Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Alexander Cockburn has an excellent column (or here) on the Judith Miller fiasco at the New York Times, and he lays into Miller and the Times mercilessly:

". . . the conflicts of interest put the New York Times in a terrible light. Here was Miller, with a contract to write a new book on the post-invasion search for 'weapons of mass destruction', lodged in the Army unit charged with that search, fiercely insisting that the unit prolong its futile hunt, while simultaneously working hand in glove with Chalabi."

Cockburn is one of many writers who have torn a strip off Miller and the Times for this shameful exhibition of how not to mix journalism and politics (see here and here and here). The culmination of the Miller/Times game has to be her article dated July 20, 2003 entitled "A Chronicle of Confusion in the Hunt for Hussein's Weapons", in which she manages to blame the inability of the American forces to find any evidence of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction on the incompetence and disorganization of the American effort. This from a woman who was so involved in micromanaging that very effort that she was practically the commanding officer of one of the main units searching for the weapons! One officer said of Miller:

". . . this woman came in with a plan. She was leading them. . . . She ended up almost hijacking the mission."

Another officer said:

"It's impossible to exaggerate the impact she had on the mission of this unit, and not for the better."

Miller also wrote an article describing her search for a missing ancient copy of the Talmud with the unit she commandeered, a unit that was after all supposed to be looking for weapons of mass destruction and not missing religious artifacts! After all this meddling she has the audacity to write an article about the failure, managing to blame it on the incompetence of the effort by the soldiers! Miller has a very entrepreneurial way of dealing with the journalism on Iraq:

  • serve as a main conduit for the Chalabi disinformation which served as the justification for the attack on Iraq;

  • write articles such as the infamous 'aluminum tubes' article which are used by the Bush Administration as the basis for the attack on Iraq;

  • after the attack, participate in the hunt for the weapons of mass destruction, and throw your political weight around to actually direct the details of the search such that you damage the ability of the soldiers to do their jobs;

  • write stories about the hunt to find the weapons of mass destruction, and do everything you can, no matter how embarrassing, to support the Bush Administration position that such weapons do exist (culminating, of course, in one of the most infamous articles in modern journalism, an article which breaches every single tenet of reporting, with the great, and telling, title: "Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert");

  • write a book about the hunt for weapons of mass destruction; and

  • coming full circle, write an article wondering about why none of the evidence for the justifications for the war ever actually turned up, blaming it on the incompetence of the troops sent on the wild goose chase to find them.

It's quite a racket. The New York Times is starting to pay for its inability to admit to its massive breaches of journalistic ethics. The Washington Post is absolutely eating its lunch on the coverage of the lies of the Bush Administration which justified the attack on Iraq, and I suspect the Times can't compete due to its shoddy and completely improper involvement in the story.