O’Hanlon: Iraq Trip Relied On ‘The Itinerary The Defense Department Developed’

In their now infamous New York Times op-ed, Brookings analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack wrote that “[w]e are finally getting somewhere” in Iraq, based on their eight day trip to the war-torn country.

In the days following the op-ed, the media gushed over the analyst’s opinions, uncritically referring to them as “vocal war critics,” despite their long history of support for the war.

But in a recent interview, Glenn Greenwald elicits the inner details of the trip from O’Hanlon, confirming “rather conclusively what a fraud this Op-Ed was, and even more so, the deceitfulness of the intense news coverage it generated.” Some key points from the interview:

O’Hanlon admits he is a war supporter: “As you rightly reported,” O’Hanlon told Greenwald, “I was not a critic of this war. In the final analysis, I was a supporter.”

A rushed, cherry-picked trip: O’Hanlon admitted that they spent approximately “between 2–4 hours” in every area they visited outside Baghdad, “and much of that was taken up meeting U.S. military commanders, not inspecting the proverbial ‘conditions on the ground.’” “They spent every night ensconced in the Green Zone in Baghdad,” adds Greenwald.

Pentagon “choreographed” the trip: In the op-ed, the analysts boast, “We just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel.” But O’Hanlon admitted: “The predominant majority were people who we came into contact with through the itinerary the D.O.D. developed. … For the most part, the conversations were ones arranged by D.O.D”

Unrepresentative view of Iraq: “If someone wanted to argue that we were not getting a representative view of Iraqis because the ones we spoke with were provided by the military, I would agree that this would be a genuine concern,” said O’Hanlon. “By no means did all of the Iraqis agree with the view of progress in Iraq.”

As Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) told Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) last month, the trips to Iraq organized by the U.S. government are aptly characterized as “the dog and pony show” for the superficial, dressed-up view they provide. O’Hanlon and Pollack’s op-ed, however, made no mention of the extent of the Pentagon’s involvement. Nor did O’Hanlon make much mention of it to other media outlets, observes Greenwald.


With the superficiality of their trip revealed, O’Hanlon and Pollack’s op-ed can hardly be considered the “climate-changing” salvo that the right wing would like it to be.

Read the full interview HERE.