Joe Conason's Journal

Bush media blitz overshadows what Blix really said. Plus: Why are "heartland" newspapers more skeptical of war than big city ones?


Salon Staff
January 31, 2003 11:35PM (UTC)

Blix nixes Bush tricks
Pro-war conservatives (and pro-war liberals) who denounce the New York Times for antiwar news slanting should take a long look at today's paper. The Times editors placed the paper's exclusive interview with Hans Blix -- in which he takes issue with Bush administration statements about his Jan. 27 report -- on Page A10 instead of Page 1 where it belongs.

The chief inspector's desire to restate his views is understandable because the White House, the State Department and the proponents of war in the media have so persistently misstated his findings for their own ends. (On Wednesday evening, for instance, I appeared on "Hardball" with former Republican congressmen Joe Scarborough and Bob Dornan, both of whom pretended that Blix had proved the existence of forbidden weapons in Iraq and made an argument for unilateral war. The kinder interpretation is that neither of them actually read his report, but depended on the right-wing media for their impressions.)

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Blix denies there is any proof of Iraqi officials "hiding and moving illicit materials ... to prevent their discovery" and said his inspectors had reported no such incidents. He has not "seen convincing evidence that Iraq was sending weapons scientists to Syria, Jordan or any other country to prevent them from being interviewed" or that "Iraqi agents were posing as scientists." He also said he "had seen no persuasive indications of Iraqi ties to al-Qaida," and "challenged President Bush's argument that military action is needed to avoid the risk of a Sept. 11-style attack by terrorists wielding nuclear, biological or chemical weapons."

Blix knows far more about what is actually going on in Iraq than romantic hawks or naive peaceniks. Unlike them, he is focused on real problems and realistic outcomes. And unlike the administration officials who have tried to misuse his findings, he has no predisposition to wage war.

"I think it would be terrible if this comes to an end by armed force, and I wish for this process of disarmament through the peaceful avenue of inspections," he told Judith Miller and Julia Preston. "But I also know that diplomacy needs to be backed by force sometimes, and inspections need to be backed by pressure."

Skeptics in the heartland
Out there in what this president likes to call "the heartland," meanwhile, there is rising concern about his inexplicable (and unexplained) eagerness for war. According to Editor & Publisher, those doubts are increasingly expressed in newspaper editorials as well as public opinion polls. Outside New York City and Washington -- where the editorial boards of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and the Washington Post are impatient for those missiles to rain down on Baghdad -- the nation's newspaper editors aren't so sure this is a brilliant idea. After surveying 37 of America's top 50 newspapers during January, E&P discovered deep skepticism in some unexpected places. Only seven favor a "fast-track invasion," while two-thirds of the top papers want the Bush administration to "give UN weapons inspections a real chance to work before ordering military action." According to the E&P survey, editorial pressure for war "largely springs from papers in and around the nation's largest cities, while those supporting a wait-and-see policy originate from all parts of the country.

Although the moderate perspective of most editorial boards may not be considered antiwar, E&P notes that "something strange is going on when The Orange County Register ... strikes a more dovish pose than The Boston Globe."
[9:44 a.m. PST, Jan. 31, 2003]

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