Putting Pre-Iraq War Reporting In Context

Robert Kagan has a column up today in the Washington Post that puts pre-Iraq war reporting in context, starting with the headline “It Wasn’t Just Miller’s Story”. From the column:

The Judith Miller-Valerie Plame-Scooter Libby imbroglio is being reduced to a simple narrative about the origins of the Iraq war. Miller, the story goes, was an anti-Saddam Hussein, weapons-of-mass-destruction-hunting zealot and was either an eager participant or an unwitting dupe in a campaign by Bush administration officials and Iraqi exiles to justify the invasion. The New York Times now characterizes the affair as “just one skirmish in the continuing battle over the Bush administration’s justification for the war in Iraq.” Miller may be “best known for her role in a series of Times articles in 2002 and 2003 that strongly suggested Saddam Hussein already had or was acquiring an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.” According to the Times’s critique, she credulously reported information passed on by “a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on ‘regime change’ in Iraq,” which was then “eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq.” Many critics outside the Times suggest that Miller’s eagerness to publish the Bush administration’s line was the primary reason Americans went to war. The Times itself is edging closer to this version of events.

There is a big problem with this simple narrative. It is that the Times, along with The Post and other news organizations, ran many alarming stories about Iraq’s weapons programs before the election of George W. Bush. A quick search through the Times archives before 2001 produces such headlines as “Iraq Has Network of Outside Help on Arms, Experts Say”(November 1998), “U.S. Says Iraq Aided Production of Chemical Weapons in Sudan”(August 1998), “Iraq Suspected of Secret Germ War Effort” (February 2000), “Signs of Iraqi Arms Buildup Bedevil U.S. Administration” (February 2000), “Flight Tests Show Iraq Has Resumed a Missile Program” (July 2000). (A somewhat shorter list can be compiled from The Post’s archives, including a September 1998 headline: “Iraqi Work Toward A-Bomb Reported.”) The Times stories were written by Barbara Crossette, Tim Weiner and Steven Lee Myers; Miller shared a byline on one.


As we wage what the Times now calls “the continuing battle over the Bush administration’s justification for the war in Iraq,” we will have to grapple with the stubborn fact that the underlying rationale for the war was already in place when this administration arrived.

Read the whole thing.

The press has turned on Judith Miller (who they once praised repeatedly for being a hero because, in their view, she stood up for ‘journalistic integrity’ after she went to jail for refusing to reveal her Plamegate sources) for several reasons, chief among them is the fact that she didn’t deliver the goods they wanted on Scooter Libby, and because in retrospect they view her as too ‘administration friendly’ and want to fault her reporting, in part, for the administration’s ‘rush to war’ – a war that they (the press) did not and still do not support. Kagan’s column makes two things clear: 1) the MSM is just using Miller as a convenient scapegoat on which to place the blame for helping to convince the American people that Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power when in actuality 2) long before Miller, the Times, along with other top news outlets like the Washington Post, reported stories about Saddam Hussein’s weapons capabilities and ties to terror. The liberal establishment at the NYTimes unfortunately seems to suffer from P2HD – otherwise known as Pre-2001 History Disorder. They tend to want to forget that there actually is an established history of this country prior to President Bush getting elected, and that history includes articles from their very own paper regarding the danger the prior administration felt was posed to the world by Saddam Hussein and the WMD everyone thought he possessed.

If there’s a doctor in the house who has discovered the cure for P2HD, please ship several boxes of the treatment to the NYTimes … and to many other liberals, many of whom also seem to suffer from this problem when it comes to discussions about the reasons we went to war with Iraq.

(Cross-posted at Blogs For Bush)

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