In our nearly 10 years of existence, we have
challenged the conventional wisdom on issues as divergent as the big
media's attacks on
contra-cocaine stories; the fawning over
WMD speech; the early perception that
the Iraq War
was going well; and most recently, the lock-step acceptance that
progress in the Middle East could be traced to George W. Bush's
invasion of Iraq two years ago.
Each time, we have had to remind ourselves that it
is not only possible that the collective judgments of so many respected
pundits could be wrong, but it is more likely than not that they indeed
have reached an erroneous “groupthink” conclusion. Still, it is
nerve-wracking to assemble a set of facts that so directly contradicts
what all these supposedly smart people are certain is true.
So it's nice sometimes to note when a major news
outlet like the New York Times reverses itself sooner rather than later.
For instance, on March 1, 2005, the Times editorial was panting along in
the middle of the press herd, sure that disparate events – the Iraqi
election, anti-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon and tentative progress
in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – showed that the Bush
administration's neoconservative theories about reshaping the Middle
East were right.
“The Bush administration is entitled to claim a
healthy share of the credit for many of these advances,” the Times
Our view was different. We wrote that “there is an
alternative explanation for each of these Middle East developments that
is rooted in local circumstances. In Iraq, the Shiites and the Kurds
turned out in large numbers for the Jan. 30 election – not to endorse
George W. Bush’s invasion – but because the election let them
consolidate control of the country at the expense of their longtime
tormentors, Iraq’s formerly dominant Sunni minority. ...
“Similarly, recent cracks in the
Palestinian-Israeli stalemate relate far more to last year’s death of
longtime Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat – and to aging Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon’s quest for a positive legacy – than to the U.S.
invasion of Iraq. ... In Lebanon, popular resistance to Syrian troops
has been growing for years, especially since Israel withdrew its troops
from southern Lebanon in 2000. The assassination of former Lebanese
Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was the catalyst for the recent public
demands for a complete Syrian withdrawal.” [See Consortiumnews.com's “Neocon
Amorality,” March 3, 2005.]
Two weeks after that Consortiumnews.com article and
a second one
making a similar point, the New York Times had come around.
Instead of granting the Bush administration “a
healthy share of the credit for many of these advances,” a Times
editorial noted that “many of the most promising signs of change have
little to do with Iraq. The peace initiatives in Israel were made
possible when Yasir Arafat died and was replaced by a braver, more
flexible leader. The new determination of the Lebanese people to throw
out their Syrian oppressors was sparked by the assassination of the
Lebanese nationalist, Rafik Hariri, not the downfall of Saddam Hussein.
And in Iraq itself, the voting largely excluded the Sunni minority,
without whose cooperation Iraq will never be anything more than a civil
war battleground or a staging platform for a new dictatorship.” [NYT,
March 18, 2005]
Though the American people might wish that the
major news organizations would stop and think before running with the
herd, the reality is that it has fallen to smaller outlets like our own
to get in the way of these media stampedes, at least in those first
crucial days when a dangerous consensus can take shape. And we can only
continue to challenge these rushes to judgment with the continued
support of our readers.
As the United States heads into the third year of
its occupation of Iraq, we want to thank you, our readers, for the
generosity that has enabled us to continue contesting Washington's