Washington as a City of Experts, Some of Them Journalists

By Jack Limpert

Today’s Washington Post, in an essay in its Style section, calls attention to those who got it wrong on Vietnam and Iraq and thus should be viewed skeptically on Syria.

The newspaper headline: “Is Washington the town of the Teflon ‘wrong’?” The deck: “Past errors don’t faze experts who got it wrong.”

Those of us who were in Washington in the 1960s always hope that today’s Post writers sometimes are reminded of the role that their newspaper played in encouraging the nation to go to war in Vietnam.

Here’s a look back at what the Post said about going to war in Vietnam in the early 1960s and to send more troops and to fight there until it was obvious in 1969 that the war was a mistake, one that caused the deaths of 58,220 U.S. soldiers. Here’s the Washington Post writing about Vietnam on September 5, 1966: “This is, in a very real sense, the defense of the United States….The stark fact remains that this is a struggle about the organization of the world.”

Vietnam, Iraq, Syria: Hard to always know the right thing to do and a little humility is good for journalists as well as for those who have to make the tough decisions.

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