What, No Smoking Gun?

The Media and the Specter of WMD

In early April, even as U.S. officials insisted they would find WMD, skeptics began saying the U.S. inspection teams had lost credibility and insisting that any WMD in Iraq must be verified by independent weapons inspectors—or risk being dismissed as manufactured evidence. Also this month, the Times began supplementing its rah-rah XTF stories with news analyses by William J. Broad. (Broad is the science writer who helped the Times gently correct its Wen Ho Lee coverage.) An April 18 Times editorial quietly posited that U.S. teams in Iraq "are not truly expert in finding hidden weapons."

Then Bush began threatening to invade Syria in search of the missing WMD. But how will that play in the Mideast? On April 17, The Washington Post reported that "almost every country in the region has pursued [WMD] . . . primarily because of the arsenal Israel has built up." One expert told the Post, "You can't get rid of [WMD] in Arab countries unless you also address the elimination of Israel's nuclear and chemical programs."

As long as the Pentagon can find a home for WMD stories based on anonymous sources and unverified claims, why ruin a good story with the truth?

For the Record

Last week's Press Clips ("Republic of Fear," April 15-22) mistakenly reported that former New York Times foreign correspondent Suzanne Daley had left the paper. She is now the paper's education editor. The column also noted that a recent ad in the Times listed every Pulitzer the paper had ever won, rather than focusing on this year's prizewinner, an investigative series by Clifford Levy. While the statement was accurate, it is Times tradition to publish a full list of its past Pulitzers each time it wins a new one.

Finally, Metro editor Jonathan Landman challenges the suggestion that Times executive editor Howell Raines's interest in the Levy series peaked when it won the award. Landman calls Raines's support for the project "immediate and enthusiastic."


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