Tuesday, July 17, 2007

LAT, NYT Timid On Both Mahony And Iraq

The weaknesses of both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times are evident this morning in their failures to call editorially for the resignation of Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony in the wake of the $660 million settlement the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has entered into with 508 victims of pedophile priests.

Since Mahony stonewalled the justice system for four years and only yielded when it became evident that he would have to testify in open court as to his derelictions in failing to deal with the pedophiles, of course, he should resign. The Archdiocese cannot move on, justice will not be perceived as having been done, until he does.

But neither paper can summon up the courage to call for it this morning. No wonder, both papers' circulation is sliding. The L.A. Times has plenty of news coverage, and there is a moderately good Steve Lopez column, which clearly assigns Mahony culpability, but stops just short of calling for his resignation. There is a failure here to reach the inevitable conclusion: For the good of the Archdiocese and the honor of the Catholic Church, Mahony must go.

We see the same kind of failures with the unfolding debate on the Iraq war. Neither paper has realistically tried to speak about the consequences should the United States withdraw its military forces from Iraq. Both papers have followed those in the Democratic party who call for what would be tantamount to a surrender in Iraq, such as the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, who is willing to sell out American interests for transitory political advantage. Both papers are so blinded by their dislike of President George W. Bush that they cannot give him credit at all for trying to follow America's best interests as he understands them.

The New York Times in particular has been pursuing the foolhardy argument, incidentally, that Al-Qaeda is not the principal enemy in Iraq. This is similar to the contention of so many liberal intellectuals during the Vietnam war that there were serious distinctions between the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong in the Vietnam situation, and that these could somehow be exploited by us if only we were more understanding of Viet Cong aspirations. In fact, as soon as the U.S. gave up in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese came marching into Saigon, and it became manifest that there was absolutely no Viet Cong independent of the North Vietnamese. On the very first day of their control, the name of Saigon was changed to Ho Chi Minh City.

For the New York Times and others to assert that Al Qaeda in Iraq is not fundamentally the same organization as the Al Qaeda now based in the northwestern border districts of Pakistan is the height of folly. (Also adhering to this argument is the dovish Time magazine columnist, Joe Klein, always free with accusations that Mr. Bush is lying to the American people about the nature of the insurgency in Iraq).

But not withstanding these fulminations, it should be absolutely clear to anyone who really thinks about it that an American withdrawal from Iraq would be perceived throughout the world as a victory for Al Qaeda, and that this would have major adverse effects on the whole Western position in the Middle East, and very possibly open Europe and America to new Al Qaeda attacks.

A National Intelligence Estimate out this morning concludes there is indeed such a danger.

"We assess that Al-Qaeda will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland (the U.S.) through its cooperation with regional terrorist groups," the Estimate says. "Of note, we assess that Al-Qaeda will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have exposed a desire to attack the Homeland."

And there is this chilling conclusion in the Estimate: "We assess that Al-Qaeda will continue to acquire and employ chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons in attacks and would not hesitate to use them if it develops what it deems is sufficient capability."

The fact that intelligence agencies weren't right about Saddam Hussein having such capabilities at the time the second Iraq war began does not mean there is every likelihood they aren't right now.

Yes, there are other groups fighting U.S. and British soldiers in Iraq. But the really gruesome attacks, the bombings in markets and Mosques, the killing of journalists and innocent school children, are mainly the work of Al-Qaeda. Even the dangerous Shiite militias are not as culpable.

Both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times are giving themselves to all sorts of complacent attitudes about the dangers that confront us. And Time magazine is doing no better. Posted on Time.com this morning, and in the magazine as well, is coverage of the battle at Islamabad's Red Mosque last week that is perhaps a little too sympathetic to the terrorists, reminding one of that magazine's recent suggestion that we "reach out" to Hamas.

The newspapers this morning could not even summon up the courage to call for something as easily understandable as the need for Cardinal Mahony to resign. Can they summon up the courage to think realistically about the options in Iraq? Can Time magazine?

I don't think so, and have to say, no wonder there's so much distrust of the mainstream press, when we cannot count on it to come to firm and realistic conclusions.

--

Jeff Wald has stepped down as News Director at KTLA, the Tribune-owned Channel Five. He had a long tenure, but certainly has been disappointed for some time at some of the policies of the Tribune ownership. Even before 2004, when I retired from the L.A. Times, Wald expressed to me his disillusion with Tribune.

The death of his wife undoubtedly influenced Wald's decision, since he felt he should be devoting more time to raising his teenage daughter and caring for his elderly father. He was a competent manager and will be missed.

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