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Monday, June 13, 2005

The New York Times vs. Reality

Sometimes chronological order matters

On June 12, New York Times writers David E. Sanger, Steven R. Weisman with help from Don Van Natta Jr. and Alan Cowell launch a bizarre assault on the reality that the rest of us occupy. In the story "Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn't Made" they purposely confuse the reader with a deliberate misrepresentation.

Background: The Downing Street Memo

On July 23, 2002 a British government official wrote the minutes of a meeting with high level Bush administration officials that had taken place that day. This memo, leaked May 2, 2005, contains stunning revelations that Bush intentionally lied to the U.S. public.

"Military action was now seen as inevitable," said the notes, summarizing a report by Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, British intelligence, who had just returned from consultations in Washington along with other senior British officials. Dearlove went on, "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." [From The Washington Post]

More recently, on June 10, 2005, a second memo surfaced, but this one was written on July 21, 2002, two days before the "Downing Street Memo." This one contains slightly different information.

The Lie

Keep in mind that we now have two leaked memos. The New York Times conflates them and confuses them with each other.

The New York Times article cleverly confuses the reader by means of mentioning only one of two leaked documents and deliberately misleads the reader into believing that the 2nd document of the two leaked is the "Downing Street Memo." Read the article for yourself: SECTION: Section A; Column 1; Foreign Desk; THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ: ROAD TO INVASION; Pg. 11 ; HEADLINE: Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn't Made. See if you think it mentions one memo or two.

Even if the reader already knows that we now have two documents rather than one, The NYT article still does more to confuse than to inform. The the order in which the memos were written matters.

Salon's War Room blog entry on the troubles of the NYT regarding the Downing Street Memo explains this best:

The problem here is that the briefing containing the phrase "no political decision" was written July 21, 2002, and the memo containing minutes from a senior meeting of British officials was written July 23, in which it was reported that Washington appeared bent on war. That is, the July 21 briefing paper was distributed to participants in preparation for the meeting two days later with Bush's closest intelligence advisors, where the updated details of war planning were then discussed -- and from which one conclusion reached by the Brits was: "Military action was now seen as inevitable."

The assertions that President Bush planned to invade Iraq no matter what have come up before, both National Security Advisor Richard Clark and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil have made very public. The Downing Street Memo relates more specifically to a deliberate campaign to mislead the public. Why does the New York Times article fail to mention both leaked documents? Why does the New York Times article confuse the two memos with each other? Does this look like damage control for the Bush Administration?

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