October 31, 2005

The New York Times Learns Nothing -- Absolutely Nothing

Norman Solomon reminds us that in the drumbeat of war leading up to the invasion of Iraq, The New York Times committed many sins in addition to the reporting of one Judith Miller:
But bogus news reporting was not the only way that the Times helped to push the United States into invading Iraq. Despite its reputation as a strong opponent of going to war, the paper's editorial voice capitulated when it was needed most.

Let's reach down into the Orwellian memory hole and retrieve what the New York Times had to say -- in an editorial headlined "The Case Against Iraq" -- the day after what Frank Rich now calls Colin Powell's "notorious presentation."

The Times declared that Powell "presented the United Nations and a global television audience yesterday with the most powerful case to date that Saddam Hussein stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions and has no intention of revealing or surrendering whatever unconventional weapons he may have."

The Feb. 6, 2003, editorial by the Times also proclaimed: "President Bush's decision to dispatch Mr. Powell to present the administration's case before the Security Council showed a wise concern for international opinion. Since Mr. Bush's own address to the UN last September, he has kept faith with his commitment to work through the Security Council."

And the Times editorial gushed: "Mr. Powell's presentation was all the more convincing because he dispensed with apocalyptic invocations of a struggle of good and evil and focused on shaping a sober, factual case against Mr. Hussein's regime."

For a "notorious presentation," Powell's performance at the UN got a rave review from a newspaper supposedly objecting to the momentum for war.
And to demonstrate fully the extent of the Times' self-imposed blindness and ignorance -- defects that are particularly dangerous and that allow it to be used for the most blatant kind of war propaganda -- contemplate, if you can bear to, Solomon's concluding paragraph:
Meanwhile, a distinct rhythm of drumming for a war dance is audible in the present. Consider a statement that appeared a couple of inches under the close of the New York Times editorial declaring on Saturday that "there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." In an editorial just below, the Times flatly stated conjecture as fact: "Iran has a nuclear weapons program."
The propaganda campaign for some kind of military action against Iran and Syria has already been going on for months -- and our media, still led by the now not-so-illustrious NYT -- goes mindlessly and unquestioningly along.

Again. Exactly like the last time -- and as if nothing at all had happened in the meantime.

UPDATE: Here are the two NYT editorials that Solomon mentions at the conclusion of his column. First, the final paragraph of "The Case Against Scooter Libby":
And as absorbing as this criminal investigation has been, the big point Americans need to keep in mind is this: There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Second, from "A Demagogue in Iran":
The trouble is that Iran has a nuclear weapons program that the combined efforts of the United States, Britain, France, Germany and the International Atomic Energy Agency have failed to halt. Mr. Ahmadinejad, moreover, has every reason to think that everything's going his way. Iran is riding high on soaring oil prices, the United States has neutered Iran's greatest enemy, Iraq, and both Russia and China are prepared to block any serious move toward sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. So why not indulge in some real vitriol?

Perhaps no one can now pretend that Iran has no hostile motives for its nuclear program.
Britain, France and Germany were right to call their ambassadors back from Tehran (Washington doesn't have one there). Tough diplomacy must continue to curb Iran's nuclear aspirations, but there must be no illusions about the ideologue presiding in Iran.
In my view, this is considerably worse than Solomon indicates in his brief description. The Bush administration could hardly ask for more. I'll discuss this further in upcoming essays about the Iran situation.