Monday, July 30, 2007


two longtime supporters of the iraq war, michael o'hanlon and kenneth pollack have a piece in today's NYTimes claiming that things are really starting to go well there for the u.s.

the reaction to the piece has really been interesting. near the beginning o'hanlon and pollack preface their comments with: "As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq..." to anyone who is familiar with o'hanlon and pollack, it's hard to believe that the "two analysts" refers to the authors themselves. i mean, kenneth pollack? the guy who wrote a book urging the u.s. to invade iraq in 2002? who's spent the last four years repeatedly writing about how things are going well there? the guy who strongly supported the surge? that ken pollack?

and as for o'hanlon, he also supported the war from the beginning, predicting a "rapid and decisive" victory back in 2002. in 2003 he praised the u.s.' anti-insurgency strategy and predicted victory in "three to five years" (that was almost 4 years ago). more recently, o'hanlon championed the surge strategy the same week it was announced.

indeed, i am hard-pressed to find any point when either pollack or o'hanlon ever wrote anything that was a focused criticism of the bush administration's handling of iraq. sure, there are occasional articles that contain criticism of the administration, but those criticisms are always part of a larger claim that things overall were going well in iraq. in short, the claim that pollack and o'hanlon have "harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq" appears to be nothing but pure fantasy. they just made it up to give them more credibility when they praise the president's strategy today, something that really is no different from what both authors have been doing since before the war began. as matthew yglesias notes, the essay is about as shocking as any piece by pair of consistent pro-war writers who write a piece in support of the current course in the war.

but the interesting thing is watching big bloggers in right blogistan fall for it. dean barnett, for example, seems to think that o'hanlon and pollack support for the war today is some kind of loss for the left. curt at flopping aces calls the fact that these two staunch supporters of the war still support the war as "shocking." jules crittenden refers to o'hanlon as an "Iraq War critic." blue crab boulevard has a posts referring to the two consistently pro-war authors as "harshly critical of the war effort to date." john hinderaker suggests that the piece is significant "because of who wrote it". brian at hot air erroneously claims that o'hanlon "turned against the war as the problems and casualties mounted." blackfive correctly notes that the authors were for the iraq invasion, but wrongly reports that the two surge proponents were "against the continuation of our presence in Iraq." sister toldjah refers to pollack and o'hanlon as "prominent lefties." newsbusters simply quotes the author's own "harshly criticized" line and treats it as if it were true.

and there are probably more examples of rightwing bloggers eating up pollach and o'hanlon's "harshly critical" lie. the above are just the ones i could find with a couple of cursory searches. it's interesting to watch because it reminds me of the beauchamp thing i wrote about a couple of days ago. just as the bloggers fiercely trying to prove the new republic's anti-war biases seemed to be completely unaware that TNR has had a consistently pro-war stance from the beginning, a lot (though admittedly not all) of the wingers writing about the pollack/o'hanlon article seem to be rather ignorant of who pollack and o'hanlon are, and what they stand for on the left.

in fact, there's nothing "shocking" about the op-ed piece. both pollack and o'hanlon have been writing stuff like this all along. and there's also nothing shocking about the fact that the new york times would publish a piece like this. the only real surprise is just how out of touch many of the conservatives tooting this particular horn are.