Friday, November 03, 2006

A poorly written paragraph dashes about the blogosphere

"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

Twain might add that a poorly written sentence can dash about with as much speed. There has been a lot of attention paid to this paragraph in the New York Times today:
Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.
As this paragraph is written, it indicates that Saddam Hussein was one year away from a nuclear bomb in 2002. If that is the case, then the New York Times is guilty of burrying an important news item in a long-winded story.

But, this is probably not the case and the Times has made a huge mistake.

The Times paragraph states that experts believe Saddam was one year (or so) from the bomb in 2002 and the 1990s. As far as I know, experts believe that Saddam had a troubling nuclear program in the 1990s -- but the bomb was more of a twinkle in his crazed eyes in the beginning of this century. The narrative also works like this: Cheney and others were so upset at Saddam's program in the early 90s that they no longer believed what the intelligence community, or elements of it, were saying in the prelude to war.

Hopefully the Times will issue a correction. It is too bad that this terribly written paragraph has made its way to the paper of record. Thus passes the glory of the Times.


Blogger Publia said...

Bad news. It appears that the glory of the Times passed away quite a while ago.

Also, apparently the graphic which you show in a couple of posts below was still classified when they printed it. I like your blog because I believe you have the heart of a newsman--they are rapidly passing from the scene and as a result we all lose.

8:53 PM  
Blogger zen said...

Off-topic I know, but I wanted your informed take on this. Could this be in the wings just after the president reaffirmed his support. Or was the statement of support a head fake before the resignations of Dick and Rummy? Think of that as a Monday surprise....and just after Saddam's verdict on Sunday....

11:14 PM  
Blogger Chad said...

The real problem with this story is it admits the documents exist. If Saddam was a year from a nuke in 1992, he was essentially a year from a nuke in 2002. The process doesn't have to be re-invented each time. Once you have a working design it is assembly line work. So assuming that we never invaded and sanctions were lifted - Saddam begins buying the machinery needed to begin research and production again and it's like the program never stopped. (OK granted there will be a little delay as new machinists etc. are trained but all the theorhetical work is mostly complete).

11:24 PM  
Blogger Publia said...

Definately some stuff to look at here:

12:10 PM  

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