Monday, May 31, 2004

Do they read their own paper?

William Safire has (yet another) ridiculous op-ed piece in today's Times that is more than contradicted by his own newspaper's reporting. You'd think the editors would pull the column to save their writer some face, but I guess not.

Safire: "Have you read the encouraging headlines from Iraq? "Monthly U.S. Combat Deaths Down by Half in May" is one. "Radical Shiite Cleric's Militia Decimated in Holy Cities" is another, and finally: "Iraqi Leaders, Defying U.S. and U.N. Dictates, Choose Prime Minister."

No, those were not headlines anybody could see. In Gloomy Gus newsrooms, good news is no news. And as Handover Day arrives in a month, casualties may well rise, the semi-truce with al-Sadr's force in Najaf may break down ("decimated" means reduced by 10 percent), and — most likely — political bickering may break into the open in the selection of an Iraqi sovereign transition government. But consider the possibility, for a change, that on our Memorial Day, we have cause for cautious optimism."

Headline in today's Times website: "2 U.S. Soldiers Killed as Truce in 2 Iraqi Cities Unravels"

From Safire again: "But the naysayers were astounded, along with the U.N.'s Lakhdar Brahimi and the White House's Robert Blackwill, when Iraqi leaders started acting last week like Iraqi leaders. No thanks, they said to the U.N.-U.S. notion of an interim government of toothless technocrats, and rejected Brahimi's choice for the top slot. Like real politicians, they cut a few deals and chose one of their own — a secular Shiite, not an Islamist or a Sunni or a Kurd — to be prime minister."

He follows this quote up with detailed (and head spinning) meaningless blather about how he thinks it all went down. But that doesn't really matter, when you could just read the Times this morning and get this: "One person conversant with the negotiations said Mr. Brahimi was presented with 'a fait accompli' after President Bush's envoy to Iraq, Robert D. Blackwill, 'railroaded' the Governing Council into coalescing around [Allawi]."

Why is Safire considered seriously in public debate in this country? Why does the Times still employ him? Why is his commentary considered anything but outright lies?


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