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My Exchange with CNN’s Aaron Brown


[Editor’s Note: The following is an email exchange between CounterPuncher STEVE PHILION and CNN’s Aaron Brown, which took place after Brown’s January 25th interview with David Kay, the Quixotic weapons inspector whose quest turned up nothing.]

Steve: Mr. Brown, Now that it is clear that Mr. Ritter was right, will you let him back on your program and concede to him that he should have been an expert analyst at CNN? Imagine if CNN had used him instead of Ken Pollack as an expert witness, how smart you guys would have looked now. OK, I know, the trumped up charges against him…well there was always Ray McGovern or Dilip Hiro or to counter the prowar gullibility at CNN…

Aaron Brown responds:

well, no. First because the two men served entirely different functions. Second, Mr. Ritter received plenty of air time with us and on other networks.



Steve responds:

Ritter received not one tenth of the coverage of Kay before the invasion began. and, it turns out that Ritter was correct, Kay was entirely wrong in his reading of the Bush/Blair “evidence”.

Brown responds:

To me this is a silly, retrospective argument. Mr. Ritter, in my view, received more than enough coverage. I get that you disagree. But further you write as if he was the only person making the case. He wasn’t.

Steve responds:

I disagree with the characterization of my argument as ‘silly’. Ritter received less coverage and when he was interviewed he was not taken nearly as seriously as Kay, who received far more coverage and was taken far more seriously. Now that Ritter has been proven correct in his analysis, he deserves recognition of that fact. Not all former inspectors were wrong like Mr. Kay in their analysis before the war. Those that were correct deserve to be recognised as such I believe, especially since Kay was used by the Bush administration before the war to counter credible and critical analysts of the hyped wmd claims.

your recollection of the large number of critical analysts interviewed before the war doesn’t quite work I’m afraid. If you’ll recall, to take but one example, after the Powell speech the mantra in the media, be it CNN, FOX, NPR, was ‘brilliant speech, brilliant speech’. In Britain meanwhile, the British public was exposed to point by point rebuttals by analysts like Glenn Rangwala (who exposed the plagiarised dossier and Powell’s numerous mistaken allegations) and Ritter. The difference, in the end, is the British public had far greater access to a critique of Powell’s errors.

I challenge you to find any such exposure to criticisms of Powell’s speech on your program or the rest of CNN at the time. How I wish it were silly to lament that Ritter’s analysis received less serious consideration than Kay in the runup to the invasion.


Aaron Brown responds:

I get it. I disagree. In truth part of the problem with Ritter’s argument was Ritter himself. He was damaged goods in some respects. But I’m not going to argue the point. You can look at the program;’s transcripts and see what we did, who we talked to and the questions we asked.


Steve responds: I appreciate your willlingness to engage this discussion, I’ll make this my last response, I’m sure you have other work to take care of. on the one hand it is possible to accept the idea that Ritter was ‘damaged goods’ (reference the murky allegations of improper email contact with minors), if we accept that Kay likewise was damaged goods as an exposed CIA operative when he was in Iraq. At the same time, it was entirely possible at the time to replace Ritter with Rangwala or the CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who were similarly able to make the case against Kay’s faulty analysis of the WMD claims.

In any event, it remains a fact that Ritter, Rangwala, and McGovern were correct, Kay, Pollack, Clark were dead wrong on the WMD claims. hopefully next time around CNN can hire an analyst who is a critic of the march to war before the invasion begins, for the sake of balance and informed debate.


STEVE PHILION lives in Minneapolis. He can be reached at:


Steve Philion is Professor of Sociology at St. Cloud State University in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, teaching Social Theory, Sociology of Race, Global Inequality, and China and Globalization. His writings can be found at his website. He can be reached at: .

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