The Grey Lady Demurs
The New York Times, or as many antiwar protesters have termed it ovr the last couple years, The New Pravda, has finally admonished itself over becoming hoodwinked by Iraqi exiles and others about WMD in Iraq. It's a curious apology. It starts off by extolling how great they are:
We have examined the failings of American and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq's weapons and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past time we turned the same light on ourselves.
In doing so — reviewing hundreds of articles written during the prelude to war and into the early stages of the occupation — we found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of. In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information.
Well, yes, it was an accurate reflection of your knowledge at the time, but you reported it UNCRITICALLY, in fact breathlessly, stoking fears of gas attacks and biological warfare with an almost certitude.
Here's the apology:
But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.
So you're going to mention Judith Miller, right? I mean, she did practically ALL of the reporting on this issue, she had a pre-established pipeline to Ahmad Chalabi, and she published any scrap of information she could get. She's in the next paragraph, right?
The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on "regime change" in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks. (The most prominent of the anti-Saddam campaigners, Ahmad Chalabi, has been named as an occasional source in Times articles since at least 1991, and has introduced reporters to other exiles.)
Ahem. Judith Miller wrote ALL of these articles! You're not going to mention her at all?
Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.
It's fair to place some blame at the hands of the editors. And I guess you're just protecting your writer. I'm sure other staffers wrote these questionable reports you're talking about.
Or perhaps not. The Times on the Web links to all of the stories cited in the editorial, in addition to a few others. Of the 11 stories that cited misleading information about Iraq, 9 of them were written by Judith Miller. The other two regarded connections between Iraq and al Qaeda. Every single report about WMD cited on this reference page came from the pen of Judith Miller.
The Times cannot salvage any credibility on this issue without firing Miller and instituting a new policy of verifying sources of questionable validity (such as Iraqi defectors who stand to gain from invading Iraq). Otherwise, I'll stick to the blogs for my news.