Monday, July 30, 2007

THE FLEISCHMANN AND PONS OF THE IRAQ WAR: New York Times publishes notorious quacks

Ken Pollack: Listed in high school yearbook as member-in-good-standing of Iraq War Glee Club

In the category of superlatively aggravating, the New York Times published an Op-Ed by two of the Iraq War's biggest supporters, Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack. One can imagine the Times chose to go with it simply because editors knew it would push buttons all over the blogosphere.

In "A War We Might Just Win," two proven Iraq War quacks write that almost everyone, including you, is mistaken on Iraq.

"The Bush administration has over four years essentially lost all credibility," they write, poking the reader in the eye with the blunt stick of the idea that, somehow, this is now a misconception or state of affairs in need of correction. Having just been to Iraq on a tour paid for by the Department of Defense, the writers know the real story.

"We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms," it is said.

Glenn Greenwald gives O'Hanlon the review he deserves here.

"The [Times] Op-Ed is an exercise in rank deceit from the start," writes Greenwald. "To lavish themselves with credibility -- as though they are war skeptics whom you can trust -- they identify themselves at the beginning 'as two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq.' In reality, they were not only among the biggest cheerleaders for the war, but repeatedly praised the Pentagon's strategy in Iraq and continuously assured Americans things were going well. They are among the primary authors and principal deceivers responsible for this disaster."

In March of this year, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity Senior Fellow noted that the Los Angeles Times tried to present Brookings man Kenneth Pollack as a respectable expert -- sneaking his alleged wisdom back into its pages on a story about the strategy in Baghdad. (The original blog entry is here.)

"We are doing it, and all the other smart aspects of the Baghdad security plan, very late in the day," said Pollack for the LA Times. He was identified as a "counterinsurgency expert ... who was an advocate of the 2003 invasion."

This was outrageously misleading. Pollack was no counterinsurgency expert. He was far more although some readers in southern California might have forgotten.

Pollack was one of the chief Anfuhrers for the Iraq war, one who had written a book advocating it. He was subsequently put on a national and world publicity tour by the Bush administration in order to aid spreading its political message.

"This is one of the biggest flies in the ointment in Iraq today ... If we're not willing to stay for the months, if not years, it will take to regain the trust of of average Iraqis, none of [David Petraeus's] smart moves are going to work," said Pollack for the Times in March of this year, again striving to put off the day of reckoning and killing rational argument by claiming that more time, always more time, is needed.

And today, he and O'Hanlon lead a huzzah for the work of David Petraeus. We should keep on keeping on, they say.

O'Hanlon and Pollack should be viewed like Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, the scientists who brought the United States "cold fusion" in 1989. Through the wisdom of the mainstream media, what was shabby and incompetent work was unquestioningly tossed at the public for the sake of a big story. Saner minds eventually prevailed and sent the duo to the historical trashbin with deserved reputations as quacks. And we never had to hear from the again.

In a world that valued logic and scholarly thought, the fuglemen for the Iraq war would be treated similarly. Like famous science quacks Fleischmann and Pons, the Iraq War quacks should have been run off a long time ago, too. Instead, we get the opposite at the New York Times. The op-ed page editor at the biggest and most powerful newspaper in the country, the same newspaper that uncritically published administration-line material that contributed in a major way to the rush for war, work it was later compelled to disown, hates you. The Times Op-Ed chief thinks you're stupid, just more rubes who'll believe it's simply wide-ranging and probing to seek out the wisdom of such "experts," fresh from a government-financed junket to Iraq.

Some selected bits of press on Ken Pollack, from our March 2007 piece.

Pollack argues his case well, going beyond the vituperative pronouncements of the administration to link operational objectives to national strategy, but he does not spend much time on the reconstruction of the country, which is, after all, the reason for invasion in the first place. He does make two noteworthy points, however: the removal of Saddam would allow for withdrawal of most of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region; and second, with its wealth in oil, Iraq can pay for its own reconstruction. Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option, and critics abound, but for Pollack the question is "not whether [we invade], but when." -- from a review of the man's best-selling book in the Naval War College Review, Autumn 2002

You can tell a lot by the books people read, especially when the readers are members of Congress making life and death decisions about a war.

Winston Churchill is big on Capitol Hill, among both Democrats and Republicans. So is Kenneth Pollack's new book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq," whose title is derived from Churchill's "The Gathering Storm."

Not on the must-read list are books like Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down," a harrowing account of just how grim urban street fights can get, even for today's most elite forces. Nor, judging by interviews and the buzz on Capitol Hill, is there a surge of interest in "hearts and minds" books on Arab history or the culture of radical Islam. -- The Christian Science Monitor, December 2002

"Saddam has taken the entire Iraqi program on the road," said Iraq expert and former National Security Council official Kenneth Pollack in his recent best-selling book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq." -- subsequently repeated thousands of times, like an incantation to ward off common sense, in the Scripps Howard newswire, February 2003

Despite its human and financial cost (which [Ken Pollack] says could be less than we think even as we prepare for the worst), we are the only ones who can prevent the world from facing a nuclear-armed Hussein. It's in our interest; it is our duty. -- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 2002

Others who predicted a short and decisive victory included Sec/Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Dep. Sec/Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Defense policy analyst Richard Perle, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), ex-CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack, and ex-Reagan
admin. official Kenneth Adelman (Efron, Los Angeles Times) -- Bragging Rights for Iraq, The National Journal, April 2003

Even as President Bush delivered his pivotal speech on September 12th to the United Nations regarding the conduct of Hussein's regime, we noted there was a very timely book launched at the same time by Ken Pollack of the Brookings Institute called, "The Threatening Storm." We contacted Mr. Pollack and asked him if he would interrupt his book tour, which was not that easy to persuade him to do, and he agreed and went on a number of digital video conferences and visits to countries as far spread as France, Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, and now he's scheduled for South Africa and he's agreed to do a series more. He's that third voice, and he is speaking about the cases, pro and con, of invading Iraq in a more reasoned and reasonable way than most people could, and he has another voice to offer. -- Undersecretary of State Charlotte Beers, at the National Press Club, December 2002

At a press briefing Dec. 18, State Dept. public diplomacy topper Charlotte Beers announced that her division has asked author Ken Pollack to interrupt a book tour and travel overseas to talk about his book "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq."

Turns out the State Dept. also has been courting foreign journalists over the past year.

"We set up many more responsive facilities than we've had in the past for the foreign press at the president's ranch in Texas, at the White House and in our own State foreign press centers, which are Washington, New York and Los Angeles," Beers said.

In fact, one of the reasons to go to war with Iraq sooner, rather than later, is so that we never find ourselves in that position where Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons and we have to risk the obliteration of Riyadh, or Kuwait, and the Saudi oil fields, or Amman, or any of the other capitals of the region that we would worry so much about. Or, for that matter, New York. If the Iraqi's decided to put a nuclear weapon on a freighter, they could just drive it into New York Harbor and have the same effect there. -- Pollack, State Department-sponsored worldwide video conference, two weeks before war.

In hitting American forces with chemical weapons, Saddam would exact vengeance, said Ken Pollack, a former CIA analyst now with Brookings. He also might hope to delay them from entering the city. -- Course of Baghdad Battle Hinges on Unknowns, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2003

"Unlike so many Iraqi oppositionists, [Ahmed Chalabi] actually does what he says he's going to do," says Ken Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. -- from an article that should have been entitled, "Ahmed Chalabi -- A Great Guy!" by Sally Quinn, the Washington Post, November 2003

"I think that we will find the [WMD] stuff," Ken Pollack said. "I think it's simply a matter of time, but I think that we will find, at the very least, the production capability." -- in another State Department-funded worldwide videoconference with Ken Pollack, one entitled "Dr. Wrong, Once Again and With Passion," May 2003

In a New York Times op-ed piece, Brookings Institution analyst Ken Pollack writes "the search for Iraq's nonconventional weapons program has only just begun. In the meantime, accusations are mounting that the Bush administration made up the whole Iraqi weapons threat to justify an invasion. That is just not the case - American and its allies had plenty of evidence before the war, and before President Bush took office, indicating that Iraq was retaining its illegal weapons program" -- Pollack in the NYT via the National Journal, June 2003

Update: A penny for the thoughts of Ken Pollack.


Blogger Klasher5 said...

"In the category of superlatively aggravating, the New York Times published an Op-Ed by two of the Iraq War's biggest supporters, Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack."

A lot of the wingnuts are calling them anti-war "liberals" who have seen the light, and "now" support the Surge.


12:13 PM  

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