Record of the Paper: How the New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy


On May 26, 2004, the New York Times issued an apology for its coverage of Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction. The Times had failed to provide what most readers expect from the US newspaper of record: journalistic accuracy and integrity about important matters of US foreign policy.

But the Times’ coverage of Iraq was worse than they were willing to concede. In fact, for at least the past fifty years the editorial policy of the Times—from its coverage of the 1954 Geneva ...

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On May 26, 2004, the New York Times issued an apology for its coverage of Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction. The Times had failed to provide what most readers expect from the US newspaper of record: journalistic accuracy and integrity about important matters of US foreign policy.

But the Times’ coverage of Iraq was worse than they were willing to concede. In fact, for at least the past fifty years the editorial policy of the Times—from its coverage of the 1954 Geneva Accords on Vietnam to the issue of torture in Abu Ghraib—has failed to incorporate international law into its coverage of US foreign policy. This lapse, as the authors demonstrate, has profound implications for the quality of the Times’ journalism and the function of the press in a country supposedly governed by the rule of law.

In this meticulously researched study, Howard Friel and Richard Falk reveal how the Times has consistently misreported major US foreign policy issues, including the bombing of North Vietnam in response to the Tonkin Gulf and Pleiku incidents in 1964-65, the Reagan administration’s policy toward the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, the 2002 military coup that briefly overthrew Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s elected president, and the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“There could hardly be a more critical issue today than whether the world will be governed by the rule of law or the unilateral resort to force. This closely argued and penetrating study reviews half a century of increasing contempt for law and preference for force from a dual perspective: US government policy, and ‘journalistic malfeasance with far-reaching implications for constitutionalism in the United States and the rule of law for our country and the world’—no exaggeration, as the authors demonstrate in meticulous detail. The Record of the Paper should be read and pondered carefully, and taken as a call for action by concerned citizens.”—Noam Chomsky

“Friel and Falk provide a thorough and convincing analysis of how the New York Times advocated for the Iraq invasion, avoided dissenting views, ignored global opinion and established fact, and dismissed the relevance of international law. Perhaps most importantly, this book frames the shameful coverage of Iraq within the culture of the New York Times, with its consistent endorsement of US foreign policy from Vietnam to Nicaragua, Venezuela to Iraq. Read this book and join the fight for an independent media.”—Amy Goodman

Publishers Weekly
Although the New York Times is often attacked by conservative critics, this meticulous dissection of its foreign policy reporting comes from two international law experts who have more in common with Noam Chomsky than Rush Limbaugh. Friel (Dogs of War: The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page) and Falk (Unlocking the Middle East) use substantial research to argue that the Times has long "ignor[ed] international law when it applies to US foreign policy" and that the paper has willfully "failed to make a serious effort to expose government deception and misconduct." Presenting insightful chapters on coverage of the 1954 Geneva Accords on Vietnam, the Reagan administration's policy toward Nicaragua, the short-lived coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and more, the authors detail how the Times presented official U.S. government policy instead of what the authors would consider a real investigation (and how publication of the Pentagon Papers was the exception to the rule). Regarding more recent incidents, Friel and Falk provocatively argue that the Times's front-page coverage of Iraq's supposed possession of WMDs may have been the result of Iraqi National Congress head Ahmed Chalabi "being paid by the US government to plant stories in the Times." This argument, combined with the other more historical examples, should bring much attention to this skillful work. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
If you were one who, during the Vietnam War, said that the true motto of the New York Times should be "All the news that fits," this book is your vindication. Friel (Hegemony of Realist Ideology) and Falk (Unlocking the Middle East) have produced a meticulously researched and damning indictment of biases in the venerable paper's reportage related to U.S. military operations in Iraq and Vietnam and proxy incursions into Venezuela and Nicaragua. As the authors state in their introduction, "It is our judgment that the United States government has repeatedly violated international law with respect to its war-making over the past half-century." For each of these questionable entanglements, the paper has engaged in a "persistent refusal to consider international law arguments opposing recourse to war and [a] disturbing editorial policy" that precluded-and continues to preclude-considering various ramifications of our foreign policy. Despite its depth of research, this book is accessible to general as well as academic readers. Indeed, the current state of affairs expands the importance of the book far beyond the domain of journalists.-Ari Sigal, Catawba Valley Community Coll., Hickory, NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844675838
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 3/26/2007
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Falk was Professor of International Law Emeritus at Princeton University and since 2002 is Visiting Professor of Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Table of Contents

1 Without facts or law : the US invades Iraq 15
2 The liberal hawks on Iraq : a pretense of sophistication 46
3 Editorial policy and Iraq : a Fortune-500 company positions its product 88
4 A crime against peace : Iraq and the Nuremberg precedent 121
5 The torture overture : human rights, Harvard, and Iraq 151
6 Interventionism and due diligence : overthrowing Venezuela's president 162
7 A dodgy dissent : Nicaragua v. United States at the world court 184
8 The Vietnam syndrome : from the Gulf of Tonkin to Iraq 226
Conclusion : strict scrutiny 251
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2005

    Outstanding study of how US foreign policy is reported

    The New York Times has for the last 50 years refused to consider international law as relevant to US foreign policy. This outstanding book shows how this failure has distorted the Timesf news and views and led to regular acceptance of the US statefs deceptions. The authors show how the Times has consistently echoed the US government. For example, it ignored the 1954 Geneva peace accords, reported as fact President Johnsonfs lies about Vietnamese aggression in the Tonkin Gulf in 1964, backed the illegal US interference in Nicaragua, misreported the 1986 World Courtfs condemnation of this interference, and denied the US role in the coup attempts against Venezuelafs elected President. Recently, the Times endorsed the illegal Bush/Blair aggression against Iraq, a violation of the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of force. In its 70 editorials on Iraq between 11 September 2001 and 21 March 2003, it never mentioned the UN Charter or international law. The Times presented Iraqi possession of WMD as fact, ignoring the IAEAfs 60 reports showing it had destroyed Iraqfs nuclear programme. The Times also ignored the UNMOVIC and IAEA reports that they had inspected eight of the nine suspected WMD sites listed in Blairfs September 2002 dossier, and found no evidence of WMD. The Times failed to note that possession of WMD, even if proven, is not a casus belli. The illegal invasion of Iraq led inevitably to all the other illegalities, the illegal occupation, the killing of more than 100,000 civilians, the illegal detention of 40,000 Iraqis, the systematic abuse and atrocities, the destruction of 70% of Fallujahfs homes. The authors point out that torture thrives where detainees are illegally held in secret without charge or trial, that is, kidnapped. This crime by the US and British leaders led inevitably to breaches of the US Constitution, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment, and of the Geneva Conventions and the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

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