"Almost all of the hesitant hawks go out of their way to disavow Mr. Bush's larger agenda for American power even as they salute his plan to use it in Iraq," Keller wrote. "What his admirers call the Bush Doctrine is so far a crude edifice built of phrases from speeches and strategy documents, reinforced by a pattern of discarded treaties and military deployment.
"It consists of a determination to keep America an unchallenged superpower, a willingness to forcibly disarm any country that poses a gathering threat and an unwillingness to be constrained by treaties or international institutions that don't suit us perfectly."
What Keller acknowledges here is that he knows the Bush Doctrine involves "discarded treaties" and rejection of international standards "that don't suit us perfectly," but he gets in line anyway.
You might think that "opinion leaders" who were so completely gulled by the sophistry of the neoconservatives -- or who perhaps simply went opportunistically along with a war that was an international crime -- might suffer some negative consequences, like a demotion or a firing.
But that's not the world we live in.
At the Washington Post, for instance, editorial-page editor Hiatt did grudgingly acknowledge that he'd gotten the key issue of Iraq's WMD completely wrong.
Hiatt blithely told the Columbia Journalism Review that "if you look at the editorials we write running up [to the war], we state as flat fact that he [Saddam Hussein] has weapons of mass destruction. If that's not true, it would have been better not to say it." [CJR, March/April 2004]
Yes, it is a rule of thumb in journalism that if something is false, it's best not to state it as "flat fact."
But now eight years later, who is still the editorial-page editor of the Washington Post? Fred Hiatt. He still presides over an editorial section which publishes many of the same misguided columnists who fawned over Colin Powell's speech and backed Bush's invasion of Iraq.
If anything, Keller's case is even more telling.
Remember that when he announced his membership in the war-hawks club, he had been passed over for the top job as executive editor. But the guy who beat him out, Howell Raines, stumbled into a journalism scandal in spring 2003 when a Times reporter, Jason Blair, was caught lying in some news articles.
Raines became the fall-guy and resigned. To replace Raines, Times management turned to Keller, giving him the newspaper's top editorial job, a position he holds to this day.
In other words, the consequences for getting hoodwinked by a reporter -- career termination -- but the result of buying into lies that get hundreds of thousands of people killed and help bankrupt the U.S. government -- promotion to your dream job.
With such a screwed-up system of rewards and punishments, is there any doubt why the U.S. news media (and political process) are so out of whack.
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