WaPo Editor Wants a War Debate–Somewhere Else

Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt wrote a piece today (5/24/10) headlined, “In the Absence of Debate, Iraq and Afghanistan Go Unnoticed.” Hiatt laments the silence surrounding U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ponders whether “the absence of debate reflects not full-bodied consensus but a wishful averting of eyes.”

Fair enough. But what kind of debate does Hiatt wish the country to have, anyway? His job gives him a chance to affect the national discussionabout these wars, and the evidence suggests that he’s done little to provide a forum for dissenting views.

As FAIR’s Steve Rendall wrote in his study of the Post‘s op-ed page and Afghanistan (for the first 10 months of 2009):

In the Washington Post, pro-war columns outnumbered antiwar columns by more than 10 to 1: Of 67 Post columns on U.S. military policy in Afghanistan, 61 supported a continued war, while just six expressed antiwar views. Of the pro-war columns, 31 were for escalation and 30 for an alternative strategy.

At times the Post‘s editors seemed unaware that an antiwar position even existed. For instance, in an op-ed roundtable (9/27/09) appearing in its recurring “Topic A” feature, the section’s editors, in their words, “asked foreign policy experts whether President Obama should maintain a focus on protecting the population and rebuilding the country, or on striking terrorists.”

Excluding withdrawal from the discussion was a theme echoed by Post columnist Fareed Zakaria, who began a column (9/14/09): “It is time to get real about Afghanistan. Withdrawal is not a serious option.”

Interestingly, Hiatt also had a similar beef with the debate over healthcare reform–writing (from the right) back in October, “Single-payer national health insurance may be the best outcome, but we should get there after an honest debate, not through the back door.” As we pointed out then, the Post had done next to nothing to provide an “honest debate.”

If Hiatt really wants the country to debate these issues, he should start with his own paper.

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.