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Truth to Power

The recent revelations in the Washington Post of the role played by New York Times reporter Judith Miller in Iraq calls to mind the way Kennet Love, another New York Times reporter, functioned before and during the CIA-led coup that overthrew Mossadegh and restored the Shah to power in Iran. Love worked a mimeograph machine that turned out propaganda materials to incite the Iranians to rise up against their own democratically elected government and install a tyrant. Charges that Love was working for the CIA were never substantiated and were undoubtedly not true. Miller was also not working for Donald Rumsfeld when she filed her stories from Iraq, intimidated American military personnel and participated in the interrogation of Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law.

What is at issue with regard to the way the New York Times works is the role of journalism itself. Journalism in its purest form is about addressing truth to power, not about using power to determine truth. But the New York Times is an instrument of power. Harrison Salisbury acknowledged as much when he revealed that he had suppressed the story that the CIA was going to back an invasion of Cuba of anti-Castro Cubans. And even today, as other New York papers, including the Sun, the Post and Newsday, carry almost daily stories about how judges have bought their judgeships from corrupt Democratic party leaders in Brooklyn and have charged candidates like Mark Green $250,000 for their club’s endorsements, the Times obliged Joyce Purnik to put it all in a terse column. The Times is a Democratic Party organ and will do and say nothing that really hurts the party. When it finally did run a story about the judgeships and the endorsements, it sanitized it in a way to make it look as though Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes didn’t have much to go on. Let’s see about that.

As for Iraq, Judith Miller’s relationship with Ahmed Chalabi should have been reason enough to take her off the case. As a source for WMDs, he was totally unreliable, considering his interests in seeing that the United States toppled Saddam Hussein. That she did not name him as a source makes her role that much more suspect. Did the Times really want this war, while it continued its editorials calling Bush a dangerous leader? One is inclined to think so. Bill Keller is at least honest about it. He says openly he was for the war. But now he puts all the blame on the Republicans for everything that is going wrong. This is typical New York Times, which is profoundly anti-Republican. As David Brower aptly put it, "Pinch" Sulzberger was arrogant in making Howell Raines the editor in chief in the first place, considering his blistering anti-Republican editorials. The only question now is which Democrat he will choose to replace Raines.

The French philosopher, Michel Foucault, said, famously, that power determines truth. He also said that power is most effective when it is concealed. In this respect, the Times is Foucauldian. It pretends to be the paper of record while it participates in making policy. But its imperial liberalism is fundamentally hypocritical. The National Writers Union had to sue the Times to stop it from exploiting its freelancers. As it extends its tentacles across the media terrain of America and abroad, gobbling up The Boston Globe and The International Herald Tribune, and moving into television, it functions more and more like an empire than a newspaper. It should change its motto to "All The News That Fits, We Print — (Fits our agenda, we mean.)"

Richard Cummings [send him mail] taught international law at the Haile Selassie I University and before that, was Attorney-Advisor with the Office of General Counsel of the Near East South Asia region of U.S.A.I.D, where he was responsible for the legal work pertaining to the aid program in Israel, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is the author of a new novel, The Immortalists, as well as The Pied Piper — Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream, and the comedy, Soccer Moms From Hell. He holds a Ph.D. in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University and is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.

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