MEMORANDUM FOR: Americans Malnourished on the Truth About Iraq
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: A New "Miller's Tale" (with apologies to Geoffrey Chaucer)
On April 3, former New York Times journalist Judith Miller published an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "The Iraq War and Stubborn Myths: Officials Didn't Lie, and I Wasn't Fed a Line." If this sounds a bit defensive, Miller has tons to be defensive about.
In the article, Miller claims, "false narratives [about what she did as a New York Times reporter] deserve, at last, to be retired." The article appears to be the initial salvo in a major attempt at self-rehabilitation and, coincidentally, comes just as her new book, The Story: A Reporter's Journey, is to be published today.
In reviewing Miller's book, her "mainstream media" friends are not likely to mention the stunning conclusion reached recently by the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other respected groups that the Iraq War, for which she was lead drum majorette, killed one million people. One might think that, in such circumstances -- and with bedlam reigning in Iraq and the wider neighborhood -- a decent respect for the opinions of mankind, so to speak, might prompt Miller to keep her head down for a while more.
In all candor, after more than a dozen years, we are tired of exposing the lies spread by Judith Miller and had thought we were finished. We have not seen her new book, but we cannot in good conscience leave her WSJ article without comment from those of us who have closely followed U.S. policy and actions in Iraq.
Miller's Tale in the WSJ begins with a vintage Miller-style reductio ad absurdum: "I took America to war in Iraq. It was all me." Since one of us, former UN inspector Scott Ritter, has historical experience and technical expertise that just won't quit, we asked him to draft a few paragraphs keyed to Miller's latest tale. He shared the following critique:
Miller's Revisionist History
"Judith Miller did not take America to war in Iraq. Even a journalist with an ego the size of Ms. Miller's cannot presume to usurp the war power authorities of the President of the United States, or even the now-dormant Constitutional prerogatives of Congress. What she is guilty of, however, is being a bad journalist.
"She can try to hide this fact by wrapping herself in a collective Pulitzer Prize, or citing past achievements like authoring best-selling books. But this is like former Secretary of State Colin Powell trying to remind people about his past as the National Security Advisor for President Reagan or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
"At the end of the day Mr. Powell will be judged not on his previous achievements, but rather on his biggest failure -- his appearance before the United Nations Security Council touting an illusory Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction threat as being worthy of war. In this same vein, Judith Miller will be judged by her authoring stories for the 'newspaper of record' that were questionably sourced and very often misleading. One needs only to examine Ms. Miller's role while embedded in U.S. Army Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, hunting for weapons of mass destruction during the 2003 invasion, for this point to be illustrated.
"Miller may not have singlehandedly taken America and the world to war, but she certainly played a pivotal role in building the public case for the attack on Iraq based upon shoddy reporting that even her editor at the New York Times has since discredited -- including over reliance on a single-source of easy virtue and questionable credibility -- Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. The fact that she chose to keep this 'source' anonymous underscores the journalistic malfeasance at play in her reporting.
"Chalabi had been discredited by the State Department and CIA as a reliable source of information on Iraq long before Judith Miller started using him to underpin her front-page 'scoops' for the New York Times. She knew this, and yet chose to use him nonetheless, knowing that then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was fully as eager to don the swindlers' magic suit of clothes, as was the king in Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale. In Ms. Miller's tale, the fairy-tale clothes came with a WMD label and no washing instructions.
"Ms. Miller's self-described 'newsworthy claims' of pre-war weapons of mass destruction stories often were -- as we now know (and many of us knew at the time) -- handouts from the hawks in the Bush administration and fundamentally wrong.
"Like her early reporting on Iraq, Ms. Miller's re-working of history to disguise her malfeasance/misfeasance as a reporter does not bear close scrutiny. Her errors of integrity are hers and hers alone, and will forever mar her reputation as a journalist, no matter how hard she tries to spin the facts and revise a history that is highly inconvenient to her. Of course, worst of all, her flaws were consequential -- almost 4,500 U.S. troops and 1,000,000 Iraqis dead."
Relying on the Mistakes of Others