Joe Conason’s Journal

Will the Times right itself? Plus: Defending (believe it or not) Paul Wolfowitz.


Raines drops
Walking into my favorite saloon the night before last, I ran into an old friend (and superb reporter) who works on the New York Times metro desk. Everyone at the paper believes Raines and Boyd have to go, he said disconsolately. Now that hope has been fulfilled, presumably to the great relief of the staff of the world’s most important newspaper. I wish both paper and staff well, but I have to wonder whether Joseph Lelyveld, appointed as the interim executive editor, will be any great improvement. As editorial page editor, Raines bore a great responsibility for the Times’ errors and excesses during the Clinton era, from Whitewater to Wen Ho Lee, yet Lelyveld carries just as much baggage with the same labels. Sometimes he seems thoughtful about that troubled era; other times, far less so.

The right has gleefully torched Raines without ever acknowledging that he served as its most reliable “liberal” ally throughout the scandal years, up to the moment of impeachment. Presumably he’ll explain it all in his memoirs.

Wolfowitz’s nonconfession
Did Paul Wolfowitz actually confess that the Iraq war was all about oil? No, he didn’t — despite the excited circulation by his critics of a damning “quotation” from him on the Internet and elsewhere. (Within the past 24 hours, dozens of messages about this story have arrived in my mailbox.) The bogus report emanated from yesterday’s Guardian, which in turn cited stories from the German press about remarks made by the deputy defense secretary last weekend at a security conference in Singapore.

Evidently, the translation from English to German and back into English seriously distorted his answer to a question from a German journalist. The reporter asked Wolfowitz to explain the Bush administration’s different approaches to North Korea, which probably has nuclear weapons, and Iraq, which certainly didn’t.

According to the Guardian article he replied: “Let’s look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil.” A damning admission, except that isn’t what he said. Here’s the accurate quote, according to the Defense Department transcript of the Singapore press conference (scroll down about halfway):

“Look, the primarily difference — to put it a little too simply — between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that, I believe, is a major point of leverage, whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq. The problems in both cases have some similarities but the solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances, which are very different.”

(The link to the Guardian story no longer works, but the original story can still be read here.)

I have no doubt that the editors of the Guardian will correct the Wolfowitz story shortly, if they haven’t done so already by the time you read this. Speaking of Guardian corrections, I must also report that the venerable London daily posted the following correction today concerning an article I recently linked:

“In our front page lead on May 31 headlined ‘Straw, Powell had serious doubts over their Iraqi weapons claims,’ we said that the foreign secretary Jack Straw and his US counterpart Colin Powell had met at the Waldorf Hotel in New York shortly before Mr. Powell addressed the United Nations on February 5. Mr. Straw has now made it clear that no such meeting took place. The Guardian accepts that and apologises for suggesting it did.”

None of this means that Powell, Straw or the Pentagon told the whole truth about Iraq’s alleged arsenal, of course — or that oil didn’t play an important part in the broader strategic calculations of the Pentagon hawks.
[10:12 a.m. PDT, June 5, 2003]

For your regular Joe, bookmark this link. To send an e-mail, click here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>