Hariri assassination coverage gives readers the hole story

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At last, the truth about Judith Miller is out. This anti-Arab White House stenographer can no longer pass herself off as a reporter, with all the ethical criteria that that word implies.

In fact, her misrepresentations about Saddam Hussein’s weapons program could lead to the downfall of New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, who even told Miller in 2003 that she could no longer cover Iraq because some of her stories turned out to be wrong.*

Just two years ago, Howell Raines was sacked over the Jayson Blair scandal; however, the damage Miller has done to the Times’ reputation, to say nothing of the profession of journalism, is immeasurably worse. The publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. could fall:

“We know that Arthur was driving the editorials, and we were constrained from writing anything,” a reporter told Editor & Publisher. “The big issue is Sulzberger,” said another longtime staffer. “He is the one who turned the paper over to Miller, and he is left holding the bag.” – 

Of course, all this could have been avoided, since Hurricane Judy had been wreaking havoc in the newsroom for years. Craig Pyes, a former contract writer for the Times who teamed up with Miller for a series on “al Qa’ida” wrote a memo to Times editors in December 2000 that told them all they would need to know.

“I’m not willing to work further on this project with Judy Miller. I do not trust her work, her judgment, or her conduct. She is an advocate, and her actions threaten the integrity of the enterprise, and of everyone who works with her… She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies, [and] tried to stampede it into the paper.” *

Doubtless, this was why Keller told Miller to stay away from Iraq, but when you’re the publisher’s pet you can pretty much run amok with impunity. Yet, after corrupting its own principle–””All the news that’s fit to print”–”so that it could prostitute itself to a cabal of zionist warmongers, how could anyone trust it again?

One would hope that the Times’ disgrace would serve as a lesson to other newspapers that they must report facts not fabrications about the Middle East, and ensure that all points of view are properly represented, even to the extent of agreeing with unpopular régimes. Lamentably, this rather obvious lesson is lost on the Globe and Mail and its new foreign editor Stephen Northfield

Over the past week or so, the Globe has run no fewer than four stories parroting the findings of a UN report by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis alleging that Syria was behind the February bombing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Nowhere in the Globe will you find that:

–¢ Zuheir al-Siddiq, the chief witness against Syria, was known to have lied to the UN commission;
–¢ The Commission is having doubts about his testimony;
–¢ al-Siddiq was paid for his “testimony”;and
–¢ he was recommended to Mehlis by Rifaat al-Assad, uncle of President Bashar al-Assad, who wants the presidency for himself.

All of this can be found in the Oct. 22 edition of the German magazine Der Spiegel. I sent Northfield an article from www.arabmonitor.info containing these findings, as well as an article by veteran Associated Press and Newsweek reporter Robert Parry that confirmed the contents of the monitor story and added other salient details.

For example, the 54-page report states that the bomb that killed Hariri and 22 other people in Beirut was likely in a white Mitsubishi Canter Van that had been stolen in Japan on Oct. 12, 2004. Parry writes:

“On page 42, the UN report states that the Japanese forensic team reported that the van was traced back to Sagamihara City, Japan, where on Oct. 12, 2004, it was stolen. The UN report contains no details about the Japanese investigation of the theft, nor does it indicate what Japanese police may have discovered about the identity of the thieves or how they may have shipped the van from a suburb of Tokyo to the Middle East in the four months before the Hariri attack…

“Investigators might get much closer to the truth if they could determine what happened to the van between the moment it disappeared off the streets of a Japanese city and reappeared almost four months later, rolling toward Rafiq Hariri’s motorcade.” §

Parry also reported that Mehlis came under intense international pressure to find Syria responsible.

I asked Northfield if he would follow up this evidence to provide some balance to the Globe‘s coverage. After dismissing Der Spiegel, he said he was obliged to investigate all information. I wonder.

In the Oct. 26 edition, we are treated to this story by Middle East stenographer Mark McKinnon: “UN team in Syria faces threats–”Investigators looking into Hariri’s death are at risk, author of damning report says.”

Damning report? That’s begging the question, isn’t it? Beyond its dubious content, the article even states that this interim report suggested the murder was likely planned in Damascus, with the complicity of senior figures in the Syrian regime. Yet the report’s accuracy is blindly accepted.

As I wrote on March 17, a more credible theory is that Hariri was killed because he opposed the construction of a U.S. air base in the north of Lebanon. Also, the bomb was similar to the one rogue Syrian intelligence agents used in the 2002 car bombing of Lebanese Christian leader Elie Hobeika, who was prepared to testify against Israeli leader Ariel Sharon in a Brussels human rights court.

Get ready for another murderous rampage based upon a pile of definite maybes, fabrication and innuendo, and propped up by a palace press that places the need to frame an Arab régime above honest reporting.

When, not if, the Bush junta is tried for war crimes, I hope more than a few reporters and editors are also in the dock. After all, they make war crimes possible.

Notes:

* Howard Kurtz, “Reporter, Times Are Criticized for Missteps,” Washington Post, Oct. 17, 2005.

–  Joe Strupp, Pro- and Anti-Judy Miller Fallout Grips New York Times Newsroom,” Editor & Publisher, Oct. 18, 2005.

§ Robert Parry, The Dangerously Incomplete Hariri Report, Oct. 23, 2005. (http://www.consortiumnews.com/2005/102205.html)

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