Thursday, October 13, 2005

Richard Cohen; a Classic Tool

In a February 3, 2004 column, Richard Cohen, looking back at the nation’s rush to war a year earlier, acknowledged that mistakes were made, not only by the administration, but by the press, as well. Trying hard not to take too big a helping of crow, he wrote, “I do not take myself off the hook. The mood got to me, too. And while I kept insisting that the Bush administration was exaggerating the case for war, was in too much of a hurry and was incapable of assembling a true coalition, I nevertheless went along with the program.”

Mr. Cohen is far too modest. Where in February 2004 he claims that he “kept insisting that the Bush administration was exaggerating the case for war,” on February 2, 2003, almost exactly a year before his luke warm “mea culpa” column, he was singing from a different score altogether. Reviewing Colin Powell’s symphony of lies before the UN, Cohen 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.”
Strong words from a man who “kept insisting that Bush exaggerated,” but he was just warming up. Cohen was apparently breathing deeply and craving a cigarette by the time Powell finished his presentation.
“This time, for instance, when the by-now hoary charge was made that a link existed between al Qaeda and Baghdad, it was Powell who made it -- and it hit with force. This time, when it was said that Iraq had developed unmanned airplanes that could dispense chemical or biological agents, it was Powell who made the charge -- and showed a picture of one. This time, the finger-pointer was the man who, heretofore, had been accused of what in the Bush administration is a virtual slander: prudence. Here was a reasonable man making a reasonable case.”
As gullible as he has already made himself sound, it gets better. Turning to Powell’s spinning of the aluminum tubes, Cohen wrote,
“To my mind, Powell's most compelling statements came when he acknowledged doubt or differences of opinion. He did so when discussing Iraq's importation of aluminum tubes that Baghdad may -- or may not -- be using as centrifuges for enriching uranium.

“‘By now, just about everyone has heard of these tubes, and we all know that there are differences of opinion,’ he said. ‘There is controversy about what these tubes are for.’ You bet, and saying so enhanced his credibility.”
This controversy, we now know, is about as valid as the “controversy” over “intelligent design,” but Powell worked Cohen and his overmatched kind masterfully. Cohen concluded this column with,
“If anyone had any doubt, Powell proved that it has defied international law -- not to mention international norms concerning human rights -- and virtually dared the United Nations to put up or shut up. There is no other hand. There is no choice.”

So why bring this up now? In today’s WaPo, Cohen addresses Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name to the press by somebody in the Bush White House.

According to Cohen, there may have been no crime committed and if there was one, it was of no importance. “Not nice,” he writes, “but it was what Washington does day in and day out.” Let it go, Cohen says. There’s no crime here. He spends many paragraphs arguing that since he, Cohen, couldn’t uncover any serious crime, one must not have taken place. He then goes on to bow before Saint Judy, the queen of all Iraq, before finally dismissing once again the blown identity of a CIA agent as the type of thing that is known by “hairdressers, mistresses and dog walkers all over town.”

It may be good to remember what Plame was working on before her cover was blown. She worked on anti-proliferation. You remember that, right? It was one of the phony concerns that led us into this was in the first place, that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction and was working on developing nuclear weapons and delivery systems. To people who really care about things like that, she was one of the good guys. She was one of the people trying to keep such things from spreading (unlike, say, our good allies the Pakistanis). This is all trivial to Cohen and his ilk. To him it's all about anonymous sources and the first amendment.

In a year or so, we can expect another Cohen column in which he admits that he may have been slightly snookered by the White House spin doctors while looking at the Plame case. We don’t need to wait a year to reach that conclusion, though. Using Lincoln’s old adage, Cohen is one of those people you can fool all the time.
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