More Mea Culpas: Forgive Us for Thinking Iraq Had WMD - July 16, 2004 -

Times Watch for July 16, 2004

More Mea Culpas: Forgive Us for Thinking Iraq Had WMD

Continuing to apologize for putting too much stock in Bush administration claims about Iraq (?), the Times on Friday issues a surprising lead editorial, "A Pause for Hindsight," owning up to thinking what everyone else thought before the war: That Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMD.

"Over the last few months, this page has repeatedly demanded that President Bush acknowledge the mistakes his administration made when it came to the war in Iraq, particularly its role in misleading the American people about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and links with Al Qaeda. If we want Mr. Bush to be candid about his mistakes, we should be equally open about our own".As we've noted in several editorials since the fall of Baghdad, we were wrong about the weapons. And we should have been more aggressive in helping our readers understand that there was always a possibility that no large stockpiles existed."

The mea culpa continues: "But we do fault ourselves for failing to deconstruct the W.M.D. issue with the kind of thoroughness we directed at the question of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, or even tax cuts in time of war. We did not listen carefully to the people who disagreed with us. Our certainty flowed from the fact that such an overwhelming majority of government officials, past and present, top intelligence officials and other experts were sure that the weapons were there. We had a groupthink of our own."

For the full editorial, click here.

" Editorial | Iraq War | WMD

"Fed Up" Iraqis "Dreaming of Getting Out"

Friday's front-page passes on another negative look from Somini Sengupta about post-Hussein Iraq.

"In Iraq, the Most Coveted Item Now Is a Passport" opens: "There is one thing the sovereign state of Iraq can offer its citizens today, and Iraqis are banging down the doors to get their hands on it: a passport out of the country."

Later she states bluntly: "Jobless, rattled, fed up, Iraqis are dreaming of getting out."

She then brings up, but doesn"t elaborate upon, a possible alternative reason for the lines: Backlog. "In Saddam Hussein's day, getting a passport and permission to leave the country was arduous and for most Iraqis prohibitively expensive. During 15 months of American occupation, there was no Iraqi government to issue one. Only after the Iraqi interim government took control on June 28 did the passport office reopen for business".Today, the fervor with which Iraqis crave a passport, and with it a chance to escape, speaks volumes about their frustration with the existing order."

Sengupta could have also rounded out her negative look by pointing out the countervailing move of refugees returning to Iraq.

According to this United Nations press release from June: "Despite security concerns, refugees continue to return to Iraq from neighbouring countries ahead of the transfer of power at the end of the month to the Iraqi Interim Government, the United Nations refugee agency said today. A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the agency is not encouraging Iraqis to return, but is facilitating convoys in cooperation with the Iraqi authorities for those who wish to return home. According to spokesman Kris Janowski, more than 350 Iraqis returned in June to Basra, in southern Iraq, in two separate convoys from Iran, bringing to some 11,500 the total number of returnees. Most have been coming from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon."

For the rest of Sengupta from Baghdad, click here.

" Iraq War | Passports | Somini Sengupta

Bennet's Bye-Bye to Israel: Dreaming of a Palestinian State

James Bennet, who's leaving the Israel beat after three years (and much pro-Palestinian bias), issues a sprawling two-part report from Palestinian-occupied land that makes for two days of front-page stories Thursday and Friday'.

Thursday's piece from the West Bank is headed, "In Chaos, Palestinians Struggle for a Way Out." In it, Bennet laments the failure of Palestinians to move toward statehood: "For Palestinians, it is a mocking contradiction: President Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon speak of a state of Palestine as almost a historical inevitability. But on the ground, after years of Israeli military raids and blockades and Palestinian political paralysis, the economy is growing more dependent on foreign donors, and institutions of statehood are crumbling. In the West Bank and Gaza, a contest is under way between warlords and democrats, between Islamists and secular leaders, between those who would destroy Israel and those who would live beside it, between enclaves like Jenin and Gaza and the very idea of a unified national state."

Later he states: "Criticism of the aging Palestinian leadership, and even of Yasir Arafat, has reached a new pitch. But reform-minded leaders are struggling to find a way to start over, now that more than 3,200 Palestinians and almost 1,000 Israelis have died violently in a conflict that has become a way of life."

This soft-pedaling of Palestinian suicide bombing (chalking it all up to a nebulous "conflict") is endemic in the piece. He continues: "Since September 2000, 28 suicide bombings or shootings originated in Jenin-38 percent of all such attacks, according to Israeli security officials. Since the Israeli barrier went up in the northern West Bank, however, the number has dropped. So far this year, the number is zero, though attempts continue. In Israeli cities like Tel Aviv and Haifa, it is possible now to forget about the conflict, at least for a time. But on this side of the barrier, the conflict suffuses life."

In other words, since some Israel cities have gone a few months without being attacked, they have more peace of mind than the Palestinians?

The pro-Israel website Honest Reporting notes: "It's remarkable that throughout his lengthy report, Bennet makes almost no mention of Palestinian terrorism-which is, of course, the very reason for Israeli raids, and a defining aspect of irresponsible Palestinian leadership." Bennet also talks of the "high price" anti-Israeli terrorists have paid: "After paying a higher price than most Palestinians, members of Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade are reluctant to lay down their weapons for anything less than the sovereignty this uprising was supposed to achieve. They may have another reason to keep fighting: Israeli security officials say some Al Aksa cells in this part of the West Bank have begun receiving money from Iran, through the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah."

Friday's piece, from the Gaza Strip, is titled "Isolated and Angry, Gaza Battles Itself, Too." Here Bennet focuses more on Palestinian anger at the lack of leadership, but it also contains a sanitized summary of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict: "After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war at Israel's creation, Gaza fell under the control of Egypt, the West Bank under the control of Jordan. Unlike the Jordanians, the Egyptians did not give citizenship or passports to Palestinians. From the West Bank, Palestinians traveled for schooling and jobs that made some of them wealthy and many of them worldly. Gaza stagnated. Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in the war of 1967."

Bennet could have mentioned that in both wars, Israel was defending itself: In 1948, the Arab world tried to strangle the infant state of Israel, while in 1967 Israel acted preemptively after Egypt cut off Israel's only supply route with Asia and stopped the flow of oil from Iran, Israel's main supplier.

One hopes Bennet will perform a similar summary next week of conditions in Israel, where citizens live in fear of suicide bombers.

For the rest of Friday's piece from Gaza by Bennet, click here.

For the rest of Thursday's piece from the West Bank by Bennet, click here.

" James Bennet | Israel | Palestinians | Terrorism

Ozzy Osbourne's "Shrewd" Politics: Bush = Hitler

Ben Ratliff reviews the troubled Ozzfest concert tour in "Ozzfest Trudges On, Laden With Sponsors and Politics" and notes Osbourne's "shrewd" use of video comparing Bush to Hitler, while warily noting the "bellicose enthusiasm" of some pro-war rockers.

"There is a way to see metal as a corollary of political conservatism: 'an eye for an eye' is its most common idea, applicable to everything from personal relationships to global politics," Ratliff insists. "But there were signs of bipartisanship at Ozzfest. While a number of bandleaders, including Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society and Phil Anselmo of Superjoint Ritual, spoke of American troops at war with bellicose enthusiasm, a few went in the other direction. Randy Blythe, the singer from Lamb of God, wore an anti-Bush T-shirt during that band's strong set."

Then Ratliff salutes Ozzy Osbourne for a "strong" and "shrewd" political statement - comparing Bush to Hitler: "And goofy old Ozzy Osbourne, whose political views have been largely unknown up to this point, made the strongest political statement of the night, and the strongest music".To double the force of the music, the giant screens next to the stage showed pictures of President Bush juxtaposed with pictures of Hitler. It may have been Mr. Osbourne's shrewd answer to the Bush campaign's recent Internet advertisement 'Coalition of the Wild-Eyed,' which sets film of various Democratic leaders fulminating against films of Hitler fulminating."

The film of Hitler actually resulted from a campaign ad contest put on by a far-left website, This is another ironic instance of the Times criticizing Bush for comparing Democrats to Hitler, when the Bush campaign is merely excerpting an anti-Bush ad comparing Bush to Hitler.

Ratliff evidently disapproves of patriotic gestures in music, as evidenced by his sniffy treatment of country superstar Toby Keith in a concert review last September: "He spread his retributive politics thick, invoking his country in between-song asides where it wasn't strictly necessary".Mr. Keith, despite all his demagoguery, is just a musician."

For the rest of Ratliff's review, click here.

" Black Sabbath | Iraq War | Toby Keith | Music | Ben Ratliff