That Didn't Take Long; Reagan's "Bitterly Polarizing" Agenda - June 9, 2004 -

Times Watch for June 9, 2004

That Didn't Take Long; Reagan's "Bitterly Polarizing" Agenda

Looks like the sympathy period for Reagan is over in Timesland, judging by Wednesday's story from the familiar tag team of Robert Pear and Robin Toner, "Critics See a Reagan Legacy Tainted by AIDS, Civil Rights and Union Policies."

Here's the opening: "Despite Ronald Reagan's personal popularity, his domestic agenda was in many ways bitterly polarizing. Then, as now, conservatives hailed his tax cuts, his stirring defense of traditional values and his commitment to getting government 'off the backs' of the American people. But many liberals and progressives see his domestic legacy very differently, particularly on AIDS, civil rights, reproductive rights and poverty. Though clearly sympathetic to Mr. Reagan's family, they are still angry over his policies, which they assert reflected the unbridled influence of social conservatives."

Here's the closing, courtesy of a Republican hater: "But Julian Bond, chairman of the N.A.A.C.P., said, 'Everyone wants to extend sympathy to his family, but when you remember the actual record, it's a very, very different story.'"

For the rest of Pear and Toner on the anti-Reaganites, click here.

" Julian Bond | Robert Pear | Ronald Reagan | Robin Toner

Laying Blame for Abu Ghraib on Bush

The Times lead Wednesday editorial, "The Roots of Abu Ghraib," goes all out to link Bush to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse, inflamed by a Wall Street Journal report on a classified legal brief suggesting torture bans might not apply to prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Times roars: "Each new revelation makes it more clear that the inhumanity at Abu Ghraib grew out of a morally dubious culture of legal expediency and a disregard for normal behavior fostered at the top of this administration. It is part of the price the nation must pay for President Bush's decision to take the extraordinary mandate to fight terrorism that he was granted by a grieving nation after 9/11 and apply it without justification to Iraq."

In conclusion, the Times says Bush's labeling of Iraq as part of the war on terror led to Abu Ghraib: "We do not know how high up in the chain of command the specific sanction for abusing prisoners was given, and we may never know, because the Army is investigating itself and the Pentagon is stonewalling the Senate Armed Services Committee. It may yet be necessary for Congress to form an investigative panel with subpoena powers to find the answers. What we have seen, topped by that legalistic treatise on torture, shows clearly that Mr. Bush set the tone for this dreadful situation by pasting a false 'war on terrorism' label on the invasion of Iraq."

For the rest of the editorial on Abu Ghraib and Bush, click here.

" Abu Ghraib | George W. Bush | Editorial | Iraq War | Prisoners

Abu Ghraib: First like My Lai, Now Like the Nazis?

First the Times compared Abu Ghraib to the Vietnam massacre at My Lai. Now they're upping the ante. Now reporters Kate Zernike and David Rohde bring up the Nazis in "Forced Nudity of Iraqi Prisoners Is Seen as a Pervasive Pattern, Not Isolated Incidents."

The story includes this line: "Nudity is considered particularly shameful in Muslim culture, a violation of religious principles. While nudity as a disciplinary or coercive tool may be especially objectionable to Muslims, they are hardly the only victims of the practice. Soldiers in Nazi Germany paraded naked prisoners in daylight, and human rights groups have documented the use of nudity during conflicts in Egypt, Chile and Turkey, and in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation."

For more of Zernike and Rohde on Iraqi prisoner abuse, click here.

" Abu Ghraib | Iraq War | Prisoners | David Rohde | Kate Zernike

Casualties Rise, War Support Falling

Katharine Seelye pens "As War Toll Rises, Governors Face Delicate Decisions" on the political import of governors attending funerals of soldiers from their home states: "In all cases, the governors are feeling their way, a delicate task as casualties rise and, polls show, support for the war falls."

(I assume Seelye means "fatalities," not "casualties," which can include injuries and accidents short of death.)

Of course, as long as the war is ongoing, the raw number of fatalities will keep rising: It's not the type of number that's going to fall, after all. The fatality rate actually decreased in May. Sixty-nine troops died that month, according to the Pentagon, compared to 136 in April, one of the bloodiest months of the war.

Predictably, the story, in Wednesday's edition, works in criticism of Bush for failing to attend soldiers' funerals: "Critics say that President Bush, who has also banned photographs of soldiers' coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, does not want to draw attention to the rising death toll. Scott McClellan, the president's spokesman, said the president did not attend the funerals because he could only attend some and not others and he did not want to 'choose one over another.' In addition, he said, a presidential visit would invariably disrupt the service."

As Times Watch has previously pointed out (and the Times has previously ignored), it's rare for sitting presidents to attend soldiers' funerals during wartime.

For the rest of Seelye on soldiers' funerals, click here.

" George W. Bush | Funerals | Iraq War | Katharine Seelye

News Flash: More Violence to Come in Iraq

In his Wednesday report on the latest violence in Baghdad, Edward Wong offers yet another gloomy promise of more to come: "With summerlike heat settling in and American officials predicting that violence will almost certainly increase before the full empowerment of the country's interim government on June 30, a sense of wariness and fatigue has set in among many Iraqis and American soldiers."

Ok, Ed, we get it: There's going to be more violence in Iraq. So why not cover it as it happens rather than predicting it?

Incidentally, a small, unbylined story attached to the end of Wong's piece carries the amazingly uninformative headline, "Italy Rejoices at News." Perhaps not surprisingly, the bland headline hides some pretty good news: Four civilian hostages held by Iraqis were freed by special forces.

For more of Wong in Baghdad, click here.

" Headlines | Iraq War | Edward Wong