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October 01, 2006

Oh, If Only Washington Post Editors Were Allowed To Read The Washington Post

Karen DeYoung is a longtime editor at the Washington Post. Apparently she's now on a sabbatical at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she's listed as an "expert on U.S. foreign policy." And she's written a new book called Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell.

She also makes me want to rip off my own head. Here's an except in the Washington Post Magazine from her new book:

...[Powell] saw no reason to doubt the CIA's assessment, fervidly promoted and expanded upon by Cheney and the Defense Department, that the Iraqi leader had stockpiles of chemical, biological and perhaps even nuclear weapons, which he was ready to hand over to terrorists bent on destruction of the United States.

Surely anyone who's spent more than ten minutes conscious in the past decade can see what's wrong with this. It's like saying:

...[Powell] saw no reason to doubt the CIA's assessment, fervidly promoted and expanded upon by Cheney and the Defense Department, that the Iraqi leader had gassed his own people and helped plan the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing and the World Trade Center attack in 1993.

I'm a crazy dreamer, I know. One of my crazy dreams has always been that a Washington Post editor who's an "expert on U.S. foreign policy" might know the most basic information about U.S. foreign policy. In particular, it might be nice if she were aware of basic information that's appeared over and over and over again IN THE WASHINGTON POST. Another of my crazy dreams was that if such an editor got stuff obviously wrong, her mistakes would be caught by another editor before they appeared IN A COVER STORY IN THE WASHINGTON POST MAGAZINE.

It's so hard to let go of dreams.

1. "the CIA's assessment...that the Iraqi leader had...perhaps even nuclear weapons..."

Washington Post, October 5, 2002:

U.S. intelligence agencies, in a broad assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities released yesterday, have concluded that if left unchecked Iraq will "probably have a nuclear weapon during this decade."

2. "the CIA's assessment...that the Iraqi leader had stockpiles of chemical, biological and perhaps even nuclear weapons, which he was ready to hand over to terrorists..."

Front page of Washington Post, October 9, 2002:

Unprovoked by a U.S. military campaign, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States, intelligence agencies concluded in a classified report given to select senators last week.

The assessment was first made in a classified National Intelligence Estimate, which includes the analysis and opinions of all relevant U.S. intelligence agencies, that was given to the Senate intelligence committee last week.

My dreams and I are like a Raisin in the Sun.

Posted at October 1, 2006 08:13 AM | TrackBack

Karen de Young is a media whore, and she's been one for a long, long time. To be a foreign-policy editor at the Post you definitely have to be able to hew to the power-in-party line wherever it happens to be at the moment. And you're certainly you're not going to step on one of your most esteemed senior reporters when she's got a book to sell.

De Young's reporting on El Salvador in the early and mid-1980s, which I'm sure she thinks of as "brave", was just like this in its frequent reliance on readers failing to remember things that had been reported in the same paper before (sometimes years, sometime only months before).

Posted by: Nell at October 1, 2006 12:21 PM

From a news report of the time - I saved the now yellowed piece of newsprint, but I no longer remember where it was published.

"There was a little boy walking toward us in a daze
. . . He'd been shot in the arm and leg. He wasn't crying or making any noise. The GI fired three shots into the hild. The first shot knocked him back, the second shot lifted him into the air. The third shot put him down and the body fluids came out."

Fuck Powell. He saw no reason either to believe that a massacre had taken place at My Lai.

"They were only gooks."

Posted by: Jesus B. Ochoa at October 1, 2006 01:20 PM

Why is the Post so inconsistent? The first thought that comes is that, left to its own devices, the Post would be more consistent but what happens is they are used by the government as purveyors of propaganda. A call from the Whitehouse and a request to print some piece of erroneous and misleading news intended as public relations for the powers that be.

It also reflects the compartmentalized thinking that humans utilize. Three thousand people die on 9/11 and of course this is spectacular news. In the year 2005 there were 39,189 fatal auto accidents but this would hardly be considered newsworthy. After 9/11 Americans are thirsting for blood and revenge, people who are ordinarily pacific suddenly yearn for more blood, want bin Laden's head on a platter or stuck on a post as fodder for crows. I am not saying this is not understandable but is it logical? Is it logical that after the deaths of 3,000 people our reaction is to get another 3,000 Americans killed?

During the build-up to war the news media helped stir the pot, never asked the hard questions but instead, probably on orders from the Whitehouse, encouraged the blood lust of a nation, helped mislead the nation, conned a nation into believing things that were not true and did such a competent job of it that half the country still thinks Iraq had something to do with 9/11. Despite all this we still read the Post as well as the New York Times our premier paper which was just as culpable as the Post.

I read the post by Jesus B. Ochoa and I am horrified at the tale of violence he relates. I look at the pictures of politicians who are responsible for these horrors and I impressed with the look of respectability endowed upon them by their expensive clothes and fancy haircuts yet these people are murderers all.

We humans are truly a weird bunch of contradictions.

Posted by: rob payne at October 1, 2006 11:43 PM

Is the last point so contradictory? I think war supporters would say that Iraq never would've directly used WMDs against the U.S. unprovoked, but would've given them to terrorists so we couldn't tell where they came from. It's a stupid idea, but I think it's what they believe, and it would be perfectly consistent with those last two quotes.

Posted by: aram at October 2, 2006 03:11 AM

rob, it's interesting that you bring up car accidents. i have been telling people to imagine the effect of tv news showing every fatal car accident that happens in america over and over again, because that's a much more likely death scenario for an american. where's my war on bad driving?

Posted by: joe_christmas at October 2, 2006 04:39 PM

Here's what my editor-in-chief wrote to all reporters and editors recently:

Avoid ``hope,'' ``feel,'' ``think'' and ``believe'' as verbs because we don't know what someone hopes, feels, thinks or believes. We only know what someone says or does, and that's what
we should report....
Use hope, feel, think and believe only as part of a direct quote from that person.

Posted by: bloomberg guy at October 3, 2006 12:40 AM

Joe Christmas,

If they thought it would get them elected I am sure we would have a war with auto accidents and Bush would say we do not negotiate with auto accidents.

Posted by: rob payne at October 3, 2006 01:04 AM