Bill Keller wants us to “get over Iraq” and “get Syria right”


Could there be a less appropriate advocate for U.S. intervention in Syria than Bill Keller, Judith Miller’s editor at The New York Times during the runup to the disastrous war in Iraq?

Has this man ever been right about anything? Remember when he told us the baby boomers were responsible for the fiscal crisis and we should give up our hopes of a dignified old age because our selfishness has caused the U.S. to have “a less-skilled work force, lower rates of job creation, and an infrastructure unfit for a 21st-century economy”? Because obviously the costs of the Iraq war had nothing to do with the country’s current economic troubles.

Today Keller had the unmitigated gall to lecture us about the need to get involved in Syria. He isn’t really sure what we should do, but he’s positive we need to do it and he has a list of reasons why getting into another war in the Middle East is the right thing to do.

Of course even the monumentally “entitled” Bill Keller understands that lots of people are going to read his op-ed and respond by either screaming bloody murder or laughing hysterically at the spectacle of one of the architects of the Iraq War having the nerve to pontificate about another obviously insane foreign adventure.

So he tries to convince us that this time it’s different: “Syria is not Iraq,” he says.

Of course, there are important lessons to be drawn from our sad experience in Iraq: Be clear about America’s national interest. Be skeptical of the intelligence. Be careful whom you trust. Consider the limits of military power. Never go into a crisis, especially one in the Middle East, expecting a cakewalk.

But in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.

“Be careful whom you trust,” he warns. Then why would we trust the man who allowed a once-great newspaper to be given over to neo-conservative enablers like Judith Miller and Michael Gordon who lapped up and printed every lie the Bush White House fed them?

But Keller brushes our doubts aside and offers four reasons why Syria is different from Iraq. But some of his arguments sound awfully familiar to me.

First, we have a genuine, imperiled national interest, not just a fabricated one. A failed Syria creates another haven for terrorists, a danger to neighbors who are all American allies, and the threat of metastasizing Sunni-Shiite sectarian war across a volatile and vital region. “We cannot tolerate a Somalia next door to Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey,” said Vali Nasr, who since leaving the Obama foreign-policy team in 2011 has become one of its most incisive critics. Nor, he adds, can we afford to let the Iranians, the North Koreans and the Chinese conclude from our attitude that we are turning inward, becoming, as the title of Nasr’s new book puts it, “The Dispensable Nation.”

Weren’t we trying to keep Iraq from being a “haven for terrorists” too? And weren’t the neo-cons afraid of having the U.S. be perceived as weak?

Second, in Iraq our invasion unleashed a sectarian war. In Syria, it is already well under way.

This one is just ridiculous. We should invade because things are already worse than when we invaded Iraq?

Third, we have options that do not include putting American troops on the ground, a step nobody favors. None of the options are risk-free. Arming some subset of the rebels does not necessarily buy us influence. The much-touted no-fly zone would put American pilots in range of Syrian air defenses. Sending missiles to destroy Assad’s air force and Scud emplacements, which would provide some protection for civilians and operating room for the rebels, carries a danger of mission creep. But, as Joseph Holliday, a Syria analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, points out, what gets lost in these calculations is the potentially dire cost of doing nothing. That includes the danger that if we stay away now, we will get drawn in later (and bigger), when, for example, a desperate Assad drops Sarin on a Damascus suburb, or when Jordan collapses under the weight of Syrian refugees.

Huh? This one starts out sounding like an argument for staying out of Syria, so Keller throws in one of the neo-con arguments for invading Iraq–things could get worse if we don’t go in. Remember the warnings about “smoking guns” becoming “mushroom clouds?”

Fourth, in Iraq we had to cajole and bamboozle the world into joining our cause. This time we have allies waiting for us to step up and lead. Israel, out of its own interest, seems to have given up waiting.

What kind of argument is that? We should get into a war just because our “allies” want us to “lead?” Meaning they want us to provide the money and manpower.

Sorry, I’m just not convinced. Let the other guys do it for a change. If Israel wants to go to war in Syria, let them. In fact, let Bill Keller go if he’s so gung ho. Maybe he can convince some of his superrich pals to go along with him.

And what do you know? Along with Keller, Judy Miller’s old partner Michael Gordon, who still has his job at the Times, and has been writing story after story pushing U.S. involvement in Syria–as has op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman (I can’t provide links right now because I don’t seem to be able to circumvent the paywall). But here’s Greg Mitchell at The Nation:

Hail, hail, the gang’s nearly all here. Michael Gordon, Thomas Friedman, now Bill Keller. Paging Judy Miller! The New York Times in recent days on its front page and at top of its site has been promoting the meme of Syria regime as chemical weapons abuser, thereby pushing Obama to jump over his “red line” and bomb or otherwise attack there. Tom Friedman weighed in Sunday by calling for an international force to occupy the entire country (surely they would only need to stay one Friedman Unit, or six months).

Now, after this weekend’s Israeli warplane assaults, the threat grows even more dire.

And Bill Keller, the self-derided “reluctant hawk” on invading Iraq in 2003, returns with a column today stating right in its headline, “Syria Is Not Iraq,” and urging Obama and all of us to finally “get over Iraq.” He boasts that he has.

The Times in its news pages, via Sanger, Gordon and Jodi Rudoren, has been highlighting claims of Syria’s use of chem agents for quite some time, highlighted by last week’s top story swallowing nearly whole the latest Israeli claims.

Please go read the rest. Michell makes much more coherent arguments than I can. I’m still just sputtering from rage and trying to keep from banging my head on my keyboard.

20 Comments on “Bill Keller wants us to “get over Iraq” and “get Syria right””

  1. List of X says:

    If these warmongers are so concerned with Syria becoming another Somalia, maybe they should start by look up the history of less than successful US involvement in the original Somalia.

    • bostonboomer says:

      What?! You mean learn from history? Like not getting involved in another quagmire after Vietnam?

      It’s not going to happen, because guys like Keller support wars because it makes their class richer and they know their kids won’t have to serve as cannon fodder.

      • RalphB says:

        Right, on all counts.

      • List of X says:

        They have learned from history that a war is a great way to make the rich richer.

      • Fannie says:

        They don’t have any thinkers, so they really are reaching back in time. They have torn this country apart, and that wasn’t enough punishment, it’s never enough when it comes to money. Very true BB, it’s not their son or daughter doing 3, 4 or 5 tours. They don’t have to struggle with burials, and post traumatic syndrome. They have no fucking idea.

        Their call for war is not good, not good at all.

      • NW Luna says:

        For a while I saw “IRAQ (or AFGHANISTAN) = VIETNAM” bumper stickers. That was a few years back. I think too many have become worn out and cynical about the intelligence (sic) of our elected officials and pundits.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    It took me all day to calm down enough to write this, and I’m still completely pissed off! I hope this rant makes some kind of sense…

    • RalphB says:

      It makes a great deal of sense, Thank you, I want Bill Keller and the rest of these bloody chickenhawk neo-con fascists to shut the fuck up and die! They’ve been at least partially responsible for far too much pain, death and destruction already.

      • Fannie says:

        They sprawn violence, here and there, and all over the fucking world.

      • Beata says:

        I can’t stand to look at the picture of Judith Miller, smiling as she helped lead us into the nightmare of a war that never should have happened. I wonder does she sleep well in her soft bed every night now, under smooth high-thread-count sheets; her body and mind still intact, never dreaming of lost lives, missing limbs, and shattered psyches? I imagine she does.

  3. Fannie says:

    ………spawn hatred and violence.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Josh Marshall: Shocking, Horrifying, Miraculous Story

      Three women, abducted as teenagers, 9, 10 and 11 years ago from a single neighborhood in Cleveland have been found, apparently in good physical health, only a couple miles from the scene of their abductions.

      Video at TPM

      Michelle Knight was actually abducted when she was 21. How did this guy keep them in his house for all that time?

  4. liberaleb says:

    Keller and Miller were about as irresponsible as they come. They might as well had been working in the Bush White House.

  5. ecocatwoman says:

    I think we’re on the same wavelength bb. I have Chris Hayes on he played the video of McCain on Fox News Sunday. Spouting his call to war. I told him (the tv) to hop in his plane and head on over to Syria.

    The big question for me is why don’t the Middle East nations police their own? Don’t they have even more to lose than the US does? Are the Saudis that certain that revolution won’t spill over into their country? Bringing down Saddam Hussein made the whole house of cards collapse – a honest to goodness “domino effect” us boomers heard over & over & over again in our youth about communism. Could we call this a self fulfilling prophecy, just the wrong geography/political agenda? I wish our military would stand up & say ENOUGH – hell no, we won’t go. Send the damn hawks & the gun nuts who want to fight tyranny.

  6. Pilgrim says:

    In spite of your justified rage, Boomer, you have produced another well-reasoned, convincing piece. As is your wont. Pleasure to read.