Being Right For the Wrong Reasons

W.J. Astore

Were you against the Afghan War? The Iraq War? Events proved you right, of course, but for the wrong reasons. And if you were pro-war in both cases, you were of course wrong but for the right reasons. Therefore you will still be celebrated and featured on mainstream media outlets, whereas those “right” people will still be ignored because, again, they may have been right about those disastrous wars, but their reasons were all wrong.

I think I heard this formulation first in Jeremy Scahill’s book “Dirty Wars.” An official said opponents of the war on terror had been “right for the wrong reasons,” but that proponents of war, the Kristols and Krauthammers of the necon world, had been “wrong for the right reasons.”

Nick Turse picks up on this theme in his latest for In 2010, Turse edited a book of essays: “The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan.” In his latest essay, and with tongue firmly in cheek, Turse asks why he’s not being invited to speak on the mainstream media networks, why he’s not being celebrated for his prescience, why he’s not being lauded for being right. And of course Turse knows the answer: he was right — but for the wrong reasons.

If you’re confused, allow me to translate. It’s OK, even laudable, to argue that the Pentagon will win; that wars should be fought; and that U.S. generals are so many reincarnations of Napoleon and Alexander and Caesar.  Because being “wrong” here means that the Pentagon grows ever more powerful; that the U.S. always looks tough (if perhaps dumb); and that America’s generals are celebrated as the “finest” while never being called to account. Again, all these things are “right,” even when, indeed especially when, they’re so obviously wrong.

But it’s not OK, indeed it’s deplorable, to suggest the Pentagon will lose; that wars should not be fought; that U.S. generals are mostly time-serving mediocrities.  Because being “right” here means a weaker Pentagon; it means America fights fewer wars, an obvious sign of national weakness and a calamity to the military-industrial complex; it means holding generals responsible for their self-serving lies and obfuscations.

Being right about all this weakens militarism in America and could lead to lower “defense” budgets and fewer wars. And we can’t have that in America!

So, remember, in America it’s better to be wrong and thus feed the military-industrial complex than to be right and thus possibly to chart a wiser and less bellicose course. To paraphrase Mister Spock, it is not logical, but it is often true.

Sorry, Nick: You were right but for the wrong reasons

15 thoughts on “Being Right For the Wrong Reasons

    1. Your honesty on the Afghan War and your principled resignation were truly inspiring, Matt.

      Our country needed more people like you — and still does.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. I’m reminded of the “premature antifascist” thing regarding those who were in the Lincoln Brigade. “Maybe you were right about Hitler and Mussolini and Franco… but for the wrong reasons, and too soon!”

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  2. Damn, but you hit the proverbial nail on the head once again WJA! As usual, it’s SO refreshing to read an incisive, pithy essay like this that cuts-through the stultifying MSM versions of events that are dictated and then sanctified by careerists at both ends (ie; the government spokespeople and the MSM reporters) and have a minor correlation to reality.


  3. Or.., like Vietnam where also funnily you got in trouble by succeeding! The U.S. seems to always disturb the even tenor of War. Winning wars these days can get you arrested by disturbing the war. Bottom line War is Hell for people like us the 98 % if you will, but for the two percent on top War is a good deal. When I was a Kid we played war in the neighborhood. I had no idea what War was really like. To me it was Maps in the evening Paper, Heroes doing valiant deeds. Keep em flying Posters and all that! It would be a shame if all that excitement came to an end…

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  4. For someone to believe that it is possible to be “wrong but for the right reasons” shows that self-righteousness is the fuel powering the journey to hell.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This holds down the #3 position in my “Popular Stupidities” rankings, just below “Why do bad things happen to good people?” (#2) and the current #1 – and favorite “argument” of special interest groups the whole world ’round, “Be on the right side of history.”

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  6. Unfortunately, I find little objective information on this topic in Western mainstream news-media. Every culture/nation has its own propaganda and core beliefs, true and false; though some culture/nations — usually the biggest, most powerful — are much more corrupt and brutal than the smaller, weaker ones. …

    Also, I often hear and read praise heaped upon The New York Times for their supposed uncompromised integrity when it comes to humanitarianism and ethical journalism; however, did they not help create the Iraq War, through then-U.S.-VP Dick Cheney’s self-citing via a Times blog? The same Cheney who monetarily benefitted from the war via Iraqi oil fields — a war I consider to have been much more like a turkey shoot, considering the massive military might attacking the relatively weak country.

    I recall reading that The Times had essentially claimed honest-ignorance innocence on the grounds that it was its blogger’s overzealousness that was/is at fault. But is it really plausible that The Times did/does not insist upon securing the non-publishable yet accurate identity of its writers’ anonymous information sources — in this case, a devious Cheney — especially considering that Cheney himself would then use that anonymous source’s (i.e. his own) total BS about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify a declaration of war that inevitably resulted in genuine gratuitous mass suffering and slaughter? I believe that The Times may have jumped on this particular atrocity-prone bandwagon, perhaps due to the massive 9/11 blow the city took only a few years prior. There was plenty of that particularly bitter bandwagon going around in Western circles back then.

    Quite memorable was New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman’s appearance on Charlie Rose’s show (May 29, 2003), where he ranted about the war’s justification and supposed success. “… We needed to go to that part of the world; and what they needed to see [was that] American boys and girls going house to house, from Basrah to Baghdad, [and] simply saying, ‘suck on this’.”

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    1. Considering that the NY Times editorial board just published an opinion piece to the effect that the radical progressive Dems need to back off, shut up, let the moderates run things, and stop splintering the party, yes, FGSJR2015, it’s fair to say that the paper doesn’t have an outstanding record when it comes to integrity.

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      1. Print journalism may, overall, be even more ethically challenged up here. …
        Canada’s mainstream print news-media conglomerate Postmedia — which, except for The Toronto Star, owns Canada’s major print publications — is on record allying itself with not only the planet’s second most polluting forms of carbon-based “energy”, but also THE MOST polluting/dirtiest of crudes — bitumen. [“Mair on Media’s ‘Unholiest of Alliances’ With Energy Industry”, Nov.14 2017,]

        During a presentation, it was stated: “Postmedia and CAPP [Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers] will bring energy to the forefront of our national conversation. Together, we will engage executives, the business community and the Canadian public to underscore the ways in which the energy sector powers Canada.”
        Also, a then-publisher of Postmedia’s National Post said: “From its inception, the National Post has been one of the country’s leading voices on the importance of energy to Canada’s business competitiveness internationally and our economic well-being in general. We will work with [Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers] to amplify our energy mandate and to be a part of the solution to keep Canada competitive in the global marketplace. The National Post will undertake to leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively to further this critical conversation.”

        A few years ago, Postmedia also had acquired a lobbying firm with close ties to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in order to participate in his government’s $30 million PR “war room” in promoting the interests of the fossil fuel industry in Canada. Furthermore, in late May, Postmedia refused to run paid ads by Leadnow, a social and environmental justice organization, that expose the Royal Bank of Canada as the largest financer of fossil fuel extraction in Canada.

        Really, should the promotion of massive fossil fuel extraction, even Canada’s own, be a partisan position for any newspaper giant to take, especially considering its immense role in global warming thus climate change? And, at least in this case, whatever happened to the honorable journalistic role of ‘afflicting the comfortable’ (which went along with ‘comforting the afflicted’), especially one of such environmental monstrosity?

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