NYT’s “On the Wrong Side”


When editorials for large media companies like the New York Times castigate foreign countries for their “distressing willingness to side with the region’s most repressive regimes” it should sound the alarm that the media outlet is hardly an objective news source with any journalistic credibility, and is being little more than a public relations appendage for the government. Especially when the same paper fails to censure its own country for the same behavior.

This is precisely what was carried out today by the NYT’s Andrew Rosenthal, who oversees the papers editorials, in “On the Wrong Side.”

The editorial excoriates the government of Iraq for siding with Iran and Syria in regional affairs. That Baghdad is not on our “side,” but are actively opposing Washington’s attempts to carry out regime change and further augment its power and influence in the region, is deeply “distressing” to the New York Times.

By what measure Rosenthal comes to the conclusion that Iran and Syria are “the region’s most repressive regimes” is not revealed. How the two surpass Saudi Arabia or Israel is a question that the “paper of record” fails to ask. There is certainly no attempt to show that their behavior is more criminal than Washington’s own behavior in the region and elsewhere around the world.

When compared to other countries Syria is hardly one of the most oppressive regimes. That the U.S. and its regional allies—particularly Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan—helped support and direct the armed uprising only exacerbated the current violence. It would be a stretch of the imagination if Russia and China were to carry out similar actions in America, and then blame the American government for the violence.

We are told of how “the United States has accused Iraq of allowing Iran to fly weapons through its airspace to Syria.” But there is no comment about the weapons being supplied to the rebels, which are also coming through Iraq.

The complaint is rendered dubious and moot when considering Washington’s recent arms deals with Saudi Arabia totaling $33.4 billion—probably the most oppressive regime in the region next to Israel, who we shouldn’t forget receives considerable military support from Uncle Sam. In the spring of 2009 it was Amnesty International who expressed deep concerns at how the “US was by far the largest supplier of weapons to Israel between 2004 and 2008,” and that the “US government is also due to provide $30 billion in military aid to Israel, despite the blatant misuse of weaponry and munitions in Gaza and Lebanon by the Israel Defence Forces” in the aftermath of Israel’s serious war crimes committed in the Gaza War.

And then there is the fact that Washington brought in tons of weapons through the territories of other countries while attacking Iraq (or as it is still attacking Afghanistan).

Rosenthal ends the editorial with imperial grandstanding:

Iraqis have a chance to build a new democratic system based on the rule of law and respect for all citizens. It would be morally wrong and hypocritical if Iraqi leaders, who were so long oppressed by Saddam Hussein, kept working against Syrians as they struggle to overthrow their tyrant.

It’s worth remembering, before discussing democracy and morality, that it was Washington who long opposed democracy in Iraq by helping bring the Ba’ath Party to power, and by supporting Saddam Hussein for decades, through the worst of his crimes. Even the Defense Department, in a round about way, admits as much. We might inquire into what it says about the criminality of Saddam Hussein when he was only so brave when receiving Uncle Sam’s blessings?

Through U.S. diplomatic cables we can learn that in the late-1960s both London and Washington found Hussein to be a “presentable young man.” In the same year the British also noted his “emergence into the limelight” and that “if only one could see more of him, it would be possible to do business.” But, maybe more revealing was a 1975 State Department memo in which Saddam Hussein was described as a “rather remarkable person” and “ruthless,” to which Henry Kissinger’s response was: “That was to be expected anyway when they cleared the Kurdish thing.” Well, that “Kurdish thing” was a brutal oppression of the Kurds. As a side note we should draw attention to someones attendance at this meeting, someone who would be the future American king of Iraq: Paul Bremer.

And it was in the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War that Washington kept Saddam in power to block the emergence of a government that might not do our bidding. Who can forget the NYT’s classic 1991 article by columnist Thomas Friedman, “A Rising Sense That Iraq’s Hussein Must Go,” explaining this dynamic? Friedman wrote that the war was “fought to restore the status quo” because ”before Mr. Hussein invaded Kuwait he was a pillar of the gulf balance of power and status quo preferred by Washington.” What Washington wanted was “an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein,” but when that was obviously not going to happen, the U.S. allowed Saddam to mow down those rising up against him. We might notice that this is listed above in Saddam’s worst crimes.

Following the Gulf War, Washington imposed genocidal sanctions on the country, slowly killing hundreds of thousands of people, which was found to be “worth it” by leading American officials, in order to have the government disarmed and defanged before invading it in 2003. Of course this war created millions of refugees, and killed more than one million people.

And after this bloody liberation it was Washington who initially opposed calls for elections.

It was Washington who, after a new government was formed, held on to Iraqi intelligence files out of fear the new government would share information with its Iranian allies.

It was Washington’s military who established “ministry advisory teams” to guide the government under occupation through establishing its new economic and political policies.

It was Washington who put pressure on the Iraqi government to cancel a 2009 referendum on early withdrawal.

It was Washington who was kicked out of Iraq when the latter refused to accept the formers demands for immunity.

And it was after Washington left that official documents pertaining to the massacre committed by U.S. troops in Haditha were found, and in which one soldier said he didn’t find the massacre “remarkable” because those kinds of incidents “happened all the time.”

The notion impregnated in the NYT editorial, that Washington has given Iraq “a chance to build a new democratic system based on the rule of law and respect for all citizens,” is a load of bull. As is the Times’ supposed concern for morality. A country that brings to power dictators, like Saddam Hussein, and arms them through the worst of their reign before carrying out collective punishment in order to demoralize the country to the point that Washington feels it can effectively invade and occupy the oil-rich country has no credibility whatsoever when it comes to discussing democracy and morality. And the same goes for a newspaper that, through it all, has helped facilitate such behavior—let’s not forget how despicable the New York Times coverage was in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War (i.e. Judy Miller), and which it eventually felt compelled to publish a mea culpa for. 

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