Reading in The Atlantic about how President Trump allegedly insulted deceased soldiers from the World War I Battle of Belleau Wood as “losers” and “suckers” reminded me of Jeffrey Goldberg’s writings from almost 20 years ago that helped set the stage for a war in which the word “suckers” comes to mind.
Before Goldberg was chatting with President Obama about getting us into the ISIS mess in the Middle East, he was wandering around Iraqi Kurdistan doing some worthy reporting on the plight of the Kurds. His March 2002 reporting in The New Yorker provided the supposed linkage between Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime and Osama Bin Laden’s al-Queda.
“The possibility that Saddam could supply weapons of mass destruction to anti-American terror groups is a powerful argument among advocates of ‘regime change,’ as the removal of Saddam is known in Washington,” he wrote. Later in the same article, Goldberg reported allegations from a shadowy German intelligence agent about Saddam’s continued pursuit of nuclear, not just chemical, arms. Thus Goldberg became one of the primary cheerleaders for the most ill-judged wars in American history. The problem was that Goldberg was the sucker for a couple of liars.
Six years later, Goldberg confessed his botched reporting in a Slate article titled, “How Did I Get Iraq Wrong?” This 2008 piece lays blame on a single German agent for the false information about Saddam’s nukes, as well as the Bush administration for the botched execution (implying that a successful war based on false pretenses is perfectly fine with him). Tellingly, he omitted his uncritical reporting of a series of lies a prisoner of the Kurdish Peshmerga told about the Saddam-Bin Laden link.
Goldberg’s bad reporting helped generate more suckers willing to engage in a misguided war than perhaps any other in memory. As one of the thousands of willing Americans who deployed to Iraq to dodge mortars and IEDs, where too many watched comrades, Iraqis, and Kurds being injured and killed, the revelation that people like Goldberg played us for “suckers” brought no joy or solace.
What was Goldberg up to since then? In The Atlantic in June 2016, he relates how busy he’d been helping President Obama talk himself out of doing anything effective against the cancer now known as ISIS, as well as preemptively trashing Trump.
So when Goldberg dropped a supposed bombshell about President Trump trashing World War I soldiers and Marines in France, BS meters start pinging off the charts. Sure enough, a few common-sense questions later, there is more than sufficient reason to doubt Goldberg now, as there should have been in 2016 or 2002.
President Trump supposedly insulted our fallen soldiers on a trip to France almost two years ago. Does anyone believe anyone in the media would have sat on such a damning story for two years? Washington reporters these days would run over their mothers to be first to print with an allegation like that, not only to bash the president but lest they lose the scoop.
Likewise, the four anonymous sources are apparently all anti-Trump at some level. Assuming they really do exist, it is plausible that at least one of them would have jumped ship to land a book deal before the others? This is especially likely for a mid-level bureaucrat-type agent, such as an Alex Vindman, Michael Wolff, Omorosa, Anthony Scaramucci, Michael Cohen, or that ultimate slimebag, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Speaking of book deals, John Bolton’s denial that the incident ever happened is pretty damning.
On Thursday, Goldberg tried to shore up his original claims by telling Wolf Blitzer that both French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel made it to that cemetery that day.
This is a massive strawman from Jeffrey Goldberg. He dismisses the weather concerns from people like @AmbJohnBolton because the German chancellor and French president made it to the cemetery. This ignores the fact that security for the President is significantly higher than both pic.twitter.com/SoWdPCzlsQ
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) September 8, 2020
Here’s the problem with that. Trump was headed to Belleau Wood American Cemetery. Macron and Merkel were headed for Compiegne, which is 30 miles northwest and is the site of the 1918 Armistice. It’s not even a cemetery.
And why on Earth would those two go to an American cemetery in France that day? Look at the pictures of Belleau Wood that day. Only Gens. John Kelley (chief of staff) and Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and their wives were there.
What about the conventional wisdom that Kelly or perhaps Gen. James Mattis is one of the four sources? It’s hard to imagine either one of these gentlemen not being willing to stand up publicly for their beloved Corps. Goldberg stated that his sources wanted to remain anonymous to avoid “angry tweets.” Yet all indications are that, like many military people, neither Kelly nor Mattis has a Twitter account.
As with the Ukraine phone call transcript, the White House released the original emails regarding the incident clearly stating the pilots recommended canceling the flight due to weather, and the Secret Service didn’t like the hour each way drive, which is not surprising given the protestors who met Trump in Paris. This contemporaneous refutation is also convincing.
Goldberg resurrects Trump’s derogatory comments on Sen. John McCain not being a Vietnam hero due to getting captured by the North Vietnamese. Is it a coincidence that The Lincoln Project launched an ad attacking Trump for his failure to honor America’s military men and women, including McCain, on the same day Goldberg published his Atlantic article?
Speaking of timing, last week Democrats were having their worst media in months due to the Nancy Pelosi hair snafu, Antifa riot videos all over the web, Joe Biden’s awful trip to Kenosha, the amazing unemployment numbers, and Richard Grenell’s breakthrough Serbia-Kosovo deal. The Atlantic article conveniently gave the media a reason to wipe all that off the front page.
Is it me, or is there a deliberate effort ramping up to imagine a future in which the military would be needed to remove the president from office after a contested election? The timing of this article after two years looks increasingly suspect.
Trump may say dumb things now and then, but he did attend a military boarding school, and he has always exhibited very public respect and admiration for the armed forces, especially the rank and file. The picture of him presented in the article, like the impression of a military that would intervene in any election, is that of a one-dimensional cartoon as seen from the left.
For those of us who bought the original reasoning behind the Iraq War, the revelation that the justification for “our war” was based on false assumptions was a bitter pill to swallow. The remaining reason we served, and perhaps more relevant, was simply “duty.”
But that will not bring back the 4,500 American dead to their wives, mothers, parents, and children. Nor will it bring back the more than 100,000 Iraqis lost, or victims of the follow-on disasters in Syria and beyond.
I can understand the bitter truth of what he helped engineer is probably too much for Goldberg to deal with on a personal level. Yet when talking about “suckers,” the old Irish saying still applies: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
The media may not be willing or able to properly fact check a simple Trumpian incident from two years ago, but lately, it’s too much to ask that we accept anything negative they report over the level of how many ice cream scoops are served in the White House, lest we make ourselves the “suckers” to journalists like Goldberg.