Editor & Publisher Magazine – 2005-11-01 02:24:55
NEW YORK (October 31, 2005) — The most important newspaper in its region finally apologized to readers for accepting “cooked” evidence about WMD in Iraq that helped lead to war in 2003. No, it was not The New York Times.
In a column on Sunday, O. Ricardo Pimentel, editorial page editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, wrote that, “Yes, regrettably on the matter of WMD, count us as among the many who were duped. We should have been more skeptical.
“For that lack of skepticism and the failure to include the proper caveats to the WMD claim, we apologize, though I would note that, ultimately, we didn’t believe that the president’s central WMD argument warranted war. Not then and especially not now.”
The column appeared on the same day Tim Rutten, media writer for the Los Angeles Times, urged major newspapers to own up to their role in easily accepting the WMD argument from the Bush administration. He noted that his own newspaper was among this large group.
“The American people need to know how that progression occurred because that knowledge is key to the responsible exercise of citizenship in the upcoming midterm elections and beyond,” Rutten wrote.
“The New York Times clearly wasn’t the only journalistic institution that failed, and the duty to set the public record straight about how this mistake was made is a shared one. There will be shame enough for all if the media as a whole fail to accept this obligation.”
In his opening, Pimentel, in Milwaukee, observed that while the focus on WMD mis-coverage has rested on The New York Times, he wondered if “the rest of us below that level of influence and reach — this newspaper’s Editorial Board being my concern — also have a responsibility to explain ourselves?”
He answered: “I think so. In the interest of transparency.” He admitted, “This Editorial Board did indeed accept the premise that Saddam Hussein had these weapons early on. And in that acceptance by the board, it can be credibly argued that we did a bit of promulgating ourselves.”
Pimental then recounted many of the newspaper’s WMD editorial statements during the run-up to war, as well as the skepticism about the worth of the war expressed at the time.
He noted that since the invasion and the ensuing failure to find WMDs, “we’ve been critical of the administration’s rationale for going to war and its conduct, culminating most recently with calling for a flexible timetable for U.S. withdrawal….
“Now, of course, we discover much evidence that the intelligence fed the public, including us, was ‘cooked’ or ‘fixed’ — choose your favorite description — around what the administration viewed as its most salable argument. Americans were not likely to favor invasion because of the dominoes-of-democracy theory nor because Hussein was a monster. Vietnam is a word that still resonates, and what made this particular monster any more worth toppling than the world’s many other monsters?
“So there it is — with an addendum. We take responsibility for being duped on the matter of WMD — and still arguing against war — but at what point will those doing the duping be held accountable for taking us to war? Two thousand US dead — and up to 30,000 Iraqi dead — and still counting.”
E&P Staff (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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