MEA CULPA FROM THE TIMES

color=#3300cc>Jack Shafer was correct yesterday when he reported
in Slate that The New York Times was preparing an “Editors’ Note” reassessing “its pre-Iraq War
coverage, particularly its coverage of weapons of mass destruction.” Finding href="http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/international/middleeast/26FTE_NOTE.html"><
EM>the note online
took a bit of searching
on the Times Web site. But it appears in plain view on the bottom of page 10 in the
print edition:


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.

The note cites five examples of “problematic articles” by date — two in the immediate
aftermath of 9/11, on href="http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/27/international/europe/27IRAQ.html?ex=1085716800&
en=6f4efb8ee1275aef&ei=5070" target='new"'>Oct. 26,
2001
(about an alleged meeting in Prague between
an Iraqi agent and Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 terrorists,
which was discounted a year later) and on href="http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/08/international/middleeast/08IRAQ.html?ex=10857168
00&en=5efc013807147055&ei=5070" target='new"'>Nov. 8,
2001
(about an alleged Iraqi terrorist training camp that has never
been verified).


Though the note doesn’t say so, those articles gave momentum to the conflation of “the
war on terror” with Saddam Hussein, which the Bush gang exploited to the max to justify
its invasion of Iraq. To this day, according  to various polls, much of the American
public still believes the idea that Iraq was guilty of involvement with the 9/11 attacks.


Incorrect reports in the Times also gave misinformation about the existence of Iraqi weapons
of mass destruction, which should have been checked more carefully and challenged by editors
before being published, the note says. Much of that misinformation was supplied by
self-promoting Iraqi defectors lobbying for “regime change,” especially Ahmad Chalabi, whose
motives should have opened their allegations to doubt. That misinformation was “often eagerly
confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq,” the note
adds.


That sublime irony deepens rather than mitigates the errors, as does the fact that subsequent
reports acknowledging or clarifying some of the misinformed coverage were played much
less conspicuously than the original misinformation.

Shafer has been on the case for a
long time, especially going after Judith Miller’s misleading reports about weapons of mass
destruction. She was not mentioned by name in the editors’ note, however, nor were any other
reporters or editors. The note says more reporting will be done that is “aimed at setting the record
straight.” It also offers readers a chance to delve more deeply into its erroneous coverage by
going to the Times Web site href="http://www.nytimes.com/ref/international/middleeast/20040526CRITIQUE.html"
target='new"'>here
.


Of the 15 or so misleading reports that are listed online about alleged terrorist training
camps and hidden weapons facilities, a quest for A-Bomb components and the
controversy surrounding it, and the search for weapons of mass destruction, nine were written or
co-written by Miller. Thus the headline on Shafer’s piece: “Judy’s Turn to Cry.”

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