Howard Kurtz has a long piece in today’s Washington Post that is being billed as the paper’s “mea culpa on WMDs”. And it does go into some detail about the fact that prior to war the Post gave the Bush administration’s wild claims about the “threat” posed by Iraq front page prominence while relegating dissenting opinions and contradictory information to the paper’s vast inner-page wasteland.
However, Kurtz’s piece also shows that the Post’s editorial staff still does not understand, or won’t openly admit, what was wrong with their coverage of such a vital issue:
In retrospect, said Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., “we were so focused on trying to figure out what the administration was doing that we were not giving the same play to people who said it wouldn’t be a good idea to go to war and were questioning the administration’s rationale. Not enough of those stories were put on the front page. That was a mistake on my part.”
“What the administration was doing” was obvious to many of us among the unwashed masses. Bush was intent on going to war with Iraq, he spoke of doing so prior to Sep. 11, and he was searching for a pretext to attack. Cheney even expressed his desire to capture Iraq’s oil fields prior to the 2000 election. There was no mystery surrounding the administration’s intentions.
Reporter Karen DeYoung, a former assistant managing editor who covered the prewar diplomacy, said contrary information sometimes got lost.
“If there’s something I would do differently — and it’s always easy in hindsight — the top of the story would say, ‘We’re going to war, we’re going to war against evil.’ But later down it would say, ‘But some people are questioning it.’ The caution and the questioning was buried underneath the drumbeat. . . . The hugeness of the war preparation story tended to drown out a lot of that stuff.”
Wipe that Kool-Aid mustache off your lip, Ms. DeYoung. We did not go to war against “evil”, we went to war against the people of Iraq, dropping smart bombs on them as they slept, seeding their playgrounds with cluster bombs, shooting them in cold blood at checkpoints. This is not a Tolkien novel, in the real world you can’t go to war against evil, just against flesh and blood people.
Liz Spayd, the assistant managing editor for national news, says The Post’s overall record was strong.
“I believe we pushed as hard or harder than anyone to question the administration’s assertions on all kinds of subjects related to the war. . . . Do I wish we would have had more and pushed harder and deeper into questions of whether they possessed weapons of mass destruction? Absolutely,” she said. “Do I feel we owe our readers an apology? I don’t think so.”
Face it, Liz, we would not have had this war if the media had not flogged it night and day from September 2002 forward. You owe an appology, and more, to the 900+ families of dead Americans, the 10,000+ wounded soldiers, and the tens of thousands of families of dead Iraqi civilians.
“People who were opposed to the war from the beginning and have been critical of the media’s coverage in the period before the war have this belief that somehow the media should have crusaded against the war,” [Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr.] said. “They have the mistaken impression that somehow if the media’s coverage had been different, there wouldn’t have been a war.”
Oh, I see. We we right to oppose the war, we knew that Iraq posed no threat to us, while you were completely wrong. But we’re the ones with the “mistaken impression”. Let me ask you, Mr. Downie, who has the better track record, the Post or opponents of the war?