Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The New York Times and the missing explosives 

Yesterday, the NYT ran on its front page this story, which strongly implied that 380 tons of high explosives disappeared from an Iraqi arms depot that should have been under American guard. Andrew immediately jumped ugly ("criminal negligence"), the Kerry campaign waxed indignant, and, according to Fox this morning, somebody littered the driveways of non-subscribing Floridians with copies of the Times. This morning, the Times broke its shoulder patting itself on the back for outing a "campaign issue."

The only problem is that the vast proponderance of the evidence indicates that the high explosives disappeared before American soldiers got there. I was going to write an extensive, link-rich evisceration of The New York Times and call on Andrew Sullivan to repeal his own indignation, but Rob A. has already done the work. Go here, work your way through the links bearing in mind that this story broke between the publication of the two Times articles, and then ask yourself why anybody should ever believe that bird-cage liner newspaper.

UPDATE (11:20 am): CNN:
"In a shameless attempt to cover up its failure to secure 380 tons of highly explosive material in Iraq, the White House is desperately flailing in an effort to escape blame," Lockhart said. "It is the latest pathetic excuse from an administration that never admits a mistake, no matter how disastrous."

Lockhart did not elaborate on how the Bush campaign was distorting the NBC report.


UPDATE (12:30 pm): Andrew digs in. He claims the evidence still points in the direction of American negligence (citing Talking Points Memo, which does make some powerful arguments in support of the Times account), but will retract "if the facts change."

I look at this a little differently. There is no strong evidence that the material was looted after the end of major combat operations against Iraq's conventional military. The Left would like for Bush to be responsible for all munitions after the first moment that American troops crossed into Iraq, or the first date that American soldiers passed through the facility in question. But is that reasonable? The argument that we needed to guard all found munitions at all times seems like a smart one in retrospect, but winning the conventional war must have appeared to be the greater priority at the time. In retrospect, we know that Saddam planned to defend in depth via guerrilla actions, and that he dispersed most of his weapons long before American soldiers got there. Had we known then what we know now, we probably would have taken greater care to secure explosives as we tore through to Baghdad. But what actually are the consequences? The explosives at issue, if they are in fact "in play," amount to a few hundred tons in a country with more than 600,000 tons of munitions before the war. We have secured more than 400,000 tons, but there are still staggering quantities that are unaccounted for, and undoubtedly in the hands of insurgents terrorists. For the Times to act as though a few hundred tons, more or less, is "new news" is at best disingenuous.

This incident is at best incremental evidence that we should have invaded with a bigger army. Maybe, but that is hardly a new controversy.

Final Update (unless it isn't, 7:30 am Chicago time, October 27): Wretchard drives a stake through the NYT's story.


By Blogger TomM, at Tue Oct 26, 07:21:00 PM:

This same technique of taking an innocuous rumor and having the liberal buddies in the network news or print media hype it as criminal behaviour has worked a charm a thousand times before in this most vicious campaign. The folks who know how to ask the Web for the truth get to facts within minutes and publish them to other folks who know how to Google, but all the electorate remembers is the initial New York Times headline.

I hope that by the next time we do this election thing a larger percentage of those who cast ballots will have command of research tools to force candidates and their media lackeys to at least flirt with the truth.

Hey, how about changing the goverment agency that oversees network news from the FCC to the FTC. All the FCC seems capable of doing is preventing "foul language". At least the Federal Trade Commission could force a biased broadcast to be labeled "opinion". The "free press"'s freedom to obfuscate has shaken my opinion of the wisdom of the First Amendment.  

By Blogger Thrasymachus, at Tue Oct 26, 07:38:00 PM:

Why do you care what A. Sullivan thinks about military matters? He has no idea what he is talking about.

It's like asking D. Duncan about the finer points of keeping kosher. (What about those '000s of mites on each head of lettuce?)

At least D Duncan never purported to know anything about that particular subject.  

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