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January 19, 2005
Calling On The Times To Correct Themselves

On the suggestion from CQ reader Zuke, I decided to e-mail my objections about today's editorial from the New York Times on the Condi Rice confirmation hearings. Below is the complete text from my message, with a few formatting changes for better effect on the blog.

Dear Mr. Okrent,

In keeping with your effort to ensure that the editorial pages of the New York Times goes through proper fact-checking, I wish to direct your attention to today's unsigned editorial on the confirmation hearings for Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Your editorial board appears to compound a serious misstatement of fact by Senator Joseph Biden in yesterday's hearing regarding the level of trained Iraqi security forces:

Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware, asked Ms. Rice how big an Iraqi security force had actually been trained. When Ms. Rice, the national security adviser, offered an absurdly inflated 120,000, Mr. Biden said the people doing the training put the total at 4,000. He then suggested that Ms. Rice "pick up the phone or go see these folks," as if that has not been her job all along, especially in the year since the administration said that all information on operations in Iraq would flow through her.

And yet last month, the Washington Post reported that tens of thousands had been trained already. Walter Pincus, no fan of the Bush administration, wrote this on December 22nd:

According to figures provided by the Pentagon, the number of trained Iraqi army and police units is far below the number required. For example, as of Dec. 6, the Pentagon reported that 27,000 trained army troops were needed but that only 3,428 were listed as "trained/on hand." The figures showed that 135,000 police officers were required but that only 50,798 were "trained/on hand."

The Iraqi National Guard, which provides security forces to protect buildings and other key facilities, had a better ratio, with 40,115 troops considered "trained/on hand" of the required force of 62,000.

Those total up to 94,341 security troops trained and on hand -- a far cry from 4,000, and that data is at least a month old now. Senator Biden and the New York Times editorial board failed to do sufficient research on this topic and inadvertently passed along a ludicrously low number in order to play "gotcha" with Dr. Rice. Prior to implying that Dr. Rice is incompetent or untruthful, one would expect a news organization to do its homework. The result now implies that the New York Times is the organization that needs to worry about its competence and its truthfulness.

I hope to see a retraction and an apology from the editorial board to its readers. Thank you for your time.

As always, I will update you with any response. Do you think this will result in a retraction or a correction? Let me know in the comments.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 19, 2005 10:00 AM

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