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Matt Taibbi On How Journalists And Politicians Were Cheerleaders For Iraq War

Democracy Now's Amy Goodman's web only interview with Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi on his recent article "Forget What We Know Now: We Knew Then Iraq War Was a Joke."

Democracy Now's Amy Goodman's web only interview with Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi on his recent article "Forget What We Know Now: We Knew Then Iraq War Was a Joke," which he wrote in response to Jeb Bush's interview Megyn Kelly on whether he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq, and subsequent flip-flopping.

Matt Taibbi on the Journalist & Politician Cheerleaders for Iraq War, Then & Now:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, as we bring you part two of our conversation with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. We turn to Iraq.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Matt Taibbi recently wrote a piece headlined "Forget What We Know Now: We Knew Then the Iraq War Was a Joke." The piece looks at how the Iraq War has become a major issue in the 2016 presidential election. Earlier this week, a former top CIA official and intelligence briefer to President George W. Bush before the Iraq War acknowledged Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney falsely presented information to the public. In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Michael Morell was asked about Cheney’s claim that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Was that true?

MICHAEL MORELL: We were saying—

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Can you answer that question? Was that true?

MICHAEL MORELL: No. That’s not true.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, why did you let him get away with it?

MICHAEL MORELL: Look, my job—my job, Chris, is to—

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You’re the briefer of the president on intelligence. You’re the top person to go in and tell him what’s going on. You see Cheney make this charge he’s got a nuclear bomb, and then they make subsequent charges he knew how to deliver it, he had the capability to deliver it, and nobody raised their hand and said, "No, that’s not what we told him."

MICHAEL MORELL: Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris, wasn’t my job. Right? My job—


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CHRIS MATTHEWS: To tell the truth.

MICHAEL MORELL: My job—no, as the briefer? As the briefer?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: OK, go ahead.

MICHAEL MORELL: As the briefer, my job is to carry CIA’s best information and best analysis to the president of the United States, make sure he understands it. Right? My job is to not watch what they’re saying on TV and say, "Yesterday"—

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You think TV’s a joke?

MICHAEL MORELL: What?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You think it’s a joke that Cheney said it on TV?

MICHAEL MORELL: That’s not my job. That’s not my job.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Did you know he did that?

MICHAEL MORELL: No, I wasn’t paying attention. I was studying what was on my desk every morning.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: So you’re briefing the president on the reasons for war. They’re selling the war using your stuff, saying that you made that case when you didn’t. So they’re using your credibility to make the case for war dishonestly, as you just admitted.

MICHAEL MORELL: Look, I’m just telling you what—

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, you just admitted it.

MICHAEL MORELL: I’m just telling you what we said, Chris.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: They gave a false presentation of what you said to them.

MICHAEL MORELL: On some aspects.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Mike Morell, who was a top briefer to [President George W. Bush], being questioned by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has said he would not have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq presided over by his brother, former President George W. Bush, reversing a stance Jeb Bush took just days earlier. Speaking at a town hall meeting in Tempe, Arizona, last week, Jeb Bush said he would not have invaded if he had known former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. His comments came three days after Jeb Bush told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly he would have authorized the war, despite that knowledge.

MEGYN KELLY: On the subject of Iraq, obviously very controversial, knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?

JEB BUSH: I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Jeb Bush spent the rest of the week trying to walk back those remarks, first saying he misunderstood the question, then refusing to respond to hypotheticals.

JEB BUSH: So here’s the deal: If we’re all supposed to answer hypothetical questions, "Knowing what we know now, what would you have done?" I would have not engaged—I would not have gone into Iraq. That’s not to say that the world is safer because Saddam Hussein is gone. It is significantly safer. That’s not to say that there was a courageous effort to bring about a surge that created stability in Iraq. All of that is true. And that’s not to say that the men and women that have served, in uniform, and many others that went to Iraq to serve, did so—they did so certainly honorably. But we’ve answered the question now. So now, going forward, what’s the role of America going forward? Are we going to pull back now and be defeatists and pessimistic? Or are we going to engage in a way that creates a more peaceful and secure world? That is what 2016 is about.

AMY GOODMAN: Last Wednesday, in Reno, Nevada, Jeb Bush was confronted by a 19-year-old college student, who argued today’s rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State resulted from Jeb Bush’s brother President George W. Bush’s decision to disband the Iraqi army, saying, "Your brother created ISIS." So, Matt Taibbi, your piece in Rolling Stone, "Forget What We Know Now: We Knew Then the Iraq War Was a Joke." Talk about what’s happening now in this rewriting of history.

MATT TAIBBI: I just think, from a media standpoint, this whole debate just grinds so much, that all of these media outlets, that shamelessly trumpeted and cheerleaded for this war in 2002, 2003, and in some cases for years beyond that, are suddenly turning around and being sanctimonious and going after people like Jeb Bush, who, of course, should be gone after—I’m not saying that the politicians should be exempt from this kind of questioning—but, you know, people like Chris Matthews are giving people a hard time about their positions on Iraq.

Where was MSNBC on Iraq back in the day? I mean, they were letting go of people like Phil Donahue and Jesse Ventura for having, you know, unpatriotic positions on the Iraq War. Everybody was in on this thing, except for maybe this program and a few other scattered journalists. And so, for the national mainstream media to act like it’s somehow the arbiter of morality on this issue now with politicians, I think, is extremely hypocritical. And I think it also exposes a serious failing in our business, which is that getting things enormously wrong carries no consequences for pundits anymore whatsoever. I mean, you can be wrong for years on end, and you’ll still have that 780 words of space in The New York Times or whatever newspaper, year after year after year.

Go read the rest for his views on Clinton's vote, Dick Cheney and The New York Times and more.

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