The New York Times doesn't mention the pivotal role it played in lying us into a war in Iraq, but it doesn't have to. Everybody knows. On Wednesday, the Times put this article on its front page, and I highly recommend it as an ideal liner for bird cages:
In Dispute With Iran, Path to Iraq Is in Spotlight
By SCOTT SHANE, New York Times
WASHINGTON — To many Americans, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's February 2003 speech to the United Nations on Iraq's unconventional weapons was powerfully persuasive. It was a dazzling performance, featuring satellite images and intercepts of Iraqi communications, delivered by one of the most trusted figures in public life.
And to most people around the world and to many Americans it was a transparent crock blatantly misrepresented by the US media. And even if it hadn't been, we all now know that it consisted of a pile of intentional lies and "evidence" derived from torture.
Then a long and costly war began, and the country discovered that the assertions that Iraq possessed illicit weapons had been completely unfounded.
Now the United States' confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program is heating up, with the disclosure last week that the Iranian government is building a second uranium enrichment complex it had not previously acknowledged.
It had not previously acknowledged it, because it was not operational and still isn't. Iran announced it far ahead of the schedule required by international agreement.
The question is inevitable: Is the uproar over the secret plant near Qum another rush to judgment, based on ambiguous evidence, spurred on by a desire to appear tough toward a loathed regime? In other words, is the United States repeating the mistakes of 2002?
In what sense is it a secret plant? In what sense is there some question as to whether the plant exists? Whose mind have you read to determine that the motivation for the lies you only hint at here has been to appear tough? How do you know that the motivation is not to justify an attack on Iran by the United States or Israel? Proving that a plant openly disclosed ahead of schedule exists does absolutely nothing to prove that it is going to be used to make weapons, so why are you trying to conflate the two questions? Proving that it is going to be used to make weapons does absolutely nothing to prove that such weapons would be used in a national suicide by attacking the United States or its colonies. Proving that a nation has weapons does not in any legal sense justify launching a war. The claims that Iraq had weapons, as laughable and tragic as they were, would not have legalized a war of aggression even if true. Shouldn't the New York Times, which pushed both the idea that the possession of weapons justified a war and the lies about the weapons take a step back and examine both points?
Antiwar activists, with a fool-me-once skepticism, watch the dispute over the Qum plant with an alarmed sense of de'jÃ vu. And some specialists on arms control and Iran are asking for more evidence and warning against hasty conclusions.
Antiwar activists were not fooled the first time. And it is an overwhelming majority of Americans -- who god knows are mostly not active -- who don't believe the lies this time around. Why do you say "more evidence" when you have not offered the first crumb of any evidence that Iran is making nuclear weapons. If you mean more evidence that the nuclear power plant exists, what the hell more evidence could you want than an open announcement of it far ahead of the required schedule?
But while the similarities between 2002, when the faulty intelligence estimates were produced, and 2009 are unmistakable, the differences are profound.
Faulty? Estimates? The documentation of intentional lies is beyond dispute, and the New York Times more than anyone else in the world has an obligation to admit it, and to admit having missed or collaborated in it. There is also now a history of years of disproved lies about Iran. The similarities have long been profound. Let's see what you think is so profound about the differences.
This time, by all accounts, there is no White House-led march toward war. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has said that military action would merely delay Iranian nuclear weapons for one to three years, and there is no evidence that President Obama wants to add a third war to his responsibilities.
All accounts? Whose vice president was it who recently defended Israel's absurd alleged sovereign right to attack Iran? Whose president interrupted a summit on economics to warn of the "discovery" of the "secret" plant that Iran had publicly announced? No evidence Obama wants a third war? What do you call the endless bombing of Pakistan? What is under consideration is the bombing of Iran, not the occupation of it. You may not consider bombing to constitute a war, but the people of Iran will.
This time, too, the dispute over facts is narrower. Iran has admitted the existence of nuclear enrichment facilities, and on Tuesday it acknowledged that it was building the plant underground, next to a military base, for its protection.