The death of Vietnam War-era Robert McNamara unsurprisingly led liberal journalists to once again see the Iraq War as a Vietnam sequel. In a Sunday Outlook section piece in The Washington Post, former Post Pentagon reporter Bradley Graham promoted his new Donald Rumsfeld biography by asking when Rumsfeld will apologize like McNamara for the war that "many Americans see as a damnable misadventure, too costly in lives, money and national image."
It doesn’t matter how Iraq’s democracy looks now, compared to Vietnam’s concentration camps and dictatorship. The liberal author finds Rumsfeld is "bitter" about one-sided media coverage:
I pressed him, during a final interview for my recently published biography, on whether he had any regrets about his conduct of the war, he dismissed the question as a favorite press query unworthy of reply.
Rumsfeld remains filled with a bitter sense that perceptions of the war and of his role in it have been badly distorted by one-sided media coverage, much of it based, in his view, on self-serving accounts by State Department and National Security Council officials.
"The intellectual dishonesty on the part of the press is serious," he told me, adding that "a strong incentive to be negative and dramatic" infused much of the coverage. "It's a formula that works. It gets Pulitzers; it gets promotions; it gets name identification on the front page above the fold."
Part of the formula, Rumsfeld said, involved pillorying him along with Bush and Cheney but sparing Powell and Condoleezza Rice, who was national security adviser before taking over at the State Department. As an example, he noted accusations that Bush and Cheney lied about Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction in making the case for the invasion. "They never say Colin Powell lied," Rumsfeld declared. "They don't say Condi lied."
Graham (no relation) did relay how other Bush officials don’t see the need for Rumsfeld to play the part of McNamara:
"McNamara's apology was essentially because he acknowledged knowing at the time that the enterprise was not achievable," said Larry Di Rita, who served as a top aide to Rumsfeld. "As far as I'm aware, none of the top officials in the former administration, even if they think they could or should have done something different in Iraq, believed that the enterprise was not achievable."
....Further, the political debate over the war has yet to cool sufficiently to ensure that any self-criticism by one side, let alone expressions of contrition, won't be used to some advantage by the other. "It's still highly political," [Douglas] Feith said last week in an interview. "And I just don't think there's any reason for the people who are on the receiving end of a political attack to play the game of the political attackers."
Here is the furthest Graham will go to acknowledge that maybe Iraq is "salvageable," which is weak way of saying the war can be won:
Waiting brings an additional advantage for those who led the United States into war: A more positive outcome is still possible. Conditions in Iraq appear considerably more salvageable now than 2 1/2 years ago when Rumsfeld was replaced. If Iraq ultimately emerges as a stable country, the mistakes of the early years can be portrayed simply as the kinds of errors experienced in any conflict.
That would be an achievement, considering that the "one-sided media" seemed quite invested in a Vietnam-style debacle and a reinstatement of the Vietnam syndrome that would curb all American military "misadventures."