Reading from...

Reading from the sleeve of The Record of the Paper:

On May 26, 2004, the New York Times issued an apology for its coverage of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The paper conceded that it had not investigated its WMD sources thoroughly, and, as a result, had printed articles that inaccurately assessed Iraqi WMD capabilities. In short, the Times failed to provide what most reader expect from the US newspaper of record: journalistic accuracy and integrity about important matters of US foreign policy.

But the Times' coverage of Iraq was worse than they were willing to concede. For example, in over seventy editorials on Iraq prior to the invasion, the editorial page never discussed or even mentioned international law or the UN Charter in the context of the Bush administration's threatened invasion of Iraq. In fact, for at least the past fifty years the editorial policy of the Times--from its coverage of the 1954 Geneva Accords on Vietnam to Iraq today--has failed to incorporate international law into its coverage of US foreign policy. This lapse, as the authors demonstrate, has had profound implications for the quality of the Times' journalism and the function of the press in a country supposedly governed by the rule of law.

In this meticulously researched study, Howard Friel and Richard Falk reveal how the Times has consistently misreported major US foreign policy issues, including the bombing of North Vietnam in response to the Tonkin Gulf and Pleiku incidents in 1964-65, the Reagan administration's policy toward the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, the 2002 military coup that briefly overthrew Hugo Chavez, Venezuala's elected president, and the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In their analysis of the Times' coverage of Iraq, the author's analyze the specious legal and policy arguments given to support the invasion, the claims of Iraqi WMD, the Times' use of Ahmed Chalabi as an Iraqi WMD source dating back to 1998, the US cluster-bombing of Baghdad and the Iraqi town of Hilla, and a lengthy New York Times Magazine cover story that appeared to advocate the abuse and inhumane treatment of detainees that was published just as the Abu Ghraib story was breaking.

Friel and Falk's eloquent and damning book concludes by proposing an alternative editorial policy that incorporates international law into the Times' coverage of US foreign policy, which, they argue, would improve the news and editorial products at the Times while aligning its editorial mission with the defense of constitutionalism and the rule of law in the United States.

An introduction to the book as I prepare to take you inside what I deem to be the most interesting parts.

Once again, it was written and researched by Howard Friel, founder and president of Differentiated Information, Inc. (www.diffinfo.net), and author of Dogs of War: The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page and The Right-Wing Campaign Against International Law & Richard Falk, the Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law and Practice at Princeton University. Dr. Falk has also written Unlocking the Middle East and The Great Terror War.


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