Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Would Times editors have let Judy hang up her kneepads, even if she's wanted to? 

The Times finally gets round to a little self-criticism for its essential role in enabling Bush's stupid war of choice in Iraq. Here's the money paragraph:

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. He became a favorite of hard-liners within the Bush administration and a paid broker of information from Iraqi exiles, until his payments were cut off last week.) Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations — in particular, this one.

Bottom line: The once-proud Times took stenography. We can't blame Chalabi for being what he is—a complete slut, playing all ends against the middle—but we can certainly blame the Times for falling for Chalabi's romances as badly as the neocons did.

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. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.
(via NYTimes)

The word is not "complicated." The word is "systemic."

So, the Times got punk'd by Ahmed Chalabi, just like the administration did. We can only hope they are sadded and wiser. But I doubt it. Did any heads roll for Whitewater and Wen Ho Lee? Of course not.

Say, is anybody at the Times going to take any responsibility? Surely you

We consider the story of Iraq's weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.

"Aggressive," eh? Could be settle for "correct" or "critical" or even "not fawning"? Sheesh...

NOTE Not that the Pulitzer-light Times would consider mentioning Judith "Kneepads" Miller by name, as the dynamic Los Angeles Times notes.

UPDATE AP also notes the absence of the name "Judith Miller."

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