Who Gets to Speak: Iraq, Afghanistan and the NY Times

The New York Times‘ Week in Review section yesterday (11/23/08) gathered a group of op-eds under the heading “Transitions,” which they described as “a series of Op-Ed articles by experts on the most formidable issues facing the new president.” The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the topics under examination; we’ve examined who gets to weigh in on such matters before.

The Times yesterday ran seven pieces. Readers were treated to the thoughts of ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi (who, you might remember, peddled many of the false stories about Iraqi WMD) and leading neo-con Fred Kagan from the American Enterprise Institute. Also contributing was Peter Mansoor (a former executive officer to General David Petraeus) and Anthony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies who was a somewhat reluctant supporter of the Iraq War.

Another Times contributor, author Rory Stewart, also initially supported the Iraq War; he now questions the wisdom of a “surge” in Afghanistan. The final perspective permitted in the Times was that of Linda Robinson, a former reporter at U.S. News & World Report who recently wrote a book about David Petraeus.

In other words, of the seven perspectives offered by the Times, three were enthusiastic Iraq hawks (in the cases of Rumsfeld and Chalabi, that’s an understatement). One other– Cordesman– was an important voice in elite foreign policy debate who supported the invasion. Another contributor worked for Petraeus. Those perspectives are “balanced,” so to speak, by a pro-invasion author and a journalist who seems to advocate a rather middle-of-the-road perspective.

Where were the critics who opposed the Iraq War? Those who advocate a more rapid pace of U.S. troop withdrawal? How about someone who cautioned against the invasion of Afghanistan? Those thinkers are out there, of course; they just don’t seem to make it into the New York Times very often.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.