The Idiotic Hubris of the Washington Post

I’ve been visiting family in the Washington DC area for the past few days. This means that I read the Washington Post every morning. What I notice most about this paper is its unabashed support for war and it twisted logic of empire. Now, I’m not sure that it hasn’t always been this way, but I do know that back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Post had a decidedly liberal bent. I recall reading positively glowing coverage of the RFK campaign for president in 1968, critical coverage of the police riot in Chicago at the Democratic convention that same year, and an increasingly critique of US policy in Vietnam. On top of that, it was the Post that uncovered Watergate and carried that story to its logical end. I’m not saying that the post was an anti-government rag or anything, but it certainly did provide those of us not enamored with the war and the other tricks of empire a reliable ally to our right.

That is no longer even remotely the case. Rather fortuitously, at least as regards my current reading of the Post, Robert McNamara died yesterday. The commentary of his passing was universally focused on the war in Vietnam. According to this coverage, his identification with that war turned Mr. McNamara into a tragic figure in the Shakespearean sense of the word. It colored, so they say, his later good deeds with the World Bank’s struggle to alleviate poverty. Furthermore, it eliminated any positive changes he might have made in the Defense Department. Most importantly, the coverage wrote about McNamara’s later halting contrition for his murderous role in the Vietnam war as further proof of his tragic role in affairs of state.

Besides the fact that the World Bank is not actually involved in eliminating poverty as much as it is involved in creating it for certain segments of the world’s population, the nature of these remembrances is enough to make most of us who opposed the war in Vietnam gag. The only tragedy that I can see in McNamara’s supposed soul-searching journey for a resolution to that war that favored DC is that it lasted as long as it did, ultimately killing a couple million people. The only lesson I can see from this tragedy is to not believe well-educated architects of empire when they tell us that a war can be won. Yet, that is exactly what DC and its sycophants in the media and academia have not learned.

The proof of that last statement was found not only in a column on the Post’s editorial page the day after McNamara’s death but also in a lead editorial published by the Post’s editorial staff over the July 4th weekend. The column, written by Jim Hoaglund, talk’s about the rightness of the US war in Vietnam, but blames its ultimate failure on a combination of personal hubris and a uniquely American belief in the sheer strength of military firepower. Hoaglund ends his piece with a convoluted and self-serving statement that says, in essence, that Washington no longer makes these types of mistakes. As proof he offers George Bush’ 2007 escalation of the US war in Iraq known as the “surge.” To further convince his readers of Washington’s changed ways, Hoaglund mentions Obama’s current escalation in Afghanistan. Neither example offers much proof of Hoaglund’s case, but it is apparently enough for the Washington Post.

If you don’t believe me regarding the Post’s conclusion that Washington has cured itself of the hubris and intellectual arrogance that caused its defeat in Vietnam, let me refer you back to that July 4th weekend editorial. To be honest, I could not believe what I was reading when I first read it. So I read it again. Yes, the Post’s editors did go on record as saying that there should be no limit to the number of US troops sent to Afghanistan. The editorial continued, arguing that for the new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan to work, then the US must be prepared to send as many troops as needed. Indeed, if that number had to reach 100,000, then so be it. Mr. Obama and any other official that might reject this argument should only look at the “surge” in Iraq as to why the Pentagon should not hesitate to send more troops to Afghanistan. It seems to this reader, that if the Post’s editors had a little more sense of history and little less hubris, then they should look further back then Iraq in 2007 for proof of their argument. In fact, why not look back into 1968 in Vietnam?

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on July 10th, 2009 at 11:04am #

    Former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil described the story last night as “one of the most significant media stories of modern times”. “It suggests that rather than being a one-off journalist or rogue private investigator, it was systemic throughout the News of the World, and to a lesser extent the Sun,” he said. “Particularly in the News of the World, this was a newsroom out of control Everyone who knows the News of the World, everybody knows this was going on. But it did no good to talk about it. One News of the World journalist said to me … it was dangerous to talk about it.”

    Here is a little news on the news. So far it seems hush hush this news on the news.

  2. Don Hawkins said on July 10th, 2009 at 11:12am #

    Again so far this seems to be a non story very hush hush.

  3. Jeff said on July 10th, 2009 at 9:23pm #

    Burn! This piece proves “stupidity”.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain said on July 11th, 2009 at 12:13am #

    Don, the killer revelation concerning the News of the World bugging story is that the police have refused to prosecute Murdoch/Moloch’s Evil Empire over these dastardly acts. Whether out of fear of the Evil Empire’s media power, or politically directed acquiescence, it shows where real power resides in ‘market capitalist democracy’. With the money, those who control it and their psychopathic enforcers in the media sewer. As for the ‘Washington Post’, I saw similar stuff just now on the BBC, another septic tank of Rightwing groupthink and indoctrination. Several minutes of sullage concerning the ‘tragic’ deaths of some trained UK killers in the neo-colonial bloodbath in Afghanistan. As ever, copying the Israelis and their ilk, loads of nauseating, faked, self-pitying emotion over these deaths, a plethora of lies concerning why these killers were several thousand miles from home killing people who had no argument with the UK save its detestable Government has joined in the Yankee led attempt to dominate their country, and no mention, whatsoever, of Afghan deaths, now in the hundreds of thousands since 2001. The BBC ‘correspondent’ , a plain imbecile, seemed to lose her historical bearings, and started squawking about ‘winning hearts and minds’, no doubt hopeful of impressing her Blairite bosses or future employers in the US. She seems, the dullard, not to have noticed that the slogan for this savage counter-insurgency war, is ‘protecting the civilian population’, from the dastardly Taliban. This is, of course, the same sort of ‘protection’ that the Mafia offer. You take the ‘protection’ or we kill your children. If you live in Taliban controlled areas, you will get, as in Indochina or Korea, a ‘free-fire zone’ where villages are destroyed at dead of night in the most cowardly, craven, manner imaginable, by missiles fired from drones. Or perhaps your wedding celebrations will be bombed, followed up by targeting of the funeral procession. I imagine even Orwell would blanch at the doublespeak of calling this trademark mass murder ‘protecting the people’ from the Taliban, who happen to be their brothers and neighbours, but the psychopathy, moral insanity and sheer evil of the West and the putrid sewer of lies and disinformation that is its ‘Free Press’ must never be under-estimated.

  5. Don Hawkins said on July 11th, 2009 at 4:15am #

    The putrid sewer of lies and disinformation that is its ‘Free Press’ must never be under-estimated. I have to admit to watch the insanity here in the States is strange to see. Yes lies and disinformation but it’s the stupidity to get the lies and disinformation out that is now to the point of disbelief. It looks like by November it will be harder to keep this insanity going as the economy will be in even worst shape but sure they will keep trying probably pitting one side against the other as they do now. We are all in deep do do and yet to listen to the media it’s just business as normal and normal is the wrong word. I guess it’s like that frog you put into the pot of cold water then turn on the heat and by the time the frog realizes what’s up to late. It is strange as we are all that’s all frog’s now and yet the same old game goes on. Still time and two million to start Capital here in the States could be a start but I guess the lies and disinformation is the stronger force. Climate change and what needs to be done to try is not happening not even close. Here in the States it’s still bring the system back to normal that is not going to happen kind of a nobrainer but that seems to be the thinking. It’s the same with Rupert Murdoch and his thinking as how much money was paid out to cover that insanity over and it seems the money is still very important to some and the last time I checked you can’t eat the stuff and the insanity goes on and of course the question for how much longer? Two million Capital to start.

  6. Don Hawkins said on July 11th, 2009 at 4:52am #

    I keep hearing it’s not what people want that’s here in the States. Well short term as the system falls apart and then in about 5 months that little flu problem not so much want but need. It seems the media still try’s as it is a business after all to keep people believing all is normal sort of. Far from it as long term 10 years then twenty there will be a new normal alright. Why can’t we face the problems with courage and reason, why. Because so far it’s just more lies and disinformation and stupidity. Higher or lower tax’s is the question well that’s lies and disinformation as we are all to the point where money is the least of are problems. War what is it good for absolutely nothing. Tuff times ahead two million to start Capital. Clown town USA, not true, so far oh yes it is.

  7. john andrews said on July 11th, 2009 at 8:38am #


    You might be interested in tthe following quote. Apparently it’s from the Washington Post from more than a hundred years ago on the eve of the US’s first serious foreign adventure into Asia. I found in Robert Asprey’s book ‘War in the Shadows’ (page 200):

    “…A new consciousness seems to have come upon us – the consciousness of strength – and with it a new appetite, the yearning to show our strength…ambition, interest, land hunger, pride, the mere joy of fighting, whatever it may be, we are animated by a new sensation. We are face to face with a strange destiny. The taste of Empire is in the mouth of the people even as the taste of blood in the jungle. It means an Imperial Policy, the Republic, renascent, taking her place with the armed nations.”

  8. Don Hawkins said on July 11th, 2009 at 9:27am #

    John that maybe true for some older of the brainwashed let’s hope there are more who are not. The first way probably not a good ending. Calm at peace the truth the knowledge.