Did you know that Judith Miller’s most serious screw-up was not her role in the Valerie Plame exposure? Until I listened to NPR today, I had forgotten that prior to the Iraq war, Ms. Miller (who has now been eased out at the Times) used her prominent position at the august newspaper of record to report on the Administration’s contention that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction ready to use. Her articles made it sound as if there were no doubt about the matter. She did not, apparently, dig deeper to find out if the claims were, in fact, true. The Times recently apologized for this egregious lapse in investigative journalism.
There is another aspect to this story. On the Brian Lehrer show yesterday morning, Lehrer interviewed Jonathan Lande, a reporter for the Knight-Ridder chain, which publishes papers in places like Akron and Biloxi. Mr. Lande wrote a series of well-researched articles calling the Bush administration’s claims about WMD seriously into question. It is difficult to understand why there was so little attention given to his work during the buildup to war against the regime in Iraq. It’s as if all the major American institutions, including the Times and, for that matter, the mainline churches, allowed themselves to be faked out by the drumbeat for an invasion.
Karl Barth’s wonderful written prayers often included thanksgivings and intercessions for newspaper publishers, editors and reporters. Mr. Lande’s work shows why we need newspapers. But why was no one listening? Is reporting less important if it appears in “little” newspapers?
In another development, a significant number of Methodist bishops (96 out of a possible 164) have just issued a statement saying that “too many of us were silent” in opposing “the unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq.” The Resources section of this web site includes eloquent appeals by Richard Hays, professor of New Testament at Duke, who began to plead with the leadership of his denomination to speak out against undertaking this war before it became a law unto itself. The bishops’ “statement of conscience” is a rather craven affair, in view of the availability of many powerful arguments against the war that the bishops could have heeded back in 2002, but their paper is better than nothing.
Here is a link to further information:
www.WNYC.org/brianlehrer (Look for “Access to Evil”)