Perhaps I should take a break from lobbing grenades at Glenn Greenwald. After all, I do actually agree with him far more than I disagree. It’s just that, well, he’s unbelievably irritating and the more I read him the more annoyed I get.
We had a pretty big traffic spike here at the Banter over the past couple of days, mostly because Sam Harris linked to us in a piece he wrote defending himself from Glenn Greenwald’s assertion that he was a closet racist. I’m actually (mostly) siding with Greenwald on the debate because I find Harris to be a pedantic fundamentalist when it comes to his anti religious views, and I believe Greenwald correctly nails him for disproportionally focusing on Islam. [I see this as a common meme amongst atheist fundamentalists – a complete inability to understand that any ideology, whether it be political, spiritual, religious or economic can be distorted by humans to evil ends. Harris relentlessly focuses on religion – particularly Islam – and it is, to be frank, rather childish. Human conflict almost always boils down to resources and who controls them, and ideology a convenient pretext.]
This isn’t to say Harris doesn’t have anything interesting to say – he does and he makes a number of good points in his debate with Greenwald. Which brings me to the war with Iraq and Greenwald’s infuriating hypocrisy on the subject. Harris linked to a short piece I wrote last year in regards to Greenwald’s initial support for the Iraq war, stating the following:
I have never written or spoken in support of the war in Iraq. This has not stopped a “journalist” like Glenn Greenwald from castigating me as a warmonger (Which is especially rich, given that he supported the war.) The truth is, I have never known what to think about this war, apart from the obvious: 1) prospectively, it seemed like a very dangerous distraction from the ongoing war in Afghanistan; 2) retrospectively, it was a disaster. Much of the responsibility for this disaster falls on the Bush administration, and one of the administration’s great failings was to underestimate the religious sectarianism of the Iraqi people.
Greenwald confessed to general political apathy this in his book ‘How Would a Patriot Act?’ and admitted that despite his doubts about the war:
I had not abandoned my trust in the Bush administration. Between the president’s performance in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the swift removal of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the fact that I wanted the president to succeed, because my loyalty is to my country and he was the leader of my country, I still gave the administration the benefit of the doubt. I believed then that the president was entitled to have his national security judgment deferred to, and to the extent that I was able to develop a definitive view, I accepted his judgment that American security really would be enhanced by the invasion of this sovereign country.
Fast forward to 2013, and Greenwald apparently didn’t actually give the Bush administration the ‘benefit of the doubt’, ‘trust and defer to them’, or ‘accept their judgement’ that the invasion of Iraq would have ‘enhanced’ US security. In a piece titled ‘Frequently Told Lies‘, Greenwald penned a lengthy retort to a number of supposed myths told about him by progressives. Amazingly, he stated:
These claim [sic] are absolutely false. They come from a complete distortion of the Preface I wrote to my own 2006 book, How Would a Patriot Act?…
When the Iraq War was debated and then commenced, I was not a writer. I was not a journalist. I was not politically engaged or active. I never played any role in political debates or controversies. Unlike the countless beloved Democrats who actually did support the war – including Obama’s Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – I had no platform or role in politics of any kind.
I never once wrote in favor of the Iraq War or argued for it in any way, shape or form.Ask anyone who claims that I “supported” the Iraq War to point to a single instance where I ever supported or defended it in any way. There is no such instance. It’s a pure fabrication.
So Greenwald didn’t technically support the war because he wasn’t yelling on MSNBC that America should trust George Bush, and you can’t find written record of him saying it either. You see, Greenwald can’t be painted with the same brush he paints everyone else who supported the war with, because was apathetic at the time and didn’t have a blog.
Look, I think it’s a great thing that Greenwald did an about turn on the Bush Administration and their astonishing lies. Greenwald clearly woke up from his apathy and relentlessly cataloged the administration’s severe abuses of power and hammered them for it until Bush and Cheney left in 2008. But he can’t lecture people who initially supported the Iraq war then turned against it when he did exactly the same thing. Virtually everyone who supported the Iraq war has used the same defense – “Had I known then what I know now, I would not have supported it”. Greenwald is a former constitutional lawyer, so he knows how to argue on technicalities, and that’s exactly what he is doing – using semantics to disguise the fact that he supported one of the dumbest wars in history.
It’s highly embarrassing and I understand why Greenwald went to great lengths to obfuscate his support for the Bush administration’s catastrophic decision to invade Iraq.
But he did, and he should be big enough to admit it.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.