Salon’s Glenn Greenwald notes that the media is largely glossing over Cronkite’s “most celebrated and significant moment” — “when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn’t trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false.” Indeed, few journalists have noted Cronkite’s criticism of the Iraq war just as the invasion took place in March 2003:
At a Drew University forum, Cronkite said he feared the war would not go smoothly, ripped the “arrogance” of Bush and his administration and wondered whether the new U.S. doctrine of “pre-emptive war” might lead to unintended, dire consequences.
“Every little country in the world that has a border conflict with another little country … they now have a great example from the United States,” Cronkite, 86, said in response to a question from Drew’s president, former Gov. Thomas Kean. […]
While many are confident the United States would easily oust Saddam Hussein, Cronkite said he isn’t so sure. “The military is always more confident than circumstances show they should be,” he said.
Cronkite speculated that the refusal of many traditional allies, such as France, to join the war effort signaled something deeper, and more ominous, than a mere foreign policy disagreement.
“The arrogance of our spokespeople, even the president himself, has been exceptional, and it seems to me they have taken great umbrage at that,” Cronkite said. “We have told them what they must do. It is a pretty dark doctrine.”
Cronkite chided Congress for not looking closely enough at the war and attempting to ascertain a viable estimate of its eventual cost, particularly in light of Bush’s commitment to tax cuts.
“We are going to be in such a fix when this war is over, or before this war is over … our grandchildren’s grandchildren are going to be paying for this war,” Cronkite said.
“I look at our future as, I’m sorry, being very, very dark. Let’s see our cards as we rise to meet the difficulties that lie ahead,” he added, in a play on Bush’s dismissive remarks about France.
But Cronkite, who spent many days and nights on battlefields and in campgrounds with U.S. forces, also spoke of supporting the troops.
“The time has come to put all of our, perhaps distaste, aside, and give our full support to the troops involved. That is the duty we owe our soldiers who had no role in deciding this course of action,” Cronkite said.
“Walter was always more than just an anchor,” President Obama said in a statement released Friday night. “He was someone we could trust to guide us through the most important issues of the day; a voice of certainty in an uncertain world. He was family. He invited us to believe in him, and he never let us down.”
The Nation’s John Nichols reports that as the war in Iraq went horribly awry, he asked Cronkite whether a network anchorman would speak out in the same way that he had. “I think it could happen, yes. I don’t think it’s likely to happen,” he said with an audible sigh. “I think the three networks are still hewing pretty much to that theory. They don’t even do analysis anymore, which I think is a shame. They don’t even do background. They just seem to do headlines, and the less important it seems the more likely they are to get on the air.”