Accuracy in Media

In his recent article about Washington Post coverage of events leading up to the Iraq war, Howard Kurtz said, “Whether a tougher approach by The Post and other news organizations would have slowed the rush to war is, at best, a matter of conjecture.”  That phrase, “rush to war,” is becoming a staple, not only of media second-guessing about their own coverage but in the campaign statements and speeches of John Kerry. Typically, Kerry has lambasted Bush for a “rush to war.”  But is the claim true?

The claims by Kurtz and Kerry demonstrate that the media and the liberal Democrats tend to occupy the same space on the political spectrum.  They may find it shocking to discover that there is another point of view?that the U.S. waited too long to go to war.  The case is made in Jed Babbin’s new book, Inside the Asylum, about the United Nations.  A Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Babbin devotes an entire chapter, “Quagmire Diplomacy,” to arguing that the U.S. decision to go to the U.N. for support, which took more than five months, was a major mistake.

Babbin says this delay enabled the terrorists in Iraq to plan the operations and stockpile the weapons that are now claiming the lives of American soldiers.  He asks, “How many lives could have been spared had we acted more quickly?’  But then Babbin goes on to ask another important question, “Would we have caught Saddam with his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) if we’d acted sooner?”

Babbin believes reports of Saddam’s WMD being shipped out of Iraq have some validity.  He writes, “Right up to the beginning of the military campaign, people and materials were being moved into Syria on the highway from Baghdad through the border city of al-Qaim.”  David Kay, who led the search for WMD in Iraq, has said that former Iraqi officials have said that “some components of Saddam’s WMD program” had gone to Syria.  But he said he didn’t know precisely what was shipped.  The U.S. has confirmed the existence of Saddam’s WMD programs and his desire to seek uranium for a nuclear bomb.

Babbin supports President Bush but nevertheless argues that the invasion of Iraq was “the best-telegraphed military punch in American history,” and that Saddam and his allies took advantage of it.  Babbin suggests that Syria’s dictator, Bashar Assad, took in the WMD because he calculated that the U.S. wouldn’t attack another Arab state after going into Iraq.  And he was right.  He concludes that the president’s “courting of the U.N. has hugely complicated the solving” of the WMD mystery.

Babbin adds, “The damage of the U.N.-imposed delay will last for decades.  If we do not find Saddam’s WMD, America will be branded an unjustified aggressor that lied its way into war, and few nations?even our closest allies, such as Britain?will join us in another military campaign.”  This statement may not be entirely true because Britain was among those nations that encouraged the U.S. to go to the U.N. and then to war.  And British intelligence had come to basically the same conclusions as the CIA about the Iraqi threat.  So when you hear the media talk about the “rush to war,” remember the point of view that is being ignored, which is, “Why did we wait so long?”

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