In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, a country that was falsely accused by the administration of George W. Bush of harboring weapons of mass destruction, the media was nearly lock-step in agreement with the charges and the conclusion that war was an appropriate response. But after the stories began to fall apart and the reality that Bush and his cabal of neocons had deliberately misled the American people, some of the pundits and politicians who had been cheerleaders for the toppling of Saddam Hussein tried to backtrack and worse, to rewrite history.
No one in the press was more responsible for peddling the lies of the Bush warhawks than Judith Miller of the New York Times. She had published numerous articles condemning Saddam and taking it on faith that he was guilty of everything that the administration had alleged. Her sources were insiders who had vested interests in planting their propaganda in the media. She eagerly participated in the deception and was used later by her sources as evidence of their claims. In short, they anonymously gave her false information which she published in the Times, and then they went on Meet the Press and cited her articles as proof that they were right.
Miller’s role in advocating for war and serving as a vessel for the administration’s lies eventually led to her dismissal from the Times and disgrace as as a reporter whose credibility and ethics were fatally flawed. So naturally, she was hired by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News.
Now it’s Miller’s turn to rewrite history. This week she wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal (also owned by Murdoch) that, on the surface, appears to be a mea culpa. It begins with her saying that “I took America to war in Iraq. It was all me.” Unfortunately, the article is a mix of facetiousness and a pleading to a lesser crime. As an example of the former, the first full paragraph reads…
“OK, I had some help from a duplicitous vice president, Dick Cheney. Then there was George W. Bush, a gullible president who could barely locate Iraq on a map and who wanted to avenge his father and enrich his friends in the oil business. And don’t forget the neoconservatives in the White House and the Pentagon who fed cherry-picked intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, or WMD, to reporters like me.”
That would be a stunningly candid statement of the truth and a remarkable admission of responsibility, except for the fact that she didn’t mean a word of it. The very next paragraph casts it aside as a “false narrative” as she writes “None of these assertions happens to be true.” And throughout the remainder of the article Miller dismisses her role in selling the war to a skeptical American public.
Miller insists that the “pernicious accusation that the Bush administration fabricated WMD intelligence to take the country to war,” was wrong. However, she offers no support for that assertion. She exonerates the Bush administration by claiming that they were merely mistaken, not lying. It’s a defense that attempts to confess to the crime of stupidity in order to avoid being convicted of dishonesty. And Miller is making the same sort of plea bargain for herself in confessing to having been misled by the administration, rather than to conspiring with them.
The problem for Miller is that there is already too much evidence of her complicity to deny her role. Her articles were nearly verbatim transcriptions of administration talking points. She claims to not have been “spoon-fed” lines about WMDs by senior officials. Does she regard Scooter Libby, the chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney as a senior official? She doesn’t say. In fact, she famously refused to identify any of her sources so that people could decide for themselves if they were credible.
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Miller spent some time in jail for contempt of court when she declined to reveal her sources. Her defenders regard that as a noble sacrifice, but there is a difference between protecting your sources and protecting your accomplices. Miller knew very well that her sources were relying on the information they fed her when they cited it in subsequent interviews, but she never seemed the least bit disturbed at having been used for that purpose. That’s because she wasn’t being used, she was participating. And nothing in her self-serving defense in the Wall Street Journal leads to any other conclusion.
So why would she bring up this stain on her reputation after all these years? The answer appears in italics at the bottom of the article: “Ms. Miller’s new book, ‘The Story: A Reporter’s Journey,’ will be published on April 7.”