Wednesday, May 26, 2004

They almost said they had blood on their hands.......

I have been waiting for this a long time and really didn't think that I would ever see it. The New York Times has finally admitted that its reporting leading up to the Iraq war left something to be desired. Well, that is a bit unfair they really were hard on themselves, not too hard mind you, but I had to admire their candor. More details of the surprising self-excruciation can be found here:

The New York Times > International > Middle East > From the Editors: The Times and Iraq

While I'm glad to see this, if leaves something to be desired.

First the good part. This had to be hard, very hard for the Times to do. No one likes to admit they are wrong, and to do it in a public forum (even page 10 of a public forum) is really difficult. And they didn't gloss over their failings. They admitted that a number of their articles were written without an appropriate degree of skeptical analysis of the sources of material, sources that now are seen to be likely very flawed. Well, they're right. They should have known better and they should have applied some basic standards to assure that they could verify information from sources that were clearly biased. They recognized that, admitted it was wrong and said they will continue to try to correct any errors that may have resulted. They also admitted to putting the limited critical looks at their other articles in less than prominant places in the paper. A really surprising degree of self-criticism for any institution. So what, in my opinion, is missing?

Two things really should be there and aren't. First, while the Times may have admitted their mistakes to a large degree, no one has apparently been held accountable. They said it was the fault of the editiors. Fair enough, at least they arent blaiming it totally on the lowest people in the food chain. But to the best of my knowledge, none of the reporters nor none of the editors have been fired or demoted. Is no one responsable for their actions (or lack of) anymore?

Lastly. they didn't acknowledge the consequences of their failings. These articles played a major role in convincing the American public that large amounts of weapons of mass destruction were being developed in Iraq for potentially surprise use on the US. Given the time in which these articles appeared and the source (the venerable NY Times, liberal media outlet for the ages) these stories helped to create a war frenzy that "justified" the invasion of Iraq. As we look on that event now, many or even most people would agree that it wasn't worth it. There was no immediate threat, and the invasion and ongoing occupation has had terrible consequences for so many. For all of us it has damaged the war against out true enemy, terrorism, and the reputation of our country in the world. It has led to the recruitment of additional terrorist who will likely strike at us in the future. It has created an unstable Iraq that will likely serve as a hotbed of fundamentalism. It has cost vast sums of money which will hamstring our economy for the near to medium term. But apart from those abstract failings, it has brought death or suffering to thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis and all of their families. And while this current little correction is welcome, it isnt enough to wash the blood off their hands. They have promised us more on this topic, let's hope they deliver.


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