NYT: As war drums beat again, anonymous sources vanish (with video) Comment on this post ↓
September 3rd, 2013 by Warren Swil

Difference in reporting

between Iraq lead-up

and today is astonishing

U.S. Rep Adam Schiff (D-CA 21) is a member of the House Intelligence Committee supporting the resolution submitted by the president. Click image to enlarge.

OH, WHAT A DIFFERENCE a decade can make at The New York Times.
As the Obama administration launched what it described as a “flood the zone” campaign to persuade Congress to authorize military action against Syria, it is reminiscent of “selling the war” in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
However, the lead story in the national edition of The New York Times, co-authored by Michael Gordon, is noticeably different from one that he co-authored with Judith Miller that was published on the top of Page One on Sept. 8, 2002.
Today’s story has not a single anonymous source.
The one in 2002 was riddled with them.
And we now know the results: massive misinformation that by April 2003 misled Americans into believing all sorts of erroneous information as the Cheney Administration (oops, wasn’t George W Bush nominal president?) “flooded the zone.”

THE CONTRAST between reports in The New York Times in 2002-03 and now is vividly illustrated by this story: Threats and responses: The Iraqis; U.S. says Hussein intensifies quest for a-bomb parts co-authored by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller and published Sept. 8, 2002.
The lead is (emphasis added):

A story co-authored by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller in 2002 is riddled with anonymous sources – who were wrong. Click image to enlarge.

“More than a decade after Saddam Hussein agreed to give up weapons of mass destruction, Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb, Bush administration officials said today.
“In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium. American officials said several efforts to arrange the shipment of the aluminum tubes were blocked or intercepted but declined to say, citing the sensitivity of the intelligence, where they came from or how they were stopped.”
The sources for these first two paragraphs are all anonymous.
The source for the third paragraph was “officials said.”
For the fourth paragraph it was “according to American intelligence”
In the seventh paragraph we meet, as a source, “An Iraqi defector.”
The tenth paragraph begins: “Administration officials also assert” – the first, but not only, time the word “assert” is used.
This word is of major significance; Bush Administration “assertions” went largely unchallenged, not only by The New York Times but most other media (except for the courageous ­– but ignored – reporters at Knight Ridder, the chain of 32 newspapers subsequently purchased by the McClatchy company.)

COMPARE THAT WITH TODAY’S lead story in the national edition headlined President Gains McCain’s Backing on Syria Attack

Today’s lead story in The New York Times contains not a single anonymous source. Click image to enlarge.

The writers are Jackie Calmes, Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt. The lead is:
“The White House’s aggressive push for Congressional approval of an attack on Syria appeared to have won the tentative support of one of President Obama’s most hawkish critics, Senator John McCain, who said Monday that he would back a limited strike if the president did more to arm the Syrian rebels and the attack was punishing enough to weaken the Syrian military.”
Emphasis added to highlight the source.
After two summary paragraphs, the fourth one begins with the sources: “The senators said…
Fifth paragraph: a direct quote from “Mr. (Lindesy) Graham.
Even my local Congressman Rep. Adam Schiff (D – CA 28) is quoted as a source in the story.
“The debate is shifting away from ‘Did he use chemical weapons?’ to ‘What should be done about it?’ ” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, in an interview after the Monday conference call.”
Separately, in a statement released today on Syria Schiff says:
“During the past ten days I have been receiving updated intelligence briefings and reports, and the evidence is now compelling that the Assad regime gassed its own people on August 21, killing about 1400 including over 400 children.”
“The President has said that Assad must be held accountable for violating the Geneva Protocol and all the international norms against chemical weapons use – not to mention crimes against humanity. I agree with him.”
There is clearly one vote in the House in favor of the president’s plan. (Watch a video of his interview this morning on the Piers Morgan show below.)
As the war drums beat throughout the land (and, indeed, the world) the difference between 2003 and 2013 is truly remarkable.
Then, it was anonymous sources inside the White House (we know with hindsight) and a bunch of Iraqi defectors with an agenda who misled The New York Times (and almost everyone else) with grossly exaggerated “assertions” that were never challenged by a complacent press.
Today, the information coming to the public is thoroughly sourced.
There seems to be no need for secrecy this time because the truth is on the side of those beating the drums the loudest.
Even the French government has made public an intelligence report supporting its position of striking back at Syria – although it is notably different in some respects from what U.S. intelligence reports have claimed, especially about the numbers of casualties.
It is a hopeful sign. The Obama administration has suffered withering criticism this summer for its persecution of whistleblowers and the journalists who publish their stories.
The wind has shifted. Now the president and his men need the media to marshal public support for their strike on Syria.
Oh, what a difference a decade can make.

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