Maybe NYT Should Be Embarrassed by Misleading Hussein Profile

In a New York Times science article (3/29/11) about the CIA and Pentagon’s psychological profiling of foreign political figures, reporter Benedict Carey adds a note of caution:

Yet the assessments can also be misleading, even embarrassing. Profiles of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq that circulated in the early 1990s suggested that he was ultimately a pragmatist who would give in under pressure.

Carey gives no explanation for why such an assessment would be misleading or embarrassing–as if it went without saying that this was a misreading of the Iraqi dictator. In fact, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, Hussein made repeated offers to negotiate a withdrawal–offers that were rejected by the elder Bush administration, and all but ignored by corporate media (Extra!, 11-12/90–see “Writing Off Negotiations”).

Hussein also destroyed his chemical and biological weapon stocks under pressure from the U.N.; when the younger Bush insisted that U.N. inspectors be allowed to verify his lack of unconventional weapons, Hussein let them in–and Bush invaded anyway. Though the U.N. inspection teams were a major story in the months before the Iraq War began, corporate media sometimes seem to forget that they existed (Action Alert, 12/2/08).

Presenting Saddam Hussein as a madman who could never be reasoned with obviously helped the U.S. government justify military action. Why journalists should accept this depiction in the face of the historic record–well, you might need a psychological profile to explain that.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.