The Times Confesses…Kind Of

by JOHN L. HESS

Halleluya! On this 26th day of May, 2004. The New York Times confessed to having helped promote the lies that got us into war with Iraq.

This being the Times, it didn’t put it that forthrightly. First it told us how wonderful its coverage had been — it’s not offering to give up any of those Pulitzers. Like Colin Powell it says it gathered the best intelligence available. But some of it didn’t hold up. As Rumsfeld says, things happen.

In hindsight, the editors say they should have been more skeptical about the crud being fed them, notably by Ahmed Chalabi and his helpers. They admit they would lead the paper with his scoops, and then, if they felt obliged at all to mention that one hadn’t panned out, they would bury that news inside.

As, in fact they did with this correction. Insided. Remember the huge fuss the Times made over the petty lies of Jayson Blair? As I said on this news hour that day and again in my memoir, Blair hurt nobody but the Times, whereas the paper continued to carry the byline of Chalabi’s notorious mouthpiece, Judith Miller. She is not identified in yesterday’s confession, either.

For great takeouts on her war record, and that of the Times, I urge you to check out the websites of Counterpunch and Extra!, the bulletin of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. And stay tuned.

Climate Shift

I tell you, the climate has changed. A year ago, I guarantee you, the hacks would have been telling us what a pretty speech Dubya just read with hardly a blip. Instead, they nearly all said, Huh? There was nothing in it he hasn’t been saying again and again–no real answer to the questions that have been boiling over –above all, when and how do we get out?.

Liz Bumiller of the Times did what she could, under the headline "Bush Lays Out Goals for Iraq Under Self-Rule and Stability." It singled out his vow to knock down Saddam Hussein’s prison and his offer to replace it with a new high-security prison. Good old American know-how. Another headline said Dubya swould also give give Iraq a new commander. It took the Times only a thousand words or so to intimate that General Sanchez was being zapped for presiding over tortures in that prison – and getting caught.

The Times editorial was wistful. It said it would have been great if he’d. made that speech a year ago, showing he had a plan.. Well, even without it, the Times (and the rest of the big media) backed his war and still does. But I repeat, the climate has changed. Note that the best-seller list back then was dominated by mad hawks. Hardly any of them are still there. Instead, we have half a dozen best-sellers that offer ample evidence for the impeachment of Bush.

JOHN L. HESS is a former writer for the New York Times, a career he chronicles in his excellent new book My Times: a Memoir of Dissent. Hess is now a political commentator for WBAI.


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