The dying old media
Here are some excerpts from the Key Findings Summary of the Iraq Survey
Group's latest report, also known as the Duelfer Report:
Saddam Hussein so dominated the Iraqi Regime that its
strategic intent was his alone. He wanted to end sanctions while
capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when
sanctions were lifted.
The introduction of the Oil-For-Food program (OFF) in late 1996 was a
key turning point for the Regime. OFF rescued Baghdad's economy from
a terminal decline created by sanctions. The Regime quickly came to
see that OFF could be corrupted to acquire foreign exchange both to
further undermine sanctions and to provide the means to enhance
dual-use infrastructure and potential WMD-related development.
Here is what the Chronicle told us in an editorial last week:
On Wednesday, the top U.S. weapons inspector reported that
he did not expect to find any stores of weapons of mass destruction in
Iraq. Charles Duelfer, a CIA expert and former U.N. weapons inspector,
concluded that Saddam Hussein had destroyed his chemical and
biological weapons in 1991 and 1992, and had not resumed production.
Duelfer also said there was no evidence that Saddam had tried to
import uranium after the first Persian Gulf War.
Rather than being a gathering threat, Iraq was less able to develop
and produce weapons before the U.S. attack in 2003 than it was in
1998, according to the report.
Saddam's Iraq was nearly prostrate, it turns out, but far from benign.
According to Duelfer and his report, Saddam was trying to develop
illegal long-range ballistic missiles. He intended to resume banned
weapons programs whenever United Nations trade sanctions were lifted.
But intentions are not facts. Desires, even a tyrant's, are not
The Chronicle editors have chosen to focus on the fact that there are
no stockpiles of WMD's, which has been reported for months now, and to
play down the real meat of Duelfer's report: that Saddam corrupted
the Oil-for-Food program, bribed Security Council members and planned
to restart his WMD program once sanctions were lifted.
This is a big story - probably far too big for a newspaper like the
Chronicle to handle. That is why so many of the news stories the
Chronicle uses are from wire services or other newspapers. And that
leads to some coverage problems Chronicle readers have to deal
with. If Houstonians wanted to read the N.Y. Times or the L.A. Times, we'd
probably subscribe to them. We want to read Chronicle material, and
we'd like the Chronicle to take into account the things that make
Houston different from New York City or Los Angeles.
But instead of the Chronicle responding to its readers, Jeff Cohen seems
determined that readers instead embrace his vision of how
they should be consuming news.
So, readers are fleeing the Chronicle and searching for news
elsewhere. Chronicle editors are free to keep their blinders on, but many
readers know, just know, that when we read a story in our morning
paper about, for example, a new report from the Iraq Survey Group, we should
maintain some skepticism. And we should probably go searching for another
point of view.