The Times Calls On US Troops To Save Lives In Liberia - July 24, 2003

Times Watch for July 24, 2003

Editors Note: The Times news pages today nitpick the Iraq war - while the editorial page lobbies for US troops in Liberia.

The Times Calls On US Troops To Save Lives In Liberia

A Thursday editorial, Americas Role in Liberia, shows the Times hasnt lost its chutzpa. After famously resisting the Iraq war, the Times editorial page now favors U.S. intervention in Liberia, and right away: Further delay may needlessly condemn thousands of Liberian civilians to death. Hundreds have already died this week. The editorial on Liberia makes no mention of Iraq - perhaps the Times realizes the double standard theyre applying to U.S. intervention and hope no one notices.

The Times notes: It is axiomatic that American soldiers should not be put at risk without careful deliberation and good odds for success. The Times forgot to add and no American security interests are at stake.

In fact, the Times hasnt been this eager for intervention since the Kosovo war in April 1999, when U.S. planes under NATO auspices bombed Belgrade, the capital of the former Yugoslavia. On April 15, 1999, the editorial page (under former executive editor Howell Raines) insisted NATO must sustain and intensify the bombing until dictator Slobodan Milosevic agreed to negotiate. (As Times executive editor, Raines fiercely resisted U.S. involvement in Iraq.)

For the rest of the editorial from the newly militant Times, click here.

Hussein Deaths The Downside

A Thursday story from Washington nitpicks Allied success in the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein (the No. 2 and No. 3 henchmen of the Hussein regime) by suggesting they should have been taken alive for interrogation.

Eric Schmitt and David Sangers article comes with the curious title, U.S. Defends Move to Storm House Where Hussein Brothers Were Hiding. Right at the beginning, the reporters try to put the military in a defensive crouch: Military commanders in Iraq and Pentagon officials here today defended the decision to storm the house in Mosul where Saddam Hussein's sons were hiding rather than try to encircle it and force them to surrender, much as the United States did with Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega in Panama in 1989.

Neither do they miss a chance to paint Bush as a nave optimist: Mr. Bush seized on the deaths of what he termed two of the regime's chief henchmen as evidence that despite continuing American casualties, Iraq would soon be speeding toward elections, a new constitution and a new currency.

In the world of the Times, every silver lining for Bush and Iraq has a dark cloud: Capturing the sons might have yielded an intelligence bonanza and scored propaganda points by permitting the Iraqis to put them on public trial, allied officials said today. We wanted them to stand trial, but this happened, Gerard Russell, a spokesman for the British Foreign Office, told Agence France-Presse today in Basra in southern Iraq.

For the rest of Schmitt and Sanger on the downside of killing the Hussein brothers, click here.

Hussein Brothers Dead, But Tax Cuts Still Bad

Amid the deaths in a firefight of Saddam Husseins sons Uday and Qusay, the Times continues nitpicking the war and searching for a downside for Bush in 2004.

Richard Stevensons Thursday story from Washington paints their demise in strictly political terms, demonstrated by the title: Deaths of Husseins Sons Allow Change of Subject. While Stevenson admits a bad political month for President Bush got palpably better, his dispatch carries a long laundry list of various perceived Bush weaknesses for Democrats to latch onto.

Stevenson writes: Democrats said Mr. Bush would not easily wipe away the questions about his credibility or escape doubts among some voters about whether his economic and foreign policy is succeeding. And there is lingering concern within the president's party. Only a few days ago, Republican strategists, including some with close ties to the administration, were acknowledging that Mr. Bush was having his worst stretch in political terms since early in his presidency. The rise in the unemployment rate and the surge in the federal budget deficit undermined his assurances that his tax cuts would nurse the economy back to robust health.

And Stevenson doesnt forget foreign policy controversy: The steady if relatively small loss of American life in Iraq and the acknowledgment by the American commander in the region that United States forces there faced a classic guerrilla campaign conjured up all kinds of unwelcome associations. And the White House's fumbling efforts to explain how possibly flawed intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program got into the State of the Union speech had shown Mr. Bush's top aides to be uncharacteristically willing to indulge in finger pointing.

For the rest of Stevensons story on what the death of Husseins sons may mean for Bush, click here.

Only Conservatives Capable of Slurs?

When liberals accuse conservatives of opposing a federal nominee based on the nominees race, religion or sexual preference, the Times puts the onus on conservatives to deny the charges of racism or bigotry. But in the case of Bush nominee (An Extremist Judicial Nominee, according to the Times editorial page) William Pryor, the shoe is on the right foot, and its the conservatives making such accusations who are accused of slurs.

Thursdays story by Neil Lewis, Judicial Nominee Advances Amid Dispute Over Religion, is on the fierce, religion-tinged fight over Bush appointee William Prior, attorney general of Alabama. Lewis story opens: A scheduled vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee today on one of President Bush's most conservative judicial nominees turned into an extraordinary debate over whether Democrats were blocking Catholics from being named to the federal bench or whether such an accusation was a politically motivated slur. The Times has done an about-face: All of a sudden, the person who accuses someone of bigotry becomes the bad guy.

Lewis lets the Democratic senators get their licks in against a political ad accusing Democrats of discriminating against devout Catholic nominees: Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking committee Democrat, said the advertisements run by a group for which the president's father and Republican senators have helped raise money were a despicable smear. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said the advertisements were tawdry and diabolical. In response, the committee Republicans mostly did not disavow the advertisements but suggested they were largely accurate.

Lewis gets in more pro-Democrat talking points, reminding readers that Pryor is a staunch conservative as well as a strict Catholic. Lewis writes: Mr. Pryor, the subject of the debate, is a staunch conservative who has urged a greater role for Christianity in American public life and has issued especially blunt denunciations of the Supreme Court for its rulings upholding the right to abortion. When Mr. Pryor appeared before the committee on June 11, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican who is chairman, asked him to acknowledge that his beliefs stemmed from his strict Catholicism.

For the rest of Neil Lewis story on the Pryor nomination, click here.