When looking back on how and why this country talked itself into invading Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, despite the absence of either a justification or a plan for the day after Saddam was overthrown, you have to reckon with two categories of war cheerleaders. There are the folks who just wanted a war with Iraq and didn’t care what crap they had to sling to make it happen: mushroom cloud, al-Qaeda, he gassed his own people (which we tried to downplay at the time), anthrax, Prague and 9/11, whatever, don’t bother me with the details, they’ll greet us as liberators except maybe not in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat. In other words, the bad guys. Then there are the folks who swallowed the crap that the bad guys were making up, the dupes, or the useful idiots. These included leading media figures (*cough*SaintTimRussert*cough*) and pundits, most of Congress, the odd celebrity here and there, and plenty of folks in the think-tank/public intellectual crowd (although some of the think-tank types clearly belong in the “bad guy” category).
Some of the useful idiots may not have believed all the nonsense about Iraq, but they found a way to believe just enough of it and even to convince themselves that they were still right all these years later. Some may never have believed any of it but went along so they wouldn’t be seen as Unserious Peaceniks. But some of them swallowed all of it, whole, like, for example, Jeffrey Goldberg. Let’s see: use of poison gas, nuclear program, ties to al-Qaeda, oh hey, he also talked about the morality of the invasion. Yep, he ticked off every box on the useful idiot checklist, and then unquestioningly passed his idiocy on to his readers. Goldberg so thoroughly absorbed and broadcast every piece of BS that was produced in the run-up to the war that, if I weren’t trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, I’d say he was actually a bad guy and not just a useful idiot.
Anyway, Goldberg was so chastened by his complete failure to be right about anything on Iraq that he retired from punditry and retreated from public life forever, arguing that there was no conceivable reason why anybody should be exposed to his opinions ever again. Haha, just kidding. But he did swear to never again opine on America’s need to wage war in the Middle East. LOL, gotcha again! Actually he likes to write long pieces about how America should bomb the crap out of Iran because that will stop them from ever trying to get a nuclear bomb, somehow! Jeffrey is a little nonplussed about this weekend’s agreement on a short-term hold/rollback of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for some very mild sanctions relief. He’s a useful idiot, remember, not a bad guy (I think), so it’s not like he wants war with Iran so much as he’s highly inclined to believe anything that anybody says that might justify war with Iran. In true punditocratic fashion, he’s literally tried to split the difference between “I guess no war is good” and “but maybe we really really need to bomb Iran” with his latest column, “In Iran, Obama Achieves 50 Percent of His Goals.”
His conclusion, a sort of grudging admission that the Iranians have goals and agency of their own, I guess, and probably you have to cut a deal like this because they won’t just roll over and accede to every one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s list of demands, is OK as these things go. I’m not sure how you assess that Obama has achieved 50% of anything on a deal that was just signed a couple of days ago and that only lasts for six months, but “let’s wait and see” doesn’t drive clicks, so sure, 50%. But one particular thing stood out to me (bold mine):
On the other matter — actually preventing Iran from getting hold of a nuclear weapon — Obama and his Great Power partners have at least slowed the regime’s march across the nuclear threshold. If they’re not careful they could wind up legitimizing Iran’s nuclear ambitions (never forget that Iran’s leaders are lying when they insist they’ve built their nuclear program exclusively for peaceful purposes). But Obama and his partners seem to have bought a bit of time here.
OK, let’s never forget that! Wait, they’re lying? We’re sure about that? Ayatollah Khamenei, who is not only the ultimate political authority in Iran but is also one of the spiritual leaders (if not THE spiritual leader) of the Imami Shiʿi community around the world, has by most accounts issued a fatwa (binding legal judgment under Islamic Law) declaring that Islam forbids “the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons.” A 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) determined that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, and a 2010 NIE concluded that Iran had made no further progress on a nuclear weapon since the 2007 report was issued. The US Intelligence community may not be perfect, but they did get that whole “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” thing right so if it comes down to a couple of NIE’s versus the claims of the neocons and their useful idiots, I’ll go with the NIEs. The Israeli military, which better know, assesses that Iran has not yet decided to pursue a nuclear weapon. But Goldberg had anticipated that readers might wonder whence he had yanked the proof that Iran has been lying about their nuclear program’s intentions, and he wrote a reasoned, well-sourced defense of his assertion:
Oh man, you have to stop falling for this crap! He just asserted that the Iranians are lying and left it there. When I asked him about this apparent omission on Twitter, he immediately addressed the oversight and offered his evidence. No, come on! Instead he identified the Real Monster here: me, and all these anonymous whippersnappers ruining the Twitter for Decent, Serious Folks:
@fasteddie9318 If you come out from behind anonymity, I’ll let you know. But I don’t argue with people who hide their identities on Twitter.
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) November 25, 2013
Now, the degree to which I’m “anonymous” is debatable; I don’t make it very hard to figure out who I am (SPOILER ALERT: it’s “nobody”) if you really care to know, but I don’t especially like showering my personal information all over the internet tubes. What is not debatable, though, is that the issue of my anonymity and Jeffrey Goldberg’s serial misinformation and refusal to demonstrate the evidence he has for holding, and sharing, the opinions he has are intricately related. I have met the real bad guy here, and he is me. I feel shame.