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May 07, 2003

IT'S A HOWELL RAINES FEEDING FRENZY: Stephen F. Hayes is accusing the New York Times of deliberately getting things wrong in its coverage of Iraq.

And Donald Luskin is stalking Paul Krugman -- claiming that Krugman is feeling the heat over errors in his columns (Luskin calls them "lies"), but still blowing smoke. Luskin has lots of quotes and links.

Meanwhile, the Times itself is reporting that the Baghdad looting story was false:

A top British Museum official said yesterday that his Iraqi counterparts told him they had largely emptied display cases at the National Museum in Baghdad months before the start of the Iraq war, storing many of the museum's most precious artifacts in secure "repositories."

The official, John E. Curtis, curator of the Near East Collection at the British Museum, who recently visited Iraq, said Baghdad museum officials had taken the action on the orders of Iraqi government authorities. When looting started, most of the treasures apparently remaining in display halls were those too large or bulky to have been moved for protection, Mr. Curtis said. . . .

Such measures would mirror actions taken in Iraq before the Persian Gulf war in 1991, primarily as a protection against bombing of Baghdad.

Mr. Curtis's remarks may help explain recent reports by both Iraqi officials and American authorities that losses at the National Museum are less extensive than previously feared. For instance, Col. Matthew F. Bogdanos, a Marine reservist who is investigating the looting, said recently that Baghdad museum officials had listed only 25 artifacts as definitely missing.

So this happened in 1991, and nobody bothered to check to see if it had happened again? Why? Because they were too anxious to find a story that would make Rumsfeld look bad? It looks that way to me. There seems to be a bit of smoke-blowing here, too, as the Times now says that an undetermined number of never-cataloged items may have been stolen from the basement.

But we were told that 170,000 priceless antiquities had been looted. (Ken Layne has a nice post here.) Now the number of items considered important enough to catalog is 25. Rand Simberg's earlier prediction that this would turn into another bogus story along "Jenin massacre" lines is looking pretty good.

The Times fired Jayson Blair for plagiarism. But at least plagiarists write things that are probably true.

UPDATE: A reader notes that the Times story I quote above was buried on page 20. No surprise there. Meanwhile Jim Miller notes his early and repeated skepticism of the looting story early on. And, for what it's worth, Jonathan Foreman reports that claims that the Oil Ministry was guarded while the museum was ignored are bogus.

UPDATE: And now it's Maureen Dowd who's being savaged for leaving out some crucial truths.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And don't miss this piece from the Washington City Paper about the NYT's sniper coverage.

Hmm. Scandals, inaccuracies, falling circulation, and declining influence. Sounds like bad news to me. How long can Raines last?