The NY Times: All the Bad News That’s Fit to Print

On Sunday, the NY Times published and op-ed by 7 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne in which they explained their reservations about the way the War in Iraq is going. An excerpt:

Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.
Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.
We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

Their credibility is obvious and their piece has generated much debate (google and ye shall find). Yet, the most credible response in support of the current effort in Iraq may be from 7 other soldiers who also served there.

Of the almost 3,000 soldiers from the Army’s storied 82nd Airborne Division currently serving in the hottest of Iraqi neighborhoods, seven felt confident enough in their misgivings to sign an opinion piece. They should not be surprised that many of their comrades–including the seven undersigned here–find their work to be misguided.
The 2nd Brigade is responsible for two dangerous areas of Baghdad: Adihamiyah and Sadr City. Airborne troopers there have seen the worst al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army can throw at them and the Iraqi people. But the whole story is that the Iraqis and soldiers in their sector have not yet been fully affected by the surge of troops and operations, which have barely been in place two months.

But I call your attention to the last line of the author bio tag: This Op-Ed was originally submitted to the New York Times, which declined to publish it. (h/t)
What a fine display of editorial responsibility, huh?

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SusanD
SusanD
13 years ago

Wait a minute, they printed the negative view as an Op Ed but declined to print the positive view as an Op Ed? Where’s the balance in that?

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Requiring that editors of newspaper print opposing views from whoever submits them would involve them in an endless cycle that would consume the entire editorial page every day, wouldn’t it?
That, at least, is part of the argument against various forms of the “Fairness Doctine”, which I assume both Marc and SusanD oppose.

SusanD
SusanD
13 years ago

“Requiring that editors of newspaper print opposing views from whoever submits them would involve them in an endless cycle that would consume the entire editorial page every day, wouldn’t it?”
Yes, it would and it does.
For the record, I would not want to see the the Fairness Doctrine reinstated and then extended to newspapers.
Turning an opinion piece into an OpEd is preferential treatment because it confers weight and ensures that it will get far more attention than an lte.
Space constraints per se are not a factor in this case because the NYTimes printed the positive piece as an lte. It would not have taken significantly more space to print it as an OpEd.
This issue (our action in Iraq) is an important one. The NYTimes needed to make both pieces one thing or the other. To handle it this way was unprofessional and, frankly, childish on their part.

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

I always thought that printing a letter to the editor in response to an op-ed or editoral was SOP, and always thought that an editorial board was entitled to make judgements of this kind, or to refuse to publish any response. That’s what the Supreme Court said when it struck down Florida’s “fairness doctrine for newspapers” in Miami Herald v. Tornillo, which conservatives generaly applauded (though I’ll grant a lot of liberals liked it too!).
I guess I was prompted to write by my sense that Marc’s and your dismay is not really over whether the NYT is being “fair and balanced”, but that NYT is not “conferring weight” to your preferred position. Perhaps I am wrong. Do you (both) also agree that Fox, the Wall Street Journal, etc. (or Times itself!) should publish anti-war statements when they publish pro-war statements? Have you ever expressed concern when they did not?

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