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One-sided coverage on Iraq in U.S. media

Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times, does a good job in her column today of identifying ways in which the paper has amplified the hawkish voices who want the U.S. to intervene again in Iraq and downplayed views to the contrary. As she notes, this is especially disturbing given the paper's much-criticized coverage preceding the war in Iraq in 2003.

In analyzing the current coverage, Sullivan picks up on many of the same journalistic transgressions reflected in the 2003 coverage: excessive use of anonymous sources, coziness with administration officials, and shortage of opposing viewpoints.

Sullivan's role is limited to critiquing The Times, but what she writes applies to many other news organizations. In general, the hawks are getting much more coverage, with their steady criticism that President Obama has not been aggressive enough. The issue can obviously be framed in a much different way: Will it help this dismal situation if the U.S. commits troops or weaponry? Pax Christi USA offers this response:

In response to the recent unrest in Iraq and the possibility of the crisis continuing to spread, Pax Christi USA is unequivocal in its assertion that U.S. military intervention will not achieve the peace and stability that the people of Iraq deserve. A military solution—whether it include air strikes or ground troops or an increase in the flow of weapons into Iraq—will only serve to increase the suffering of the Iraqi people, not alleviate it. Furthermore, military intervention increases the risk of widening the conflict in the region.

As best as I can determine, that statement from June 17 wasn't carried anywhere before today.


About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



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Great column! Fearless but not pugnacious. NYT lucky to have her. The piece about Kagan was shocking puffery; glad she mentioned it.

Ditto to what Peggy wrote. Efifying. Do Catholic publications need a Public Editor. Woundn't it be refreshing if they did. Just a Fox News might not be expected to confess thus, it might be a good idea for liberal Catholic publications to show such humility now and then.

Who is Pax Christi? What war did it ever start? If it never started a war, what right has it to criticize the wars started by people doing the best they could, or wars advocated by honest, upright public officials who were hopelessly stupid about the last war they advocated? If Pax Christi wants publicity, let it be spectacularly wrong! Better yet, let it get a couch in the Fox green room where the rest of the media will have to recognize it, no matter what it says, because then its views will be "out there."

Does the Wall Street Joural have a public editor?

Would the WSJ dare to have a public editor?

@Tom Blackburn (6/29, 5:56 pm)  Pax Christi (Latin for "Peace of Christ") is: 

... a global Catholic peace movement and network that works to help establish Peace, Respect for Human Rights, Justice and Reconciliation in areas of the world that are torn by conflict. It is grounded in the belief that peace is possible and that vicious cycles of violence and injustice can be broken.
Pax Christi was founded in Europe in 1945 as a reconciliation movement bringing together French and Germans after World War II. Today, the movement has more than 100 Member Organisations active in more than 50 countries and five continents worldwide.

Pax Christi USA is the national affiliate. 

I'm curious: on what basis do you conclude that only people/organizations that have started a war can criticize war? 

Luke, Do not confuse my snark with my conclusions. I am trying to put myself into the mind of an assignment editor.

I think MOS is right about the WSJ not having a public editor. When your editorial page is based on the last word on The Way the World Works, or God channelled by Jude Wanninski, what could a public editor add?

WSJ: A public editor could point out the differences between the news columns and some columns (Seib, Galston), but above all the editorials.

I understand the implicit criticism (of which I am the recipient): Would I be as critical of news articles and ops that agreed with me as I am of those that don't. Yes, I would. But there's a bit difference between news reporting and opining. Margaret Sullivan's column today points out the thin line that the Times allows between the two. Did they learn nothing from the Judith Miller fiasco back in 2002-03? Check out the various reporting today (June 29) and what the ISIS/IL controls and the Iraqi Army controls. Too many journalits are taking the PR from each side and not being there, or having reliable contacts in those places under attack. Of course, some like CJ Chivers of the Times seems to be on the spot in Iraq.

The US media got distorted after 9/11. Instead of educating and informing the public they  went with the public sentiment. Granted the atmosphere was so heavy that even a movie on 9/11 was not considered suitable. Yet there is  a big distortion between what US citizens have suffered compared to other countries. The feeling in the US was basically a selfish and nationalistic view. As we write 51 millions are displaced, hungry and dying worldwide to wars. Half of them are children. Generally Americans are livid about 9/11 and tepid about the 51 million displaced and suffering people. The press has to take a large blame for this. They really were too timid to face the heat.

TANGENT:  According to Reuther's the Ayatollah Sistani is again entering the political battle in Iraq.

" Over his past three Friday sermons, Iraq’s top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, an ascetic 83-year-old of almost mythological stature to millions of followers in Iraq and beyond, has seized his most active role in politics in a decade.

.  .  .   Sistani has asserted his dominance over public affairs, demanding politicians choose a new government without delay and potentially hastening the end of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s eight-year tenure.

The cleric, a recluse who favors a behind-the-scenes role, kicked off his newly assertive stance on June 13 with a call for Iraqis to take up arms against a Sunni insurgency – the first fatwa of its kind in a century.  .  .  .

"Tens of thousands of men have heeded the call.  .  .  . Sistani’s appeal for an inclusive government has further been seen as an implicit rebuke of Maliki, even by some of the premier’s supporters. .  .  .  

“Today, the roadmap is clear and there is a timetable. It’s as if Sistani has put all the parties in a corner,” a Shi’ite lawmaker said."

I wonder what "inclusive" means here.


Thanks Paul for taking note of the PCUSA statement. It did get picked up but only in the Catholic press via CNS, alongside Bishop Pates' criticisms of US policy in Iraq. Ran in a number of diocesan papers... Kudos to Sullivan's critique and NYT for having a public editor.

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