American unanimity on the Iraqi threat before the second Iraq War can only be described as totalitarian. I remember thinking at the time that Saddam probably did not have a significant WMD capacity and that he was not a major threat to the U.S., but I just didn’t think that it was worth saying so. I didn’t have any special information, and almost all of the experts (and essentially all of the media) were supporting the Bush line. So mostly I argued for multilateralism and/or containment.
But Ritter wasn’t the only expert who disagreed: Hans Blix also did. And even without a sex-crimes charge, he too was marginalized by what amounted to smear campaign — as indeed were the French, the Germans and most of Old Europe. The unanimity of opinion on the WMD question was a local American phenomenon not to be found elsewhere in the world.
This kind of engineered unanimism is usually only seen in one-party states. Dissenting voices were swamped in a flood of coordinated, on-message repetitions of the Bush Administration’s unfounded and false claims about the Iraqi threat. The vast majority of the major media were working for the administration, and only a few people with independent sources of information were in a position to know how weak the administration’s case really was.
We obviously need a complete post-mortem. (Here and here are two tidbits from Atrios on how the media worked — the point of the Pincus story is that it was a good story buried on page seventeen.) There really need to be some mea culpas, some resignations, and multiple apologies to Ritter and Blix. I really don’t think that we’ll see any of that, but until it happens, we’re still really as bad off as we ever were, since the same corrupt media still control the airwaves.
We’re really in Nader-Chomsky territory. The Democrats should have listened.