The nationÃ¢Â€Â™s most influential newspaper, The New York Times, has made news once again by calling for the United States to withdraw its troops from Iraq.
This is a dramatic turn of events for two reasons. The first is because the Times wields a great deal of influence among mainstream US news organizations and thus among the public. As journalist Michael Massing observed in Bill Moyers’ documentary Buying The War,
The New York Times is just remains immensely influential. People in the TV world read it every morning, and it’s amazing how often you’ll see a story go from the front page of the day’s paper in the morning to the evening news cast at night. People in government of course read it, think tanks, and so on.
The second reason this is a critical development is because The New York Times was one of the mainstream media outlets that helped sell the invasion of Iraq to the American people. In fact, The New York Times was a significant supporting player if not a leading character in the tragic melodrama that led this nation to war.
The Times published Judith Miller’s favorable and uncritical articles about Ahmed Chalabi and the dissident Iraqi National Congress. The Iraqi defector’s misleading statements about Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction were named often as a threat to US national security.
The New York Times also ran William Saffire’s op-ed Mr. Atta Goes to Prague. It was in this column that Saffire said,
A misdirection play is under way in the C.I.A.Ã¢Â€Â™s all-out attempt to discredit an account of a suspicious meeting in Prague a year ago. Mohamed Atta, destined to be the leading Sept. 11 suicide hijacker, was reported last fall by Czech intelligence to have met at least once with Saddam HusseinÃ¢Â€Â™s espionage chief in the Iraqi Embassy Ã¢Â€Â” Ahmed al-Ani, a spymaster whom the Czechs were keeping under tight surveillance.
If the report proves accurate, a connection would exist between Al QaedaÃ¢Â€Â™s murder of 3,000 Americans and IraqÃ¢Â€Â™s Saddam. That would clearly be a casus belli, calling for our immediate military response, separate from the need to stop a demonstrated mass killer from acquiring nuclear and germ weapons. Accordingly, high C.I.A. and Justice officials Ã¢Â€Â” worried about exposure of the agencyÃ¢Â€Â™s inability to conduct covert operations Ã¢Â€Â” desperately want AttaÃ¢Â€Â™s Saddam connection to be disbelieved.
As the CIA said, this meeting never happened. But it was in The New York Times. It must be true.
There were the famous aluminum tubes, which were supposed to be used by Saddam Hussein as the housing of atomic bombs. Dick Cheney went on Meet the Press and quoted a New York Times article, which had in turn quoted Ã¢Â€Âœanonymous administration officialsÃ¢Â€Â claiming that these tubes were proof that Hussein was trying to build nuclear weapons. This was also false.
Now, of course, after the invasion had begun, The Times published Joe WilsonÃ¢Â€Â™s op-ed, Ã¢Â€ÂœWhat I DidnÃ¢Â€Â™t Find in AfricaÃ¢Â€Âœ, which asked if the administration had manipulated the intelligence that led us to war. Columnist Robert Novak then outed WilsonÃ¢Â€Â™s wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame, in the nationÃ¢Â€Â™s second most influential paper, The Washington Post, attacking the ambassadorÃ¢Â€Â™s credibility. The TimesÃ¢Â€Â™ Judith Miller also discussed that information and later went to jail for contempt of court after refusing to name the sources that divulged this illegal leak.
However, I come not to denounce the Times, but to praise them. It is important that they have seen the error of their ways and hope to help the nation save face by reversing the disastrous course that their paper and other news organizations that follow them have allowed the criminal Bush/Cheney regime to set. A free press should be the conscience of any democracy. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s good to see that the New York Times still has a conscience of its own.
The New York Times: The Road Home
Bill Moyers Journal: Buying The War