The more important failure of the U.S. media, then, is its failure to question the basic proposition that if Iraq had, indeed, had unconventional weapons, then an invasion and occupation of that country was a wise and prudent course of action.
Of course many of the decision-makers in the U.S. media in the wake of 9/11 were scared and confused, and looking for John Wayne-style authority figures for comfort — read back now and you’ll find some astounding toadying up to the self-styled tough guys of the Administration: Bill Keller’s wet-kiss profile of Paul Wolfowitz in the New York Times suggested to me a man playing out Robert Mitchum’s epiphany in The Green Berets, the jaded liberal recognizing the harsh truths of John Wayne’s approach to making the world safe for freedom. And Donald Rumsfeld’s loquacious buffoonery created a comforting sense of certainty among a liberal media intelligentsia suddenly desperate to embrace an imperial mythology, and in the case of the George Packers and Peter Beinarts, to render it profound as a narrative of global liberation. Others simply preferred to avoid anything that might have demagogues branding them “un-American,” for fear of losing ad dollars.
That may help explain the failure, but it does not excuse it.