Slamming intellectuals who backed Iraq war, Hedges says he lost job at ‘NYT’ for opposing it

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Wow. I’ve been waiting for this. Chris Hedges on “America’s Sell Out Intellectuals,” at truthdig and alternet. I didn’t know this about Hedges at the Times; and I can’t wait for Iraq-war supporters George Packer, Al Franken, David Remnick, and Bill Keller to account for themselves. That’s the thing about an intellectual being wrong about the biggest foreign-policy call of his/her generation: people are not going to forget till the intellectual explains why he/she got it wrong. I notice that Andrew Sullivan is not on Hedges’s list. I believe he’s been more forthcoming. But Peter Beinart? 

The rewriting of history by the power elite was painfully evident as the nation marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Some claimed they had opposed the war when they had not. Others among “Bush’s useful idiots” argued that they had merely acted in good faith on the information available; if they had known then what they know now, they assured us, they would have acted differently. This, of course, is false. The war boosters, especially the “liberal hawks”—who included Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Al Franken and John Kerry, along with academics, writers and journalists such as  Bill KellerMichael IgnatieffNicholas KristofDavid RemnickFareed ZakariaMichael WalzerPaul Berman,Thomas FriedmanGeorge PackerAnne-Marie SlaughterKanan Makiya and the late  Christopher Hitchens—did what they always have done: engage in acts of self-preservation. To oppose the war would have been a career killer. And they knew it.

These apologists, however, acted not only as cheerleaders for war; in most cases they ridiculed and attempted to discredit anyone who questioned the call to invade Iraq. Kristof, in The New York Times,  attacked the filmmaker Michael Moore as a conspiracy theorist and wrote that anti-war voices were only polarizing what he termed “the political cesspool.” Hitchens said that those who opposed the attack on Iraq “do not think that Saddam Hussein is a bad guy at all.” He called the typical anti-war protester a “blithering ex-flower child or ranting neo-Stalinist.” The halfhearted mea culpas by many of these courtiers a decade later always fail to mention the most pernicious and fundamental role they played in the buildup to the war—shutting down public debate. Those of us who spoke out against the war, faced with the onslaught of right-wing “patriots” and their liberal apologists, became pariahs. In my case it did not matter that I was an Arabic speaker. It did not matter that I had spent seven years in the Middle East, including months in Iraq, as a foreign correspondent. It did not matter that I knew the instrument of war. The critique that I and other opponents of war delivered, no matter how well grounded in fact and experience, turned us into objects of scorn by a liberal elite that cravenly wanted to demonstrate its own “patriotism” and “realism” about national security. The liberal class fueled a rabid, irrational hatred of all war critics. Many of us received death threats and lost our jobs, for me one at The New York Times. These liberal warmongers, 10 years later, remain both clueless about their moral bankruptcy and cloyingly sanctimonious. They have the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocents on their hands.

The power elite, especially the liberal elite, has always been willing to sacrifice integrity and truth for power, personal advancement, foundation grants, awards, tenured professorships, columns, book contracts, television appearances, generous lecture fees and social status. They know what they need to say. They know which ideology they have to serve….

Leslie Gelb, in the magazine Foreign Affairs, spelled it out after the invasion of Iraq.

“My initial support for the war was symptomatic of unfortunate tendencies within the foreign policy community, namely the disposition and incentives to support wars to retain political and professional credibility,” he wrote. “We ‘experts’ have a lot to fix about ourselves, even as we ‘perfect’ the media. We must redouble our commitment to independent thought, and embrace, rather than cast aside, opinions and facts that blow the common—often wrong—wisdom apart. Our democracy requires nothing less.”

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They call themselves liberals. But then Hitler called himself a socialist.

gelb: The first slippery slope now is the growing demand from the usual tiny group of interventionists for the U.S. to start supplying arms to the Syrian rebels. On the surface, this seems quite reasonable. President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Army is much better equipped, so why not at least equalize… Read more »

Thanks Phil. Chris Hedges is a principled journalist indeed. Here is a report that Hedges is turning down a speaking engagement next month at the PEN World Voices Festival and resigning from the human rights organization PEN in protest of PEN’s naming of Suzanne Nossel to be Executive Director of… Read more »

This is a great piece. Someone should compile a database of pro-war spokesmen (and -women), and post it online, complete with links and quotes. Let the War Party know that there are some consequences for helping to lie us into war.

So correct, so necessary. One of the instruments of governance by oligarchy (the BIGs, such as BIG-OIL and BIG-MILITARY (and BIG-ZION), which promoted the war) is their ability and willingness to distort (and destroy) “democracy” by shutting down discussion and criticism. Important as that is in the case of the… Read more »