Now They Tell Us

A few days ago, a firestorm erupted over alleged flaws in the U.S.’s Iraq war strategy. The theme of the criticism, which was voiced by nearly all news outlets in the U.S. and abroad, was that the Administration had underestimated the Iraqis’ military capability, had failed to foresee the guerrilla tactics the Iraqis were using, and had wrongly sold the country on the idea that the war would be a breeze. This attack was based in large part on a quote from Lt. Gen. William Wallace, who allegedly said that “The enemy we’re fighting is different from the one we war-gamed against,” and Vice President Cheney’s alleged statement that Saddam’s government was “a house of cards.”
It turns out, however, that both of those reported statements are incorrect. The New York Times’ corrections page is an endless source of amusement, but occasionally it conveys deadly serious information. Yesterday, the Times acknowledged that the quote that it (and, following the Times’ lead, hundreds of other news sources) attributed to Cheney was incorrect:
“A front-page news analysis article on Sunday about the political perils faced by President Bush over the war with Iraq misattributed a comment about Saddam Hussein’s government being ‘a house of cards.’ While some American officials had used the phrase to predict a shorter conflict and a quick collapse of the Iraqi leadership, Vice President Dick Cheney was not among them.” Oddly, the Times does not identify any of these “American officials,” nor does it explain why the quote was falsely attributed to Cheney. In fact, the Administration, from the President on down, has gone to great lengths to warn the public about the risks and dangers of war with Iraq.
Today’s correction page acknowledges a similar error with regard to the quote famously attributed to Lt. Gen. Wallace:
“A front-page article on Tuesday about criticism voiced by American military officers in Iraq over war plans omitted two words from an earlier comment by Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of V Corps. General Wallace had said (with the omission indicated by uppercasing), ‘The enemy we’re fighting is A BIT different from the one we war-gamed against.'”
The misquote of Gen. Wallace was repeated by nearly every newspaper and magazine in the world, although a few did get it right. Now that the nay-saying of the past few days is over, the Times’ errors will no doubt be forgotten. But they shouldn’t be. The Times was once regarded as one of our leading newspapers, and it is still respected by a substantial (albeit fast-declining) number of people. The Times is not alone in its willingness to bend the facts to advance its liberal political agenda, but it is one of the worst offenders and is, therefore, one of our least reliable news sources.

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