed to serve: If you needed an excuse to think poorly of major pundits, the tenth anniversary of Iraq is likely to help you find one.

Last night, Lawrence O’Donnell and David Corn conspired to give the impression that Corn fought like a dog on TV to oppose the upcoming invasion.

Nexis says that isn’t so. And as it turns out, yesterday’s memoir by John Judis seems a bit like Corn’s.

Writing at the New Republic, Judis recalls how tough it was to oppose the war with Iraq. These are the headlines which were used to draw your eyes to his piece:
The Eve of Destruction
What it was like to oppose the Iraq War in 2003
Poor Judis! To hear him tell it, he stood a lonely watch, opposed on all sides by the sell-outs and hacks. Life was tough for a man of his kind “within political Washington:”
JUDIS (3/18/13): In the six months before the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the six weeks after the invasion (culminating in George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech), I often compared my situation in Washington to that of Jeannette Rankin, the Montana congresswoman and pacifist who voted against entry into both World War I and II. Not that I would have voted against declaring war in 1941; the comparison was to her isolation, not with her isolationism.

There were, of course, people who opposed invading Iraq—Illinois State Senator Barack Obama among them—but within political Washington, it was difficult to find like-minded foes. When The New Republic’s editor-in-chief and editor proclaimed the need for a “muscular” foreign policy, I was usually the only vocal dissenter, and the only people who agreed with me were the women on staff: Michelle Cottle, Laura Obolensky and Sarah Wildman. Both of the major national dailies—The Washington Post and The New York Times (featuring Judith Miller’s reporting)—were beating the drums for war. Except for Jessica Mathews at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington’s thinktank honchos were also lined up behind the war.
According to Judis, he was a “vocal dissenter”—though he doesn’t say exactly where all this vocal dissent occurred. As he continued, he continued to paint a picture of his lonely vigil:
JUDIS (continuing directly): In December of 2002, I was invited by the Ethics and Public Policy Center to a ritzy conference at an ocean front resort in Key West. The subject was to be Political Islam, and many of the best-known political journalists from Washington and New York were there. The conversation invariably got around to Iraq, and I found myself one of the few attendees who outright opposed an invasion. Two of the speakers at the event—Christopher Hitchens, who was then writing for Slate, and Jeffrey Goldberg, who was then writing for The New Yorker—generously offered to school me on the errors of my way.
Poor Judis! Even at this ritzy hotel in Key West, he found few comrades in arms. As he finished his lonely memoir, he confessed to his own heroism:
JUDIS: I opposed the war, and didn’t listen to those who claimed to have “inside information” probably because I had come of age politically during the Vietnam War and had learned then not to trust government justifications for war. I had backed the first Bush administration’s Gulf War, but precisely because of its limited aims. Ditto the Clinton administration intervention in Kosovo. George W. Bush’s aims in Iraq were similar to American aims in South Vietnam. During those months leading up to the war, I kept having déjà vu experiences, which failed to interest my colleagues. Still, I wavered after Colin Powell’s thoroughly deceptive speech at the United Nations in February 2003, where he unveiled what he claimed was evidence of Iraqi nuclear preparations. I had to have an old friend from the anti-war days remind me again of the arguments against an invasion.

My own experience after Powell’s speech bears out the tremendous power that an administration, bent on deception, can have over public opinion, especially when it comes to foreign policy...
We have no idea why Powell’s address would have made a war opponent “waver.” We were struck by its manifest flimsiness as we watched in real time.

At any rate, it’s fairly clear from Judis’ piece that he was an heroic dissenter. We decided to see what sorts of “vocal dissent” he published in real time.

We don’t care what he might have said at TNR board meetings. Or even at that ritzy resort, even with all the swells there!

What did Judis say in public? How vocal was his public dissent? Using Nexis, we’d say the cupboard looks remarkably bare. But then, we also couldn’t find all the “fights” Corn seems to think he had on TV at that time.

Go ahead—read the whole Judis piece. At one point, he refers to “my columns in The American Prospect, which was where, at the time, I made known my views opposing an invasion.” It's clear that he is referring to columns from 2002.

Using Nexis, we reviewed those columns. We hate to tell you, but the heroism doesn’t seem to be there. We note that Judis was too modest to quote the things he said, or to provide any links.

The guild is full of unusual folk. Their powers of recollection occasionally do seem impaired.


  1. I wonder how much of their own BS these guys believe. I also wonder if Judis went through his old columns, found nothing opposing the war, and decided to claim the mantle of heroic war opponent, anyway. The key here is that Washington mediadom has a vested interest in promoting such claims, because it gives the illusion that there is actual, robust debate that goes on there. Krugman just wrote a piece pointing out how farcical the discussion leading up to the war was; now we have these guys popping up claiming they heroically opposed the war, and did so publicly. The only people I saw given airtime to oppose the war were ludicrous caricatures of the left like the useless idiots at Code Pink, and they were trotted out only to show that only marginal, crazy people opposed the war.

    1. Just for the record, those Code pink "useless idiots" were right, while far too many "serious" liberals either jumped on the pro-war bandwagon, or were simply too timid to take a stand. I'll save all my scorn and ridicule for those who lied the country into war and those who abetted them.

    2. Whether they were right or wrong, they looked like nuts when they went on TV, with their goofy costumes and behavior. They look out of the mainstream, act out of the mainstream, so people end up assuming what they say is out of the mainstream. They do more harm than good, and sometimes, looking at them, I suspect that's the point. They enjoy talking about change (loudly, angrily, and offensively), but aren't actually interested in doing the things that bring change about. It's a social club, not a political movement. "Hey let's go out wearing silly outfits and try to offend as many normal Americans as we can." "You know, that sounds like fun, and I'm not doing anything that night. Do you have a pink bedsheet I can borrow? I'll bring the glitter."

    3. Where would the human race be without those who act outside the mainstream?

    4. There's nothing necessarily wrong with acting out of the mainstream -- except when you are ostensibly trying to sway public opinion. Then it's really, really wrong. If you want to sway opinion, wearing pink bedsheets, spiky hair, funny hats and glitter, while chanting angry slogans isn't going to do it. Well, I take that back. It might sway opinion against you.

    5. True. Better to just purchase the megaphone.


  2. Just like Judis was only supported by the wimmin at TNR. All those crazy marginal women whose voices don't count anyway, pink being the color of crazy. What would it have been like if we had actually won the right to vote?

  3. Maybe it was always thus. Bless the era of the Internet and Big Data! It may not help their memory. It may not keep them honest. But it sure let's us know if they are honest.

  4. "But many people in the United States, Europe and elsewhere are genuinely perplexed about why the Bush administration is so determined, even at the cost of war, to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In their public statements, administration officials have, if anything, increased the puzzlement. They have portrayed their campaign against Iraq as a continuation of the war against terrorism. They have claimed to have evidence of close ties between Hussein and al-Qaeda, but outside of a few scattered citations, they have failed to make a case that Hussein is an active ally of Osama bin Laden."

    Judis wrote this about three weeks before in June 2003 the invasion. He also wrote a long piece with Ackerman about the selling of the war, which, while certainly after the invasion, must have been started shortly after it started (and probably mentally formulated to some extent even before the invasion).

    We'll see what his TAP columns said in 2002. He didn't claim to be the most ardent anti-war firebrand there was, and if he was willing to say that on March 2, 2003, why shouldn't I take him at his word that he expressed disapproval, privately, semi-privately and publicly, in many contexts before it happened. In his position, it would not have been easy. I understand perfectly how he could have wavered a bit immediately after the Powell talk -- I did, too, as did many, until, two or three days later I saw the articles debunking the aluminum tubes and mobile weapons labs. What finalized it was the war against Blix, an unmistakable sign of bad faith. But then, I didn't go out on the streets and go to jail, either, so who am I to talk?

    1. For the record, although there were customarily excellent commentaries on various press misdeeds and failings, TDH said nothing about Powell's speech in the days following, not even anything about the Times, the Post or the networks turning into cheerleaders for the war-mongers.

    2. Ackerman supported the Iraq War in the days of the runup -- I remember that pretty well. So the fact that Judis wrote such a piece with him, after the fact, doesn't mean squat. We need a smoking gun, as the saying goes, and nobody has produced one.

      As for what Judis PRIVATELY said -- it doesn't mean a thing. In fact, if he was PRIVATELY saying it, but then mealy mouthing it in PUBLIC, where it actually counts, it's a pretty profound indictment of him, and his current claims of Courageous Lone Wolfism. I'm waiting on something where he publicly was against it. Not where he quibbles with the quality of the pro-war evidence, but where he comes out and states, unequivocally, that the war was a stupid, immoral, dangerous thing, and we shouldn't do it.

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