The Wit and Wisdom of Ken Pollack — revisited

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, War On Terror at 12:26 pm by George Smith

I got into a slow burn over Ezra Klein’s apology that wasn’t one on the war, published yesterday at Bloomberg.

Klein, one of the alleged good guys, is a product of our culture of lickspittle. The piece at Bloomberg was as self-serving as they come, another essay to get on “most e-mailed” and read lists, as what happens with anyone who is in the small circle of anointed opinion-makers.

For his piece Klein went to the trouble of digging up Ken Pollack, a discredited national security expert whose book, The Threatening Storm, was used by the Bush administration as part of its global p.r. push (and I do mean global) for the Iraq War. Pollack, Klein told readers, had influenced his opinion on the necessity for war with Iraq. Klein had been a supporter and this week he is sorry for that.

Ken Pollack, as a Brookings Institution scholar, appeared in the news over ten years ago hundreds, if not thousands, of times. He was on television, he was on radio, he was on the Internet. His book was a best-seller. Pollack was as close to being a public figure and celebrity as someone from the Brookings Institution can get.

By 2007, The Threatening Storm was selling for 37 cents used on Amazon. Today it’s worth a penny a copy.

What I haven’t seen are any excerpts of how maddening and rotten news stories and opinions are from that time. Ezra Klein, for example, didn’t get into the horrendous reinforcing and congratulatory press on Pollack’s work. He didn’t republish anything of the quality that makes one gag.

So here it is, rescued from the old DD blog post in 2007:

Pollack argues his case well, going beyond the vituperative pronouncements of the administration to link operational objectives to national strategy, but he does not spend much time on the reconstruction of the country, which is, after all, the reason for invasion in the first place. He does make two noteworthy points, however: the removal of Saddam would allow for withdrawal of most of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region; and second, with its wealth in oil, Iraq can pay for its own reconstruction. Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option, and critics abound, but for Pollack the question is “not whether [we invade], but when.” — from a review of the man’s best-selling book in the Naval War College Review, Autumn 2002

You can tell a lot by the books people read, especially when the readers are members of Congress making life and death decisions about a war.

Winston Churchill is big on Capitol Hill, among both Democrats and Republicans. So is Kenneth Pollack’s new book, “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,” whose title is derived from Churchill’s “The Gathering Storm.”

Not on the must-read list are books like Mark Bowden’s “Black Hawk Down,” a harrowing account of just how grim urban street fights can get, even for today’s most elite forces. Nor, judging by interviews and the buzz on Capitol Hill, is there a surge of interest in “hearts and minds” books on Arab history or the culture of radical Islam. — The Christian Science Monitor, December 2002

Sean Penn needs to read [Ken Pollack’s] book. So do Mike Farrell, George Clooney and all the protesters who marched and chanted against an American-led war on Iraq in cities across the world last weekend. — The New York Observer, January 2003

Saddam has taken the entire Iraqi [WMD] program on the road,” said Iraq expert and former National Security Council official Kenneth Pollack in his recent best-selling book, “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.” — subsequently repeated thousands of times, like an incantation to ward off common sense, in the Scripps Howard newswire, February 2003

Given Saddam Hussein’s current behavior, his track record, his aspirations and his terrifying beliefs about the utility of nuclear weapons, it would be reckless for us to assume that he can be deterred. Yes, we must weigh the costs of a war with Iraq today, but on the other side of the balance we must place the cost of a war with a nuclear-armed Iraq tomorrow. — Pollack, on Hussein’s alleged WMD program and the reason for war, in the New York Times opinion page, February 2003. One bets they wish they hadn’t done that now.

Despite its human and financial cost (which [Ken Pollack] says could be less than we think even as we prepare for the worst), we are the only ones who can prevent the world from facing a nuclear-armed Hussein. It’s in our interest; it is our duty. — Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 2002

While the anti-war forces are derided, the media have turned pro-war intellectuals into stars. Each time you look up, you find another interview with Kenneth Pollack, the ex–CIA analyst whose book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq is the bible of war supporters. — LA Weekly, February 28, 2003

While Iraqis “danced in the streets of Baghdad” in DC the “jibes were out for the naysayers who had feared a grueling and protracted conflict” to oust Saddam Hussein. VP Cheney called the war “one of the most extraordinary military campaigns ever conducted” and “praised the ‘carefully drawn plan.'” Cheney “was riding high” “as one of an elite corps of political prophets who had accurately forecast a quick collapse” of Saddam’s regime. Cheney insisted that the war “would last ‘weeks, not months.'” Others who predicted a short and decisive victory included Sec/Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Dep. Sec/Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Defense policy analyst Richard Perle, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), ex-CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack, and ex-Reagan admin. official Kenneth Adelman (Efron, Los Angeles Times) — Bragging Rights for Iraq, The National Journal, April 2003

“It’s looking like in truth the Iraqi (weapons) program was gray. The Bush administration was trying to say it was black,” said former CIA Iraq expert Kenneth Pollack, now at the Brookings Institution, a research center.

Pollack, who advocated a war to overthrow Saddam, said he believes more evidence of Iraqi weapons activity will be found. — Knight-Ridder newspapers, June 2003

The Bush administration-funded worldwide book blitz.

Even as President Bush delivered his pivotal speech on September 12th to the United Nations regarding the conduct of Hussein’s regime, we noted there was a very timely book launched at the same time by Ken Pollack of the Brookings Institute called, “The Threatening Storm.” We contacted Mr. Pollack and asked him if he would interrupt his book tour, which was not that easy to persuade him to do, and he agreed and went on a number of digital video conferences and visits to countries as far spread as France, Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, and now he’s scheduled for South Africa and he’s agreed to do a series more. He’s that third voice, and he is speaking about the cases, pro and con, of invading Iraq in a more reasoned and reasonable way than most people could, and he has another voice to offer. — Undersecretary of State Charlotte Beers, at the National Press Club, December 2002

At a press briefing Dec. 18, State Dept. public diplomacy topper Charlotte Beers announced that her division has asked author Ken Pollack to interrupt a book tour and travel overseas to talk about his book “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.”

Turns out the State Dept. also has been courting foreign journalists over the past year.

“We set up many more responsive facilities than we’ve had in the past for the foreign press at the president’s ranch in Texas, at the White House and in our own State foreign press centers, which are Washington, New York and Los Angeles,” Beers said.

Storytelling stressed

A former Madison Avenue exec, Beers extolled the importance of “storytelling” in convincing overseas ads that the U.S. is only trying to do good. — Daily Variety, December 2002

In fact, one of the reasons to go to war with Iraq sooner, rather than later, is so that we never find ourselves in that position where Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons and we have to risk the obliteration of Riyadh, or Kuwait, and the Saudi oil fields, or Amman, or any of the other capitals of the region that we would worry so much about. Or, for that matter, New York. If the Iraqi’s decided to put a nuclear weapon on a freighter, they could just drive it into New York Harbor and have the same effect there. — Pollack, State Department-sponsored worldwide video conference, two weeks before war

In hitting American forces with chemical weapons, Saddam would exact vengeance, said Ken Pollack, a former CIA analyst now with Brookings. He also might hope to delay them from entering the city. — Course of Baghdad Battle Hinges on Unknowns, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2003

“Unlike so many Iraqi oppositionists, [Ahmed Chalabi] actually does what he says he’s going to do,” says Ken Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. — from an article that should have been entitled, “Ahmed Chalabi — A Great Guy!” by Sally Quinn, the Washington Post, November 2003

“I think that we will find the [WMD] stuff,” Ken Pollack said. “I think it’s simply a matter of time, but I think that we will find, at the very least, the production capability.” — in another State Department-funded worldwide videoconference with Ken Pollack, one entitled “Dr. Wrong, Once Again and With Passion,” May 2003

In a New York Times op-ed piece, Brookings Institution analyst Ken Pollack writes “the search for Iraq’s nonconventional weapons program has only just begun. In the meantime, accusations are mounting that the Bush administration made up the whole Iraqi weapons threat to justify an invasion. That is just not the case – American and its allies had plenty of evidence before the war, and before President Bush took office, indicating that Iraq was retaining its illegal weapons program” — Pollack in the NYT via the National Journal, June 2003

In a world that valued logic and scholarly thought, Ken Pollack would have been run off the reservation a long time ago. This isn’t that world.

Americans no longer have any idea who Ken Pollack is. But that shouldn’t stop you from reading these excerpts or recommending the DD blog post to others.

It’s helpful to again have a look at the manipulated groupthink and how hard to stomach it is.

Ken Pollack, then. Once a very important person, now a nobody and a fraud, still a symbol for our time.

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