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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and moderator Chuck Todd appear on Meet the Press in Washington, D.C., Sunday, January 5, 2020.NBC NewsWire

Mike Pompeo (no relation) was on CNN in the middle of his Sunday public-affairs-show blitz when Jake Tapper in blunt terms.

“There is this credibility gap,” the State of the Union host told the Secretary of State, the administration’s main point person doing damage control on President Donald Trump91联盟彩票开户’s decision to assassinate Qasem Soleimani. “In addition, obviously, this nation has heard leaders, whether it’s blaming a 91联盟彩票开户 video for the attacks on the embassy in Benghazi, or WMD in Iraq, people have heard this government—the government of the United States—say things to them that were not true when it comes to the war. Do you understand that there might be a special responsibility to provide proof and evidence to the American people of the imminence of the attack, of the need to carry out the mission that you carried out?”

“Jake, I do understand the power that we have and the need that we have to try to share with the American people everything that we possibly can about why it is that we’re taking the actions that we take, and we’ll continue to do that,” Pompeo replied. “We will do everything that we can consistent with protecting our sources and our methods and our, importantly, our capacity to continue to see and to understand what’s going on in presenting threats. We don’t want to risk that intelligence…. As the Secretary of State, I also know my solemn obligation to make sure that we share with the American people everything we can about why it is we’re taking the actions, and how it is we expect that we will deliver to protect and defend America each and every day. ”

In other words: Trust us for now, and ideally we’ll have more to share in due time. “Well, we look forward to learning more about that evidence,” Tapper said, bringing the segment to a close.

Soleimani’s death by air raid, which has upended the Middle East and stoked global anxieties about a major armed conflict, has also created a perfect storm of doubt, given the administration’s existing problems with truth and the long-lasting stain of journalistic credulity as the Bush administration sold the Iraq war. Tapper was hardly the only journalist questioning the intelligence that took out the top Iranian general and commander of the terrorist-adjacent Quds Force. Indeed, as the media scrambled to cover the killing of Soleimani and its potentially war-laden aftermath, skeptical pieces of reportage began to emerge from some of the nation’s most powerful journalistic institutions.

According to a New York Times over the weekend, “Mr. Trump made the decision, senior officials said on Saturday, despite disputes in the administration about the significance of what some officials said was a new stream of intelligence that warned of threats to American embassies, consulates and military personnel in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.” In a separate , one of the reporters whose byline appeared on that story, Rukmini Callimachi, wrote, “I’ve had a chance to check in with sources, including two US officials who had intelligence briefings after the strike on Suleimani…. According to them, the evidence suggesting there was to be an imminent attack on American targets is ‘razor thin.’” Further down the Acela corridor, Washington Post journalists analysts who were “skeptical about the need to kill Soleimani,” while also reporting that Trump’s decision and the timing thereof “was a matter of debate within his own administration.” A subsequent Post focused on Pompeo’s “long push…for aggressive action against Iran” and the “serious risks” it has brought to bear.

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The mainstream media’s coverage of the sham WMD intelligence that paved the way for the Iraq war nearly two decades ago is a failure it may never live down. By now, the importance of being sufficiently skeptical when it comes to the government’s justification for armed conflict has been beaten into the heads of the journalism community over and over and over again. The present situation with Iran, therefore, will be viewed as a test of whether or not it has learned its lesson. In the 24/7 world of 91联盟彩票开户, no statement is too small for scrutiny. “Dem Sen Murphy says US ‘assassinated’ Suleimani,” CNBC’s John Harwood the other day. “Is that the right term? if so, did US ‘assassinate’ Osama bin Laden?” To which Glenn Greenwald91联盟彩票开户 , with a dash of hyperbole, “The answer in both cases is - obviously - yes. Nobody loves US militarism and violence more than US journalists. It’s what gets their blood pumping. They demand people be killed. They’re bloodthirsty.”

New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet is optimistic. “I do think the press is being appropriately questioning in this case,” he told me when I asked if the Times91联盟彩票开户’ faulty WMD reporting circa the early aughts was fresh in his mind now that his publication is turning its attention to coverage of a conflict with Iran. “That’s what we are supposed to do—ask hard questions when the government does its most serious business. And nothing is more serious than military intervention.”

But in the ever-uncharted waters of the Trump era, there’s more to it, no? For the past three years, the press has been grappling, in unprecedented ways, with a president and an administration known for bald-faced mendacity, with the perpetual blurring of fact and fiction, with alternate universes of truth and reality, as seen every day in the wilds of social media and cable news. In this disorienting information environment, the media’s skepticism of war should arguably be even greater than it would be under, well, normal circumstances. At the same time, fair and legitimate reporting is regularly weaponized these days to convince the MAGA masses of an anti-Trump agenda within the fourth estate. It’s a fine line for news outlets to walk. Depending on who you talk to, they’re either not calling out the bullshit loudly enough, or doing everything in their power to take out a president who is abhorrent to them.

I asked Tapper for his thoughts on all of this. “Even if Donald Trump were the reincarnation of George Washington,” he said, “we would need to be skeptical just as a matter of responsibility. But, you add to that this administration and this president telling lies and sharing falsehoods in a way we’ve never seen before, and the responsibility is that much greater…. I just hope the media rises to the challenge, because the march to war is a hell of a drug, and the president’s Praetorian Guard is already out there questioning the patriotism of those who are skeptical, or anyone who dares to even welcome an opposing position.”

Still, Tapper argued, that’s no excuse for past shortcomings. “Even if this administration had told the truth and been honest and transparent from the very beginning, which it obviously has not been, everybody in the media should have learned the lessons of not just the war in Iraq, and not just the initial blaming of the Benghazi attack on a 91联盟彩票开户 video, but the Afghanistan papers that the Washington Post just published. Governments lie when it comes to matters of war. Governments lie period, but when it comes to matters of war, it’s malpractice to not be skeptical, to not ask for proof, to not ask to see more.”

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