Sweeping Iraq under the 9/11/11 rug

I said to myself two weeks ago, “I’m not writing anything about 9/11/11.” I knew I would eventually break that promise, though, in spite of my disgust for the 10th anniversary media hype – from People’s ‘Children of 9/11′ feature and National Geographic’s George W. Bush interview to documentary after documentary hyping “previously unseen footage” as though new footage of the deaths of over 3,000 people constituted a director’s cut edition. And Herman Cain. Don’t let me get started on Herman Cain.

As repugnant as all this coverage was, I thought we might be using the 10th anniversary of the attacks to discuss war powers, torture, bigotry and domestic surveillance, a realization that far too few outlets have demonstrated now – or on earlier 9/11 anniversaries.

I am now breaking that promise to myself. Paul Krugman really surprised me with his “Years of Shame” op-ed, and Chris Hedges, Ron Paul, John Stewart and Noam Chomsky’s perspectives on 9/11 ten years later were all spot on. So why didn’t we hear these voices in greater volume on 9/11/11 – or for that matter, on 9/11/06, or even on 9/12/01?

Because it would have been too politicizing, argues Judith Miller, formerly of the NYT’s Iraqi WMD reporting debacle. She seems to have taken Paul Krugman’s op-ed rather personally.

I wonder why that is? Krugman explained that one of the main reasons he decided to write his op-ed was to remind readers that the al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein WMD “evidence” exploited up after 9/11 to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq was, at best, fabricated. And who was front and center of the media frenzy passing off this tripe as news?

Why, the NYT’s own Judith Miller!

Miller has said that 9/11 was a day that did not “teach” us lessons: it is a day that “exhausts . . . defies . . . negates. And it raises disturbing questions about being human.”Miller’s grief sublimated itself into jingoism and easy explanations, all of which climaxed in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but a mood that many Americans share to this day.

That it may be, but this response is a cop-out. Journalists must not look away and philosophize, look for easily explanations that ascribe events to existential crises. That’s what politicians do. Journalists have to confront what has happened and explain why it happened, explain what comes out of it, and warn against what might come out of it when people in power try to take advantage of events like 9/11.

Miller is by no means the only journalist to ignore the reality of what happened after “the day that changed everything.” Many Americans refuse to accept that they let “the day the changed everything” change everything – just look at the booing and incredulous looks Ron Paul got from his fellow presidential contenders when he dared to offer an alternative explanation to the “they hate our freedoms” narrative. Any one of these men or women could be our next president – and they think Paul’s suggestion is crazy. Other media outlets, and not just “conservative ones,” have been castigating Krugman as a cynical, fame-seeking bastard.

As Glenn Greenwald puts it, the real reason politician and journalists have taken offense is because:

“Krugman’s sin wasn’t that he inappropriately politicized what was otherwise an apolitical day. His sin was the opposite. He deviated from the approved, mandatory political script for that day: by pointing out that it isn’t only the Terrorists but also ourselves who engaged in deeply shameful crimes. He didn’t politicize an apolitical day; to the contrary, he subverted the most politically propagandistic day that now exists in American political culture.

9/11 made us “stronger,” the Obama Administration claims. We are not strong, we are weak. After 9/11, American politicians and journalists let the people who wanted “to change everything” have their way, whether they were neocons or Islamists. We often forget that both camps got their ideal war narratives: they wanted a “clash of civilizations” thesis and they got it.Krugman might have needed to be a bit more circumspect in his 9/11/11 op-ed. And I didn’t agree with his decision to block comments on the piece. But I agree with the content of his “Years of Shame” editorial 100%.

Judith Miller might have been more circumspect in every article she wrote about Iraq after 9/11. Every journalist might have been.

Most weren’t. The embedded reporting and top-level interviews were just too good to pass up. Look where it got us, and Iraq.

About Paul Mutter

Paul Mutter is a contributor to Mondoweiss, Foreign Policy in Focus and the Arabist.
Posted in US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

{ 4 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. annie says:

    thanks paul. i went over there and gave tablet a lashing.

  2. MRW says:

    I agree, Paul. Thanks.

    The answer to this “So why didn’t we hear these voices in greater volume on 9/11/11 – or for that matter, on 9/11/06, or even on 9/12/01?” can be justly laid at the feet of every editor in country (except the editor at Knight-Ridder, who won a Pulitzer with two other reporters for the only honest post-911 reporting leading up to the war in Iraq). This country’s editors wouldn’t print the voices. They punted.

    Miller has the deaths of hundreds of thousands on her hands. Period.

    • Charon says:

      Agreed, and Judith Miller is a major player in this entire mess. She received a fake anthrax letter too which is no coincidence.

      The rational thing to do after 9/11 would have been to perform a proper investigation before marching off to war or enacting inane security measures that make every American citizen a potential terrorist. The aircraft involved on 9/11 are the only commercial airline crashes that were not investigated, the reason given because they know why they crashed but that has never stopped a commercial airline investigation before. Within hours after 9/11, every news program was blaming Osama Bin Laden and also saying Iraq wasn’t out of the question. All those editors were calling for war which came very soon afterwards. A war to take out the Taliban was already planned before 9/11, 9/11 just conditioned Americans to move forward with it. They tried dearly to link the anthrax thing to Iraq but ultimately failed. One could right a full-length novel on that anthrax thing.

  3. LeaNder says:

    Thanks, Paul, only the combination of 911 and the US response made it a day of shame.

    Judith Miller is an interesting actor, paradoxically she triggers a huge desire of access to 24/24 surveillance of her and her circles. If felt she surfaced in almost every scandal. She sure is well connected.

    Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them.