Sunday :: Oct 12, 2003

Editorial Choices


by Mary

Both the Washington Post and the Los Angelos Times had extensive oped pieces today justifying their editorial decisions in the face of angry readers. The WaPo weighed in on why they still believe that they were correct in backing Bush's war. Like the Wall Street Journal, the WaPo seems to have a split personality: excellent reporters that are not afraid to speak truth to power and an editorial page that repeats RNC talking points and is an essential part of the VRWC. In August, on the same day that Walter Pincus had a breaking story about how many lies were told by the Bushies, the WaPo published their last round about why they thought war was essential.

The WaPo continues to believe that war was the only answer to Saddam and that Bush did the right thing, although they do think he is badly handling the aftermath. According to the WaPo, they never believed the White House propaganda. They never thought that Saddam was an imminent threat, just that he had to be dealt with. They also never thought he was backing Al Qeada, but that he did encourage terrorism. So what is their judgement now?

Were we wrong? The honest answer is: We don't yet know. But at this stage we continue to believe that the war was justified and necessary, and that the gains so far have outweighed the costs. Each of the 326 American servicemen and women who have died in Iraq represents an irretrievable loss for family and friends. But the nation already has reaped great benefit from their sacrifice. One of the most aggressive and brutal dictators in the history of the Middle East has been eliminated, along with his proven programs to acquire deadly weapons. Millions of Iraqis have been freed from fear, and an opportunity has opened to bring much-needed political change to a region that is the source of the greatest security threats to the United States. Polls show a sometimes grateful, sometimes grudging willingness by most Iraqis to go along with U.S. plans for reconstruction.

So according to the WaPo, the ends (toppling Saddam) justify the means. Yet, selling the war with lies resulted in numerous unnecessary deaths, and not just our soldiers, but also thousands of Iraqis, damaged our ability to work with our allies who now do not trust the US, and created a more unstable world by throwing gasoline on the fire of terrorism. Somehow, for them, the only choices were go to war right then or to never deal with Saddam. What is it about these strawman arguments that can only allow two choices? What would have been the problem with using honesty to explain the danger Saddam posed and building an international alliance that could help take care of him? This choice might have taken a longer time, but it would have supported international cooperation and in the long run been safer for us, for the Iraqis and for the world.

Do the WaPo editors ever read their own reporters work? If so, they might not be so sanguine about how much safer we are today in the face of growing terrorism or how close we might be to total chaos in Iraq. And they might recognize that the average Iraqi feels less safe right now because the violence and death is so random. What keeps the gungho war supporters so blind to the damage that was done by starting a war unilaterally and based on massive propaganda? And why are they still so blind to the facts on the ground? It must be nice to be so optimistic about the mess created by this administration.

The LA Times wrote about why they published the Schwarzenegger stories five days before the election. Unlike the WaPo editorial which was unsigned, this piece was signed by LA Times editor, John S. Carroll, and goes into a great deal of detail about what their choices were (publish when story is ready, publish after the election, or suppress the story) and why the story was not ready until just before the election (a very compressed election cycle and a very difficult story to investigate). Here the editorial decisions and the reporting are coherent and it is clear that the editor understands that it is important to let the facts dictate the story. As this piece shows, even though the Schwarzenegger team says that these stories have been disputed, the LA Times has not had to publish a retraction because the facts still stand. And the best part of the piece was the following:

I'll begin this accounting with a bit of background: One of our goals is to do more investigative reporting. At the risk of offending still more readers, I'll say that if you're put off by investigative reporting, this probably won't be the right newspaper for you in the years to come.

Maybe it won't be so easy for the governor to intimidate the press. Send a note to the LA Times (letters@latimes.com)and let them know what you think about their decision.

Mary :: 9:19 PM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!