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 DestructionPoor 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:”
What it was like to oppose the Iraq War in 2003
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.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:
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.
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.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.
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...
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.