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April 7, 2006
WaPo Editorial Board A Little Slow

One has to wonder about the timing of the editorial in today's Washington Post regarding Saddam Hussein's admission of ordering the deaths of 148 Dujail residents after the failed assassination attempt on his life. The Post's editors rightly note the significance of this revelation, but appear to have discovered it from a magazine in the lobby of their dentist's office:

THE TRIAL of Saddam Hussein achieved a rare and important moment of accountability this week. The former Iraqi leader acknowledged that he ordered the deaths of 148 civilians from the town of Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt against him there. "That is one of the duties of the president," he testified under cross-examination. ...

Still, it is no small thing when a former dictator in the dock looks the world in the face and does not pretend that his crimes did not happen, merely that he had the lawful power to commit them. It clarifies history against those who would later deny it. It assigns responsibility where it properly belongs.

I agree with everything written here by the Post. This trial has incredible historical significance, and having forced a genocidal tyrant to admit to approving the deaths of 148 people as casually as signing a requisition for office supplies -- he agreed that he only gave the execution orders a "cursory" review -- strips Saddam of any pretense of normal governorship of Iraq.

That's why the paltry coverage of this trial and the actual evidence and testimony constitutes such a crime against history. The failure of the American media to cover this trial properly will stain their establishment for decades. It is the triumph of the tabloid impulse over responsible journalism. As the Media Research Center points out and as I wrote yesterday in the Daily Standard, they have played an integral role in Saddam's trial strategy by focusing on his outbursts, his taste in snacks, and handwringing over the fairness of the trial rather than on the victims of his brutal dictatorship, literally a reign of terror. It threatens to bury Saddam's crimes while turning him into a media personality.

How badly does this coverage distort the facts? The editorial itself provides an answer to that, as Saddam did not first admit to ordering the Dujail executions this week, but more than a month ago. As Reuters reported on March 15th, Saddam had admitted ordering the trials of the 148 and called the death sentences perfectly legal, challenging the court by asking, "Where is the crime?" This week's testimony only clarified his role in the executions, but the admission of the crime is old news. Even the Big Three network broadcasts managed to get that much right, even if CBS only gave it 18 seconds of air time and NBC seven seconds.

The Post's editorial board normally does better work than this. Perhaps they should touch base with their news division and ensure that their reporting on the trial focuses more on the facts and less on the histrionics from now on.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 7, 2006 6:08 AM

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