Wishful Thinking?

Last week’s release of the Duelfer report (search) on weapons of mass destruction (search) in Iraq demonstrates how desperately the media try to bend a story to fit their own view.

The actual Duelfer report concludes that sanctions against Saddam were a massive failure. The report details how successful Saddam was at bypassing the sanctions through the corrupted oil for food program and was preparing to rebuild his WMD program: "[Saddam Hussein] wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction when sanctions were lifted."

The report goes on to say that: "By 2000-2001, Saddam had managed to mitigate many of the effects of sanctions and undermine their international support. Iraq was within striking distance of a de facto end to the sanctions regime, both in terms of oil exports and the trade embargo by the end of 1999."

The New York Times managed to flip this view, leading an editorial on the subject with the declarative sentence: "Sanctions worked."

The Washington Post put their editorial twist on the front page, with a banner headline that read: "U.S. 'Almost All Wrong' on Weapons." Never mind that neither the report nor Mr. Duelfer ever said that the U.S. was "Almost all wrong" on WMD. That quote actually came from inspector David Kay, at a Senate hearing in January.

While the Post’s editors were forced to make a correction of their headline, they never explained how an eight-month old quote ended up headlining an article about the findings of an entirely different investigator. Just call it "Wishful editing."

And that’s the Observer.

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