Warren Hoge Goes Deep for Anti-War Bias -- November 20, 2003 -- TimesWatch.org
By: Clay Waters

Times Watch for November 20, 2003

Warren Hoge Goes Deep for Anti-War Bias

Thursday's dispatch from London by Warren Hoge, "Of Blair and Bush, and the Ties That Bind," rather exaggerates the unpopularity of the Iraq War in Britain: "In hugging Washington warmly, [Tony] Blair is doing what almost all postwar prime ministers have done, but it has placed him at the side of an American chief executive who is a polarizing figure in Britain and in support of a United States-led war that is deeply unpopular here."

Yet perhaps the war's not all that deeply unpopular, judging by a recent poll by the liberal British newspaper The Guardian, which notes in a Tuesday story "A majority of Labour voters welcome President George Bush's state visit to Britain." It also found "a surge in pro-war sentiment in the past two months as suicide bombers have stepped up their attacks on western targets and troops in Iraq. Opposition to the war has slumped by 12 points since September to only 41% of all voters. At the same time those who believe the war was justified has jumped 9 points to 47% of voters."

For the rest of Hoge on Bush, click here.

Tony Blair | George W. Bush | Warren Hoge | Iraq War

Justice Scalia: "Apocalyptic" but Basically Right

Surprising no one, Tuesday's ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision striking down bans on gay marriage was trumpeted in a two-column wide front-page story in Wednesday's Times.

Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse's piece, "Supreme Court Paved Way for Marriage Ruling With Sodomy Law Decision," provides a little history of the gay rights debate. On the Supreme Court's decision overturning a Texas sodomy law, Greenhouse gives a rather fiery description of conservative justice Antonin Scalia: "Both Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in his majority opinion for five justices, and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in her separate concurring opinion, took pains to demonstrate that overturning a law that sent consenting adults to jail for their private sexual behavior did not imply recognition of same-sex marriage, despite Justice Antonin Scalia's apocalyptic statements to the contrary in an angry dissent proclaiming that all was lost in the culture wars."

But two paragraphs later, Greenhouse tacitly admits Scalia was basically right--that the Texas law did foreshadow future rulings such as the from Massachusetts, declaring gay marriage bans unconstitutional. That's a ruling Greenhouse seems to favor, judging by her tone: "And yet, despite the majority's disclaimers, it is indisputable that the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas also struck much deeper chords. It was a strikingly inclusive decision that both apologized for the past and, looking to the future, anchored the gay-rights claim at issue in the case firmly in the tradition of human rights at the broadest level. And it was this background music that suffused the decision Tuesday by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that same-sex couples have a state constitutional right to the 'protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage.'"

For the rest of Greenhouse on gay marriage, click here.

Constitution | Gay Issues | Linda Greenhouse | Massachusetts | Supreme Court

Iraqi Women Suffering Since Hussein Gone

Nicholas Kristof's latest column finds more downside to the liberation of Iraq. "A new report by the U.N. Population Fund offers a devastating portrait of the plight of Iraqi women since the war," he writes for Wednesday's edition. "Contraceptive use has fallen because of supply breakdowns, unsafe abortions are increasing, sexual abductions are on the rise, and a combination of poor security and hospital looting has left many women without access to medical care. 'Treatment of problems, such as sexually transmitted infections, breast and cervical cancer, is now impossible,' the report declares."

Yet the headline of the press release for the report that Kristof is apparently citing is rather less dramatic than Kristof's reading of it. The release instead emphasizes that "The number of women who die of pregnancy and childbirth in Iraq has nearly tripled since 1990, according to a reproductive health survey conducted by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund." The report doesn't have actual stats for the wartime period, making Kristof look rather hasty to blame the current war for Iraq's health woes.

What the report actually says, in what seems a bit of a misquote on Kristof's part: "Access to gynaecological care has also become precarious and routine diagnosis and treatment of problems such as breast and cervical cancer is currently impossible." Only the first Gulf War is specifically mentioned in the U.N. report, and "wars" are addressed as contributing factors just four times within the 35-page document. The current Iraq war is certainly not the main focus of the report, which actually studies health declines over longer periods of time and features statistics from as far back as 1990.

For the rest of Kristof on the UN report, click here.

Columnists | Gaffes | Iraq War | Nicholas Kristof | United Nations

The Times Finally Checks Out Pentagon Memo

After several days (and perhaps spurred by a Jack Shafer piece in Slate wondering where the press was), the Times finally issues a story regarding the leaked Pentagon memo alleging ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, a story first reported in the Weekly Standard.

Douglas Jehl writes in "More Proof of Iraq-Qaeda Link, or Not?" for Thursday's edition: "Late last month, a top Pentagon official fired off the latest salvo in the politically charged debate about whether there were links between Saddam Hussein's government and the Qaeda terrorist network. The Oct. 27 memorandum from Douglas J. Feith, under secretary of defense for policy and planning, to the Senate intelligence committee listed 50 points of raw intelligence that, he said, pointed to an operational link between Iraq and Al Qaeda....Government officials with knowledge of intelligence on Iraq said that the reports cited by Mr. Feith were indeed authentic. But they also said they were not new, that some were not credible and that all had been weighed in the preparation of intelligence reports that concluded that the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda remained ambiguous at best."

Jehl does admit some parts of the memo may strengthen the conservative case for war, though he maintains a cynical view: "Indeed, parts of the memo support the much stronger case presented by Bush administration officials who have repeatedly cited the ties as a threat to the United States and as a primary justification for the American invasion of Iraq. Among the 50 reports cited in Mr. Feith's memorandum, perhaps the most sensational is a Czech intelligence service claim that the Sept. 11 hijacker Muhammed Atta met several times in Prague with a former Iraqi intelligence chief, who in 2000 is said to have requested a transfer of funds to Mr. Atta. Yet the C.I.A. has said the meetings remain unconfirmed, as the memo also points out. With the disclosure of Mr. Feith's memorandum, some conservative commentators have resurrected claims of a link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks, even though President Bush said in September that he had seen no such evidence."

For the rest of Douglas Jehl's story on a possible Saddam-al Qaeda connection, click here.

al-Qaeda | Saddam Hussein | Iraq War | Douglas Jehl | Weekly Standard | Terrorism

A Bush "Setback" and More Nonsense on Niger

In a front-page story, "Nuclear Board Said to Rebuff Bush Over Iran," David Sanger on Thursday personalizes the decision of an international nuclear watchdog group as a "setback" for Bush: "The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency appears prepared to approve a resolution on Iran's 18 years of secret work on a nuclear program that will stop short of recommending United Nations Security Council action, a setback to President Bush, senior officials from several countries said here Wednesday."

Then Sanger sends out a new version of the old Iraq War "Niger" canard: "It was the international atomic agency that first concluded that the evidence Mr. Bush cited in his State of the Union speech in January, saying that Saddam Hussein had tried to obtain nuclear material in Africa, was based on forged documents."

Though this time Sanger does accurately state that Bush mentioned Africa in his State of the Union speech, not Niger (as Sanger previously claimed in a story written with Todd Purdum October 1), Sanger nonetheless falsely suggests that the evidence Bush cited in the State of the Union was based on forged documents--just because some Niger documents were later determined to be forged.

But as liberal media critic Bob Somerby points out, the British intelligence Bush referred to in his State of the Union focused on the Congo as the possible source of Iraqi uranium, not Niger. Somerby added: "...if you got the impression from recent reporting that the Brit intel was all about Niger, you just may have been snookered again."

For the rest of Sanger on Iran and Bush's "setback," click here.

George W. Bush | Iran | Iraq War | Niger | David Sanger

Still No Liberals in the Medicare Drug Debate

How does one quote Rep. Charles Rangel, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and a group allied with the AFL-CIO in a Medicare story without once using the word "liberal?" Robert Pear and Robin Toner manage it in their Thursday piece, "Counting Votes and Attacks In Final Push for Medicare Bill." (There are, however, three mentions of conservatives who have raised objections over the bill, which would cost at least $400 billion.)

For the rest of the Medicare fight story by Pear and Toner, click here.

Drugs | Labeling Bias | Medicare | Robert Pear | Robin Toner

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