Sep
08
2006

New York Times Rewrites Iraq War History

To Bush—and Times—WMDs were not just a 'possibility'

(NOTE: Please see the Activism Update regarding this alert.)

In a New York Times article (9/5/06) on George W. Bush's September 5 speech concerning terrorism and Iraq, reporters David Sanger and John O'Neil included a striking revision of Bush's reasoning for going to war:

The possibility that Saddam Hussein might develop 'weapons of mass destruction' and pass them to terrorists was the prime reason Mr. Bush gave in 2003 for ordering the invasion of Iraq.

Of course, the drive to war rested firmly on Bush's repeated and emphatic claim that Hussein had already developed WMDs, which he possessed and was prepared to use—a bogus claim that the mainstream media, led by the Times' own Judith Miller, largely accepted as an article of faith and bolstered with credulous reports based on faulty information. (See Extra!, 7-8/03.)

Bush's charges that Iraq concealed chemical and biological weapons were unequivocal. "Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons," Bush told the U.N. (9/12/02).

"The Iraqi regime . . . possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons," Bush said in a speech in Cincinnati (10/7/02). "We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas."

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," Bush said in a March 17, 2003 address to the nation.

The New York Times' editorial page unskeptically accepted these claims and incorporated them into the paper's own arguments. In a September 18, 2002 editorial, the paper declared:

What really counts in this conflict...is the destruction of Iraq's unconventional weapons and the dismantling of its program to develop nuclear arms.... What makes Iraq the subject of intense concern, as Mr. Bush noted, is Mr. Hussein's defiance of the Security Council's longstanding instructions to dismantle Baghdad's nuclear weapons program and to eliminate all its biological and chemical weapons and the materials used to make them.

After the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on inspectors returning to Iraq, the Times editorialized (11/9/02):

The unwavering goal is to disarm Iraq, enforcing a string of previous Security Council resolutions that Baghdad has contemptuously ignored. The cost of letting that happen has been diminished authority for the United Nations and a growing danger that Iraq's unconventional weapons will be used in war or passed on to terrorists. Mr. Bush has galvanized the Security Council to declare that its orders must now be obeyed and those dangers eliminated.

When the inspectors returned, the paper stated (12/6/02), "Iraq has to get rid of its biological and chemical arms and missiles and the means to make them, and abandon its efforts to develop nuclear weapons." When the inspectors failed to find any evidence of banned weapons, the Times insisted (2/15/03): "The Security Council doesn't need to sit through more months of inconclusive reports. It needs full and immediate Iraqi disarmament. It needs to say so, backed by the threat of military force."

As the invasion approached, the editorialists endorsed (3/13/03) British Prime Minister Tony Blair's six-point ultimatum to Iraq as the "last hope of forcing Saddam Hussein to disarm voluntarily." The first point: "Mr. Hussein would have to acknowledge that he has hidden unconventional weapons and pledge to stop producing or concealing such weapons."

The New York Times' revision of the record, maintaining that Bush only presented Iraqi WMDs as a "possibility," threatens to erase one of the most significant chapters of recent history, in effect clearing the Bush administration—and the Times—of their role in misleading the country into war.

ACTION: Tell the New York Times to correct the record on the Bush administration's prime reason for invading Iraq.

CONTACT:

New York Times

Byron Calame, Public Editor

public@nytimes.com

Phone: (212) 556-7652

NOTE: The original date of the article's publication has been corrected in this alert.