The Pro-War Press Breaks With Bush
By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2004; 7:42 AM
In the ranks of journalism, they were the coalition of the willing: the newspapers that supported President Bush's decision to invade Iraq in March 2003.
These news outlets made the case for overthrowing Saddam Hussein, often in the face of strong anti-war feelings in their countries. Their editorials lent credibility and moral support to the White House's claims that the U.S.-led war had international backing.
Today, they are having second thoughts.
"Rumsfeld will have to go," declares an editorial in the Australian, the national daily founded in 1964 by an aspiring young businessman named Rupert Murdoch.
"The case for invading Iraq last April remains watertight," the editors asserted Wednesday. "Saddam Hussein was a destabilising force in the region and the world; he had form for using WMD against his enemies, internal and external; and he had flouted a string of Security Council declarations, demanding full UN inspection of his facilities, stretching back a decade."
With the failure of coalition forces to locate WMD in Iraq, they continue, "the fact we were bringing democracy, freedom and human rights where torture had reigned unchallenged, became the key to convincing the Iraqi people, Muslim nations across the world and critics of the war in the West, that the coalition cause was just."
But they argue that the images of physical and sexual abuse at Abu Ghraib dealt a "grievous body blow" to a just cause, and that Rumsfeld is responsible.
Rumfeld's departure, they conclude, "would unambiguously show the people of Iraq that the US does not cut and run when confronted by its own failings and that rank does not exempt men and women from the rules. For ordinary Iraqis this would define an extraordinary distinction from Saddam's dictatorship. Rather than a sign of weakness it would make clear the overwhelming strength of the law that governs all Americans."
The editors of the Scotsman, a conservative daily in Edinburgh, said "the question is whether or not maintaining the morale of the soldiery in Iraq is a purpose best served by the survival of a defence secretary who is widely perceived to have lost the confidence of the country and the world."
While praising Rumsfeld as an "astute tactician" who "understands the scale of the challenge facing America" after Sept. 11, the editors also fault him for the "short-sighted lack of planning for life in Iraq after Saddam."
"The immoral treatment of prisoners has now come to symbolize those failures of judgment," they say.
Their recommendation: Rumsfeld should resign.
"Democracy means accountability," they conclude. "For the United States to recapture a sense of decency, he should do the decent thing."
In the reliably conservative Daily Telegraph, columnist Jenny McCartney said she was confused by Rumsfeld's statement that he would "resign in a minute" if he felt he could not be an effective leader.
"On that basis, he should be gone already: he has already proved an ineffective leader, and will be much less effective in the wake of this miserable scandal. For what has leaked out of Abu Ghraib, along with the stomach-churning whiff of chaos and sadism, is the fundamental incompetence in the running of the US military from the top down. "
© 2004 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive
In an earlier version of this article, John Derringer was misidentified as a columnist for the Toronto Star. He is a columnist for the Toronto Sun.
In Shameful Photos, the Specter of Failure (washingtonpost.com, May 11, 2004)
Arabs Rage at Bush's America (washingtonpost.com, May 6, 2004)
George Bush as Saddam Hussein (washingtonpost.com, May 3, 2004)
From a Baghdad Weekly, a Global Scandal (washingtonpost.com, Apr 29, 2004)
Welcome to Baghdad, Texas (washingtonpost.com, Apr 27, 2004)
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