New converts

In Sunday’s New York Times, a couple of one-time Iraq war supporters cut themselves loose from their previous reservations about ending the war.

One was U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic floor leader who voted for the war, was slow to oppose it and even after the 2006 election urged other Democrats not to expect rapid action on ending it. Ten weeks ago, Reid still defended his 2003 vote for the war, calling it a legitimate vote because of the false claims on weapons of mass destruction (and still calling those claims “facts"): “That was an easy vote for me. … If I had those facts, and I didn’t know what I know now, I’d have done the same thing.”

But in a front-page story Sunday, the Times characterized Reid as “seething” and planning to “force a series of votes over the next two weeks on proposals to withdraw troops and limit spending, in an effort to put new pressure on the administration and put Republicans on the record.”

“I think that each time these people vote to continue what’s going on in Iraq it is a bad, bad move for them and a worse move for our country,” Reid told the Times in a comment that could have applied to himself not long ago, adding, “We haven’t done enough.”

Also shifting position in that edition of the Times was the newspaper itself, which aided the Bush drive for war in 2002-2003 by publishing uncritical coverage of the Bush administration’s claims on the reasons for the war. The newspaper later acknowledged that it relied on dubious sources, failed to adequately scrutinize Bush claims, deemphasized contrary information, and inflated the importance of “dire claims” about the danger from Iraq, but it never apologized to the public or survivors of Iraq war casualties. The newspaper said no single reporter was at fault, but most of the articles for which it expressed regret were written or co-written by former Nevada reporter Judith Miller. Nor did it ever back away from the war itself.

But on Sunday, the Times published a 1,721-word editorial calling for an end to the war. After reviewing the mechanics of withdrawing, the impact on the region, the matter of military bases, the human cost, terrorism issues and the future of the civil war, it said, “President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have used demagoguery and fear to quell Americans’ demands for an end to this war. They say withdrawing will create bloodshed and chaos and encourage terrorists. Actually, all of that has already happened—the result of this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war. … We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage—with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading.”