Both 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump and The Intercept reporter Glenn Greenwald have spoken recently in very strong terms against the 2003 “Iraq War.” Both have had their credibility questioned for prior statements or a lack of prior statements against the war before the decision to invade was revealed.
Both Donald Trump and Glenn Greenwald responded by saying that they were not seriously involved in politics at the critical time. The Iraq invasion occurred while these two were mostly silent. Today, both are active critics of the 2003 decision. Their activism should be encouraged by those who agree with the stance.
DONALD TRUMP ON IRAQ
On Thursday’s CNN Town Hall, Donald Trump was pressed about his actual position on the 2003 Iraq War by Anderson Cooper, who hosted the discussion.
Donald Trump — He [George W. Bush] went into Iraq. He started something that destroyed the Middle East. And I said don’t go in because you’re going to ruin the balance in the Middle East. You’re going to have a total imbalance. You’re going to have Iran taking over Iraq. Everything I said turned out to be true.
Anderson Cooper — I literally was just handed this. There’s a report now out tonight on Buzzfeed that includes — I have not heard it — includes an audio clip of what appears to be you on Howard Stern talking on the radio on September 11th, 2002. He asked you are you for invading Iraq? You said yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly. Is that accurate? Do you remember saying that?
Donald Trump — No. But, I mean I could — I could have said that. Nobody asked me — I wasn’t a politician. It was probably the first time anybody asked me that question. … But by the time the war started – that was quite a bit before the war started.
Anderson Cooper — Yeah, this was 2002.
DONALD TRUMP — By the time the war started, I was against the war. And there are articles — I mean, there are headlines in 2003, 2004, that I was totally against the war. And actually, a couple of people in your world in terms of the pundits, said, you know, there’s definite proof in 2003, 2004 Trump was against it.
GLENN GREENWALD ON IRAQ
Glenn Greenwald explained his evolution from political disinterest to notorious journalist in his book How Would a Patriot Act:
I never voted for George W. Bush—-or for any of his political opponents. I believed that voting was not particularly important. Our country, it seemed to me, was essentially on the right track… I had great faith in the stability and resilience of the constitutional republic that the founders created. All that has changed. Completely…
[After September 11, 2001] I wanted an aggressive response from our government. I was ready to stand behind President Bush and I wanted him to exact vengeance on the perpetrators … I was among those who strongly approved of his performance.
Glenn Greenwald “developed an intense interest in the [Jose] Padilla case” on the grounds of “constitutional framework and guaranteed liberties.” He then became concerned about justifications and tactics leading up to the 2003 war too. But his faith in the system was not yet shaken.
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…
By 2005, Glenn Greenwald felt a “sense of urgency … to take a stand [on] Bush’s radical theories of power,” so he created a blog. The blog became very popular.His stories were picked up by news sites. Whistleblower Edward Snowden then provided Glenn Greenwald with a massive collection of documents, and Greenwald gained major notoriety.
ENTERING POLITICAL ACTIVITIES
When citizens take on political issues and come down on the better side, society benefits. Society would be even better if a greater percentage of people participated. But there is no law or rule requiring people to take affirmative stances on issues at any time.
Donald Trump gave an off-the-cuff stance in an ambush question by Howard Stern just one year after 9-11. Trump should not have done so. But, Trump was not a politician and Trump did not pursue it further until he came out with the opposite view shortly thereafter.
Glenn Greenwald explained that he supported Bush and the Iraq War. Greenwald never had to reveal this information. Many knew in those days that the WMD claims were all false — as quietly reported in the mainstream press a few days after each headline came out. Greenwald apparently did not. Greenwald was not a reporter at that time. He was totally unknown. Even if he had taken a public position, he would have had little audience.
Since those days, Greenwald has been one of the most prolific reporters of the history and details of the 2003 Iraq War — and to large audiences. This is what should matter.
Once Greenwald became known, he reflected upon his transition from apolitical to activist. He did this to encourage others to do the same. Basically, Greenwald’s message to his readers was: you can choose to become politically active at any time and you should.
When Donald Trump and Glenn Greenwald decided to join the chorus of opposition to the 2003 Iraq War, this should have been seen as a positive example to promote more active involvement in politics. For those who opposed the war, both Trump and Greenwald should have been welcomed to join the discussion.
For those who took active positions on a cause early, congratulations. For those who came late, congratulations on stepping up.
For those who were active against the war early, there should be much praise. There should also be praise for those who changed their views or became active later. Congratulations on joining the issue. Finally, congratulations to anyone who takes a stand and actively encourages participation in society and governance — whatever that stand may be.
Clarification: We were not aware at the time of publishing how strongly Glenn Greenwald supported George W. Bush and Iraq. In fact, Glenn Greenwald continued support in November of 2005:
There is no denying the fact that much of the world is opposed to the war in Iraq, and Latin America is no exception. That is hardly a surprise. Whatever one thinks of the Iraq war, it is always the case that threats to the national security of one country are going to be taken far more seriously by the people of that country, and far less seriously by the people in other countries…
American media refuses to understand what American citizens understand quite well: particularly as to matters of American national security, the fact that people in other countries are opposed to what we are doing does not mean that what we are doing is misguided or wrong.”
Conversely, Greenwald did not support American intervention in Latin America, implicating American intervention for the rise of socialism itself:
It is true that in this region (as is true for the U.S.), there remains a small, fervent band of left-wing fanatics with crazed enthusiasm for the worn-out, socialist/collectivist policies which have condemned millions upon millions of people throughout Latin America to poverty unimaginable to even the poorest Americans…
In some countries, most notably Venezuela, this vintage left-wing, anti-American fervor is not small, but is predominant, which is what has led that country to be under the repressive thumb of Fidel Castro-copy Hugo Chavez, whose primary interest in attending this Latin American regional summit seems to be to lure Bush and the U.S. into some sort of game of childish taunts rather than doing something constructive to aid his impoverished, unstable country.
It would seem that Glenn Greenwald was most concerned with opposing socialism. In the years after this blog entry, Greenwald found a way to make libertarian inroads with progressives–he made his name exposing government spying.