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Journalism and Mosul

The New York Times uses the bombing in Mosul to attack President Bush--and show their true colors.

7:30 AM, Dec 23, 2004 • By HUGH HEWITT
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EVEN BEFORE THE DOCTORS had completed their evacuation of the wounded to Germany in the aftermath of the attack on the Mosul dining hall, and certainly before all the next of kin of the dead had been notified, New York Times reporter Richard Stevenson had sat down at his word processor to manufacture a story on how the attack would cripple George W. Bush's second term domestic agenda.

It wasn't Tet, of course, and not even the Beirut bombing, and decent people might have allowed the dead to be buried before politicizing the Mosul massacre, but Stevenson wasn't going to let taste or facts get in the way of his story. Under the headline Bush's New Problem: More Carnage in Iraq Could Eclipse His Ambitious Domestic Agenda--the headline was changed after I blogged about it yesterday--Stevenson began his article this way:

"The deadly attack on a United States military base in northern Iraq on Tuesday scrambled the Bush administration's hopes of showing progress toward stability there, while making clear that the war is creating a nasty array of problems for President Bush as he gears up for an ambitious second term. Despite weathering criticism of his Iraq policy during the presidential campaign, Mr. Bush is heading into his next four years in the White House facing a public that appears increasingly worried about the course of events in Iraq and wondering where the exit is."

Through 17 paragraphs Stevenson lays on the doom and gloom, but as evidence for his belief that the Mosul attack has derailed Bush's yet-to-begin second term, Stevenson offers only this quote, in the last paragraph of the story, from former United States Senator Warren Rudman:

"The big risk for the president is that if this continues to escalate, it could overtake much of what he wants to do. . . . If this is in some way a precursor of an escalation into a more sophisticated attack by the guerilla insurgents, it would make members of Congress very uneasy and the American people very uneasy."

Reporter Stevenson wasn't exactly plowing new ground with his tasteless exploitation of a mass casualty attack. Six months earlier he'd written pretty much the same story about how Iraq was clouding the president's political future, complete with another Warren Rudman quote.

"The problem the administration has is that the predicates it laid down for the war have not played out," Stevenson quoted Rudman as saying on June 17, 2004. "That could spell political trouble for the president, there's no question."

I am not sure why anyone is interested in the observations of an out-to-pasture senator whose principal legacy is David Souter, but I don't blame Rudman for spouting his "look at me" gloom and doom. The New York Times, on the other hand, has no excuse for exploiting the loss of life in Iraq for its own political agenda even before the families of the victims have been notified. It was a manufactured story, one that Stevenson had peddled six months earlier and which had been repudiated on November 2, dusted off and sold as new "news" using the hook of dead Americans.

Perhaps if Stevenson or his editor had bothered to read first-person accounts of the dead and wounded--a chaplain blogged on the aftermath in Mosul at Training for Eternity well before deadline at the Times--they wouldn't have been in such a rush to score political points out of a terrorist attack on U.S. troops.

But they were in a rush, as if they could cue their anti-Bush colleagues in legacy media of an opportunity to start playing the greatest hits from January 1968. Read the Stevenson piece closely and you will see their is zero prompt for using the Mosul attack to launch on President Bush but for the reporter's decision that the loss of two dozen soldiers' lives must somehow turn into a repudiation of the recently reelected president. It is Richard Stevenson's view of what the meaning of Mosul must be, unsupported by anything except a windy utterance from a long irrelevant foghorn.