Jackson MeadMonday,11 February 2013

The Snap

Ten years ago, last week, Colin Powell convinced the world (and the press) that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, and made the case for invasion and war. The Washington Post ran the headline, “Irrefutable“. Too bad the presentation was a lie, which Colin Powell “regrets” having made and his chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, now renounces.

The Download

While there are many things to comment and ponder from this capsule of history – systemic and habitual lying by our government, whether we are better off now because the war was prosecuted, the cost of a nine-year war and the real reasons for going to war (no al-Qaeda link either, BTW), the question today is accountability. Who should or can be held accountable for anything the government does when it is based on a lie?

While, the easy answer is to hold the government, those in power and even Powell himself accountable, we know this will never happen. Yes, Powell resigned (was asked to) a little more than a year and a half after his UN presentation and has referred to the incident as a “blot” on his record, it seems that he is trying to be held accountable only for the the action of giving the presentation not the actual results thereof – between 100,000 and 600,000+ dead and over $2 trillion spent (There seem to be some financial shenanigans going on, who knows what the actual cost is to the US taxpayer?).

Ultimately, both Powell and Wilkerson say is that they were pretty much just following orders as an attempt to push the accountability onto to their superiors. We’ve heard that before and although the defense can be used to lessen punishment it is not good enough to absolve responsibility. Wilkerson further maintains that the speech only added momentum to Cheney’s and President Bush’s (then) long standing desire to go to war with Iraq, implying that the US was going to war with or without the rest of the coalition.

We’re not going to get any accountability from Bush or Cheney or anyone in government, so who’s left? The Fourth Estate – The Press and mainstream media. If there was ever a failure by the mainstream media, from Fox News to the New York Times, it was that they helped the US Government convince world and the American people to go to war and acted as the the Government’s own propaganda machine instead of yelling, “liar, liar, pants on fire”. Isn’t this The Fourth Estate’s ultimate obligation and purpose?

If anyone was in the position to say, “there are no WMDs” and taken the government to task before engaging in war, it was the media. However, instead of playing the critical role of skeptics they jumped on the bandwagon. The American people, whether they side with the conservative or side with the liberal media outlets, were done a great disservice. Even as outlets like the New York Times apologized for the less than “rigorous” coverage in the run up to the war, ten years later the same reporters and editors that promoted the propaganda are probably still working without any real consequences from their failed violation of trust, just as Powell, Cheney, Wilkerson and Bush.

Maybe, by definition, a government of the people, by the people and for the people can never be held accountable for its actions because, as in this case, so many people were complicit. This is a shame since because of those people’s actions, at least 100,000 people will no longer be complicit in anything else, ever again.

Hat Tips

Irrefutable“, Iraq War Dead, Iraq War Cost, NYT Apology, Powell

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  1. […] Bush did everything to make sure that we would go to war — the evidence for doing so was “irrefutable.” But even as the argument for going to war could not withstand even a modicum of scrutiny, which […]

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