Greg Mitchell On Accountability And Those Like Richard Cohen Who Insisted War With Iraq Was Right

Regular readers know that I highly respect Editor & Publisher magazine in general and editor Greg Mitchell of the magazine specifically. Greg's series on some of the soldiers who have died has been very good.

But this isn't a "fan" post. Greg earned my (admittedly not always easy to obtain) respect because he has also frequently tackled the issue of the working press' responsibility in times of war, and the fairness and accuracy in reporting of the Bush Administration at a time when the press seemed to take a "whatever the White House says is gold to us" approach.

Before the press corps awoke from its Bush-and-Rumsfeld-induced slumber to finally notice the emperor from Crawford had no clothes and the Iraqi dictator had no WMD, Greg was one of the few consistent voices in demanding that American citizens required more of their journalists than simply repeating whatever 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the Pentagon allowed them to write.

It's with this (mea culpa) long lead-in that I recommend Greg Mitchell's latest column on Richard Cohen, the Washington Post columnist who - like many - insisted the Iraq War was appropriate and now says it's not (while also suggesting readers not hold him responsible for his own opinion). Here's a snip:

For Richard Cohen, the longtime Washington Post columnist sometimes accused of being a "liberal," being fatally wrong on the Iraq war means never having to say you're sorry.

Today he took the occasion of President Bush's visit to Vietnam to offer his thoughts on the parallels between America's two most disastrous foreign adventures. In doing so, he admits -- as John Kerry might have put it -- that he was for them before he was against them. But here's the twist: He argues that in each case he was right to push for war (even if they turned out badly) -- so don't look for any apology.

This from the man who, on Feb. 6, 2003, after Secretary of State Colin Powell's deeply-flawed testimony in New York, famously wrote: "The evidence he presented to the United Nations -- some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail -- had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise."

Now consider his statement from today's column on why he backed the Iraq invasion: "In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic." Ponder that statement as you consider the tens of thousands of lives lost, on all sides, since then.

But the new column is one appalling rationalization after another.Cohen reveals that he turned against Vietnam only after he joined the military and realized he didn't particularly want to die in an "unwinnable" war. Jumping ahead, it was easier for him to support the Iraq invasion because those doing the fighting would be "after all, volunteers. This mattered to me." In other words: It was okay if they died for a mistake -- in a "therapeutic" cause -- because they had signed up for the military, in peacetime.