Friday, October 29, 2004

Response to Chicago Tribune Editorial

CNB is not normally in the business of writing letters to the editor. However, the normally venerable Chicago Tribune has seen fit to unleash another one of its half-reasoned editorials. You may recall the CNB taking issue with the Tribune's endorsement of Pres. Bush, not for its conclusion, but for its lack of independent analysis of the candidates. It was merely a recital of Bush campaign rhetoric, which is of no use to readers of the Tribune.

Today, the Tribune provided another editorial today on the Duelfer report (see the prior CNB post) that was just as poorly thought-out. CNB has no bones with the Tribune being conservative, but telling readers that the report "makes ideal reading for any voter's election eve" while providing an incomplete analysis (that shows you did not fully read it yourself) is irresponsible and lazy. Those are not qualities you'd think a major paper would seek in its editorial board. Below you will find the CNB letter to the editor.

The Tribune Editorial Board has done it again. I believed their recent endorsement of President Bush was impossible to equal, with its intellectually lazy rehash of the Bush campaign talking points (endorse whomever you want, but use your own logic, not theirs). However, the editorial today, concerning the report recently issued by the Iraq Survey Group that was headed by Charles A. Duelfer, did just that. Despite its quasi-challenge to voters to "consider" the Duelfer report before voting, this editorial failed to show that it had done so, instead focusing upon certain portions of this complex report while completely ignoring others. In doing so, the Editorial Board fails to achieve the public service of fully informing the public, for which this editorial was clearly aimed.

The Board points out that Hussein aimed to become a nuclear power, and sought to begin a WMD program if UN sanctions were lifted. The editorial further notes a recent op-ed piece by an Iraqi scientist claiming that Hussein would have been able to get a nuclear program up and running in a three-year time period.

Unfortunately, the editorial ignores critical portions of the Duelfer report: "The former regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam." The report went on to state that the investigation "uncovered no indication that Iraq had resumed fissile material or nuclear weapons research and development activities since 1991." This conflicts with the Editorial Board's citation of the Iraqi scientist, which would seemingly prompt further analysis. Alas, no such comparative discussion was provided by this editorial. Nor does the editorial note that, as stated in the Key Findings of the Duelfer Report, "Iran was the pre-eminent motivator" of Hussien's desire to develop WMD.

In short, this editorial placed more emphasis on the portions of the Duelfer report concerning the desires of Hussein as opposed to his actual ability to bring those desires to fruition, or what threat this actually proved to the United States.

A fair reading of the Duelfer report neither fully maligns nor exonerates the arguments for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, this letter is neither offered to dispute the reasoning provided by the Bush Administration for the invasion of Iraq, nor to dispute the unmistakable ideological viewpoint of the Editorial Board. This letter is merely an attempt to ensure that the Tribune Editorial Board actually uses the skills of journalistic investigation and thorough analysis that one would expect of such a prominent newspaper. This would seem to be a priority, especially when the Editorial Board goes to such lengths as to suggest that the subject of its editorial, the Duelfer Report, is "ideal reading for any voter's election eve." It certainly seems that the Editorial Board should take its own advice -- read the entire report.

Again, I believe that the Editorial Board may endorse any candidate or viewpoint it chooses. However, before sending that final version to the printers, they may wish to proofread it first.