The Times and Iraq: A Mea Culpa, and a Debate (9 Letters)
From The New York Times, May 27, 2004

For the original Times apology, click here.
See also Weapons of Mass Destruction? Or Mass Distraction? (NY Times, May 30, 2004)

To the Editor:

The Times reports, with insufficient embarrassment, that it has been snookered for more than two years on the subject of Iraq by the Bush administration.

There must be a lesson here somewhere. Perhaps it is this: Don't believe anything this administration says unless it can be independently verified.

The instinct to jump into print should have been constrained by the responsibility to check the facts. Instead, The Times found itself used, consciously or not, as a Bush propaganda organ to drum up support for the Iraq war.

Seattle, May 26, 2004

To the Editor:

"The Times and Iraq" (From the Editors, May 26) says, "Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried."

It seems to me that despite the fact that it is "From the Editors," this is a follow-up article of the most essential sort.

So if you really wanted to be "aggressive" at "setting the record straight," perhaps you should have taken your own advice and started this very refreshing acknowledgment above the fold on Page A1.

Brooklyn, May 26, 2004

To the Editor:

Good for you, New York Times, for acknowledging that your writers were less than thorough in ascertaining all the facts leading up to the war in Iraq and in its aftermath. I admire your courage in publicly admitting to errors in judgment and your lack of aggressiveness in challenging the accepted wisdom of questionable sources, including the White House. One can only wish the president would follow your courageous lead.

New York, May 26, 2004


To the Editor:

Your admission that The Times's reporting on intelligence claims about prewar Iraq was insufficiently skeptical is welcome. But it is disappointing that you had to wait until Ahmad Chalabi fell from grace with the United States government before you acknowledged the dubious nature of his information and your reporters' overdependence on him.

Chapel Hill, N.C., May 26, 2004

To the Editor:

The Times's self-critique reminded me of how let down I have felt by the press and Congress since the administration started beating its war drums two years ago.

It already seemed obvious then that any connection between Iraq and 9/11 was a stretch and that the neoconservatives' dream of planting democracy in the Mideast was wishful thinking at best, dangerously delusional at worst.

Is it also wishful thinking to believe that if the press and Congress had done their jobs challenged the bullies in the White House instead of succumbing to their spin history might have played out differently?

Montclair, N.J., May 26, 2004

To the Editor:

I'm troubled by what you leave out of your editors' article about The Times's reporting during the prelude to war in Iraq.

You talk about what The Times did wrong, but not why or what you're going to do about it.

The Times was guilty of credulous and biased reporting. How do you account for that?

It's not enough to point to your reliance on bad informants. There will always be bad informants. How will you try to prevent such credulous reporting in the future?

Menlo Park, Calif., May 26, 2004

  To the Editor:

"The Times and Iraq" is a watershed journalistic event, demonstrating that candor and forthrightness applied to the turning of the "accountability spotlight" on oneself do not beget perceptions and judgments of weakness from the outside but rather perceptions of unusual strength and confidence.

I applaud The New York Times and can only hope that your extraordinary action here serves as a model for our country's institutions to follow as they consider their future responsibilities to, and communications with, the American people.

New York, May 26, 2004

To the Editor:

I am a faithful Times reader, but I don't know quite what to think about your editorial confession. Somehow, I doubt that many will find it comforting.

Perhaps if you and other news organizations had shone a brighter light on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney before the last presidential election, we would have no Iraq war to report on today at all.

Hamden, Conn., May 26, 2004

To the Editor:

When I read "The Times and Iraq," I thought: Not good enough. You're The New York Times.

Those of us in the air-conditioned wilderness with our minds still intact need your eyes accurate and each morning.

Failure and self-flogging won't unspill the blood in Iraq.

Getting the truth every day, on each piece, is an impossibly high standard. But it is the mark of The New York Times. Back to work.

Tucson, May 26, 2004

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