April 1, 2012 · 1 Comments
New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane today published a letter by NYTX writer Howard Friel addressing The Times reporting on Iran.
Friel’s letter, reprinted below, is a short summary of an extended response to Brisbane’s column “Lessons From Another War” (March 10, NYT).
In that column Brisbane responded to Times readers’ complaints that the newspaper’s coverage of the U.S. and Israeli threats to bomb Iran resembles its coverage of the U.S. threats to invade Iraq a decade earlier.
In Friel’s initial and longer response, “Are We Civilized? The New York Times and Iran” (March 12, NYTX) he noted that in such commentary, as in Brisbanes’ column, the focus is on the Times coverage of Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons program and the reporting by Judith Miller:
Clearly, there was evidence at the time indicating that Iraq’s nuclear weapons program (a) was probably destroyed in 1991 due to the first U.S. bombing of Iraq, (b) rendered physically extinct due to the brutal economic sanctions of 1990–2003 against Iraq, (c) documented as destroyed by IAEA inspectors and U.S. inspector Scott Ritter, and (d) reported as mostly destroyed by the Amorim Panel report commissioned by the U.N. Security Council.
Friel argued that if there is one analogy worth mentioning between the Times coverage of Iraq and Iran, it is that the Times, in either its news or editorial pages, “has yet to challenge the right of the United States or Israel under international law to resort to a threat or use of force against Iran.”
NYT eXaminer sent Brisbane Friel’s original article as well as our expressed interest in pursuing this discussion in either their print or on-line platforms.
Friel was invited to submit the letter that was published today and reprinted below.
One other thing is worth mentioning before getting to Friel’s letter.
The Times recently published former Executive Editor Bill Keller’s Op-Ed entitled “Falling In and Out of War” (March 18, NYT)
Keller’s piece ponders the possibility of U.S. war making on Syria and Iran.
Keller asks “What are the right questions the president should ask — and we as his employers should ask — when deciding whether going to war is (a) justified and (b) worth it?”
Keller then explores possible answers to his five questions before concluding, “If Iraq taught us nothing else, it should have taught us this: Before you deploy the troops, deploy the fact-checkers.”
Fact-checking is good. However, Keller ignores the problem that Friel raises about the U.S. right to make war on these sovereign nations.
Below is Friel’s letter published in today’s Times.
Re “Lessons From Another War” (March 11):
Your summary of readers’ complaints about The Times’s coverage of the reasons to bomb Iran seems fair enough, although one must also question the United States’ right to bomb Iran. Where is the right?
The United Nations Charter prohibits the threat and use of force by states in the conduct of their international relations. Yet, from Vietnam to Iraq, and now Iran, the editorial page of The Times has failed to apply this most fundamental rule of international law to the threats and use of force by the United States. The news pages have done so only sparingly.
More than 40 years ago, publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger and editor Abe Rosenthal bravely risked federal prosecution and prison time by publishing excerpts and analysis of the Pentagon Papers. What does The Times risk today by holding presidents and Congresses accountable to laws with which they are formally obliged to comply?
Is this mere legalism? Whom did the illegal wars in Indochina and Iraq benefit? The warmakers and lawbreakers have had their day for too long. Let’s not give them any more.