Wash. Post editorial writers silent on third anniversary of Iraq war they supported

The Washington Post let pass the third anniversary of the Iraq war without printing an in-house editorial, thereby also foregoing another opportunity to retract or correct significant falsehoods it promulgated in support of the war. By contrast, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times both ran unsigned editorials addressing the war on March 19, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

The Washington Post did not print an editorial marking the third anniversary of the Iraq war on March 19, passing up another opportunity for the Post editorial page to retract pre- and post-invasion falsehoods it promulgated and subsequently tried to defend.

By contrast, on March 19, The New York Times published an editorial titled "The Stuff that Happened," which argued that the “Iraq debacle ought to serve as a humbling lesson for future generations of American leaders.” The Los Angeles Times argued in a March 19 editorial that “the occupation of Iraq has been a humbling letdown.” Of the three editorials the Post chose to run, however, not one addressed the Iraq war. The Post instead elected to address the federal budget, American oil consumption, and the Washington, D.C., appropriations bill. Rather than expressing its own opinion on the war's third anniversary, the paper featured an op-ed by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld titled "What We've Gained In 3 Years in Iraq," in which Rumsfeld argued:

What we need to understand is that the vast majority of the Iraqi people want the coalition to succeed. They want better futures for themselves and their families. They do not want the extremists to win. And they are risking their lives every day to secure their country.

That is well worth remembering on this anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Elsewhere on the Post's March 19 op-ed page, columnist George F. Will criticized the Iraq war in a column titled "Bleakness in Baghdad," writing: “Three years ago the administration had a theory: Democratic institutions do not just spring from a hospitable culture, they can also create such a culture. That theory has been a casualty of the war that began three years ago today.” Conversely, Post columnist Jim Hoagland praised the administration's strategy for drawing down the American military and civilian presence in Iraq in his March 19 column, writing, “But on its face, that strategy is a coherent way of reducing the foreign occupation footprint that fuels much of the conflict in Iraq.” On March 20, the Post featured an op-ed by Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jafari titled "My Vision for Iraq."

During a March 8 “Live Online” discussion on the Post's website, editorial page editor Fred Hiatt answered a question from a reader who asked when “The Post will own up in its editorials in its mistake in supporting the war for the wrong reasons.” Hiatt replied:

HIATT: I can't speak for the news side, but they have done pretty searching stories on themselves, in my judgment. As for editorials, we've acknowledged that we were mistaken in our assumptions about WMD, and we've written editorials about the implications of that intelligence failure, and we've written editorials along the way trying to explain to readers how we feel about the war as it's progressed, and why.

But as Media Matters for America noted, Hiatt and the Post's editorial writers reported falsehoods by the Bush administration and made assertions of their own in support of the invasion of Iraq that were subsequently proven false. Thus far, the Post has yet to correct or retract those falsehoods, including statements regarding an alleged Iraq-Al Qaeda connection and the Bush administration's use of intelligence.