Free PR for Frank Rich's Bush- & War-Bashing Book

Accompanied by two cartoon images depicting dancing Republicans and mesmerized reporters, journalist Ian Buruma's favorable review of left-wing Times editor/columnist Frank Rich's new Bush-bashing book ("The Greatest Story Ever Sold - The Decline and Fall of Truth From 9/11 to Katrina") conveniently makes the cover of Sunday's New York Times Book Review.

Buruma: "Whatever the merits of removing a dictator, waging war under false pretenses is highly damaging to a democracy, especially when one of the ostensible aims is to spread democracy to others. If Rich is correct, which I think he is, the Bush administration has given hypocrisy a bad name."

Buruma provides a convenient summary of the left-wing anti-war world view:

"This is how the war was sold: We were told by Dick Cheney in late 2001 that an official Iraqi connection with the 9/11 terrorist Mohamed Atta was 'pretty well confirmed.' In the summer of 2002, Cheney said that Saddam Hussein 'continues to pursue a nuclear weapon' and that there was 'no doubt' he had 'weapons of mass destruction.' The vice president mentioned aluminum tubes (they had been reported on by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller in The New York Times), which Hussein would use 'to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.' This uranium, we were told, had been procured by the Iraqis from Niger. President Bush, in October 2002, said, 'Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof - the smoking gun - that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.'"

Actually, TimesWatch doesn't recall Bush claiming Saddam had actually obtained uranium from Niger, just that he had sought it there (as everyone remembers from the famous "16 words" portion of Bush's 2003 State of the Union address), in which Bush said: "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

"Then in Iraq, heroic stories, like the brave battle of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, were invented and packaged for the press, and those who pointed out the fakery were denounced as leftist malcontents."

Buruma and Rich apparently forget that it was the Washington Post, perhaps on a PC binge, that first created the Lynch as hero mystique, in a breathless story later criticized by the paper's ombudsman.

"How could some of the best, most fact-checked, most reputable news organizations in the English-speaking world have been so gullible? How can one explain the temporary paralysis of skepticism? This is perhaps the most painful question raised by Rich's book, since his own newspaper was clearly implicated. An air of intimidation, which hung over the United States like a noxious vapor after 9/11, is part of the explanation. Susan Sontag became a national hate figure just for saying that United States foreign policy might have had something to do with violent anti-Americanism."

Here's what Sontag wrote in the New Yorker's Sept. 24, 2001 edition. Judge for yourself if she was unfairly excoriated:

"Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a 'cowardly' attack on 'civilization' or 'liberty' or 'humanity' or 'the free world' but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word 'cowardly' is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): Whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards."