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The Duranty Precedent

Revoke Miller’s Pulitzer

by DAVE LINDORFF

Now that the New York Times’ own ombudsman has weighed in with a scathing critique of Judith Miller’s lies and deceptions about her WMD and Al Qaeda reporting, including a recommendation that the paper not allow her back in its newsroom, it’s time to call for an independent investigation into her much trumpeted Pulitzer Prize, which she won jointly in 2002 with several other Times reporters for her articles in 2001 about Al Qaeda.

Clearly, Miller was no independent journalist looking for truth in her incarnation as "Ms. Run Amok," pushing the Bush Administration line for war with Iraq in the post 9/11 run-up to the invasion of that country. Her breathless and terrifying stories claiming that Saddam Hussein was sitting on masses of WMDs–biological and chemical weapons and perhaps even nuclear bombs–and that his regime was tight with Osama Bin Laden and his merry band of bombers and terrorists–were at best single-sourced propaganda, and at worst deliberate fabrications.

Not that this is new information. As early as August 2003, Alex Cockburn, in Counterpunch, laid out the ongoing scandal of Miller’s and the Times’ war-mongering reporting in detail, showing how disinformation about WMDs and Al Qaeda was routinely passed off as fact, and how promised verification was never forthcoming. It’s just taken the Times over two years to finally admit (at least some of) what was going on.

As a 2004 article in Salon magazine explained her modus operandi, Miller would go to Iraq con-man and convicted embezzler Ahmad Chalabi, who would give her his latest wild fabrications about WMDs and Al Qaeda links, Chalabi would also go to the White House with the same information, which would be assimilated by the White House Iraq Group, a war marketing enterprise set up and run by Andrew Card and Karl Rove, and then Miller, who knew all this, would go to WHIG for "confirmation" of the information she’d gotten from Chalabi, which she would then portray, to Times editors and readers, as "confirmed" by White House sources.

It was all very neat.

And all extremely costly in terms of blood (the Iraqi death toll is over 100,000 and the U.S. military death toll is about to pass the 2000 mark) and taxpayer money (in excess of $300 billion and counting).

As Russ Baker put it in the Nation, "I am convinced there would not have been a war (against Iraq) without Judy Miller."

The case for challenging and calling for the revocation of Miller’s Pulitzer–and also of her Emmy and Dupont awards for stories on WMDs and Al Qaeda in Times television specials–is that once one discovers a reporter is a fraud and a liar, it raises questions about their earlier work, which should be gone over with a fine-toothed comb for signs of the same pattern of behavior.

Her Pulitzer, after all, was for a series of articles she and several other Times reporters wrote about Al Qaeda right after 9/11, and likely represent the earliest examples of her Chalabi deception campaign and her embed with the White House Iraq Group.

Challenging Miller’s Pulitzer wouldn’t be the first time a Times reporter’s Pulitzer Prize has been called into question.

Right wingers have long been calling for the revocation of a Pulitzer Prize awarded in 1932 to Times Russia correspondent Walter Duranty, who has been accused posthumously of having been too credulous in his coverage of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, and of soft-pedaling the 1930s famine that killed millions of Ukrainian and Russian peasants.

Duranty’s work, as a result of the calls for his head, was subjected to an investigation by historian Mark Van Hagen, who concluded that the articles which won the reporter his prize were "dull and largely uncritical recitations of Soviet sources." So what would an independent historian looking at Miller’s 2001-2004 oeuvre say? Not, perhaps, that they her pieces were dull, for they were designed to terrify, but surely that they were "largely uncritical recitations of White House sources."

If Duranty, who at least mentioned the problems Soviet citizens were facing under Stalin’s rule, can be considered credulous and one-sided in his Russian reports, what is one to say about Miller, who has been little more than a mouthpiece for the neo-con cabal running Middle East policy for the Bush administration?

To call on the Pulitzer Committee to investigate Judy Miller’s prize, send a message to Pulitzer@pulitzer.org

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com