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The New York Times has taken the unusual step of publishing an 1100-word editor’s note today admitting that were substantial problems with its coverage of Iraq and its alleged stockpile of weapons of mass destruction over the past three years.
The editors write "Information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged–or failed to emerge."
The editors goes on to say " The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on "regime change" in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks."
The Times outlined a series of problematic front-page articles. Although many of them were written by Judith Miller, her name is not mentioned in the editor’s note.
The paper has now admitted that it can not independently verify claims in two front page articles in October and November 2001 that Iraq operated a secret camp where Islamic terrorists were trained and produced biological weapons .
The paper also admits it was taken in by the claims of an Iraqi defector who claimed he personally worked on renovating Iraq’s secret biological, chemical and nuclear underground facilities.
The Times also cites problems in a Sept. 8, 2002 front-page article headlined "U.S. Says Hussein Intensified Quest for A-Bomb Parts." The article was published just as the Bush administration was beginning publicly push for the invasion of Iraq.
And the paper highlights one article written after the invasion headlined "Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert." The article, which appeared to justify the US invasion, was based on a single unnamed Iraqi informant who claimed Iraq had sent its weapons of mass of destruction to Syria before the invasion and that he had personal proof that Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda. The Times now admits it never followed up on the veracity of this source or attempted to verify his claims.
While all of the articles cited as problematic by the Times appeared on page one of the paper, today’s editor note appears buried in the paper on page A 10–unlike other major editor notes that have appeared on A 2.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller plan to hold a news conference today to discuss the possibility of another major attack this summer on U.S. soil.
On Tuesday several US officials told reporters an attack could take place as early as this summer. Possible targets cited by officials include the G8 convention summit in Georgia, Fourth of July events and the major political conventions in Boston and New York.
Divisions have begun to emerge between the US and Britain over how much sovereignty Iraq will have after the June 30 handover. On Tuesday British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the new Iraqi government will have "final political control" on military operations. He said "If there’s a political decision as to whether you go into a place like Falluja in a particular way, that has got to be done with the consent of the Iraqi government. That’s what the transfer of sovereignty means."
But that does not appear to be the U.S. plan.
The US has put forth a new United Nations Resolution that mentions the word sovereignty 12 times but it also states that Iraq will have no say over military operations led by the US and its coalition partners.
The text of the resolution reads: "The multinational force shall have authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq."
Secretary of State Colin Powell reiterated this on Tuesday saying "US forces remain under US command and will do what is necessary to protect themselves".
Today diplomats from the 15 Security Council nations plan to meet at the United Nations for informal talks on the resolution.
Members of the Iraqi Governing Council as well as Security Council nations France and Russia have already expressed reservations about the US resolution.
The Arab League ambassador to the United Nations, Yahya Mahmassani said the proposed resolution has too many "loopholes."
He told CNN Tuesday "There is no precise definition for sovereignty, and there is no definition and clarity regarding the relationship between the multinational forces and the interim government. Who exercises the authority? Who has the upper hand?"
According to journalist and editor of the website Empire Notes, Rahul Mahajan, the upper hand will go to the US.
According to Mahajan, the resolution — if passed as written — would transfer legal authority to continue the occupation from the Security Council to the United States. The U.S. would essentially be given a mandate to continue the military occupation indefinitely subject to review only in the Security Council on which the US has a veto.
Mahajan writes "In the future, if the United States decides to scale back its presence and just leave garrisons on several military bases, it will have leverage to exact any kind of 'status of forces' agreement it wants. It will be able to tell any future Iraqi government that its forces have the perpetual right to occupy the country and don’t need the permission of the government."
Meanwhile US and Iraqi officials said Tuesday an Iraqi Shiite nuclear scientist named Hussain al-Shahristani who was jailed by Saddam Hussein has emerged as a leading candidate to become the country’s first prime minister.
In its annual report released today, Amnesty International concludes that the US-led war on terror has produced the most sustained attack on human rights and international law in 50 years. A leader of Amnesty said "The global security agenda promoted by the U.S. administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle. Violating rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad, and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses have damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place."