Where America's Papers Now Stand on War

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Sun Mar 16 20:01:00 MST 2003

MARCH 14, 2003
Where America's Papers Now Stand on War
The Latest 'E&P' Editorial Survey

By Ari Berman

NEW YORK -- Updated at 11:10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time

At his primetime press conference, President Bush declared that after
weeks of equivocation, it was time for the nations of the world to
stand up and be counted on the question of going to war with Iraq.
One week later, many of those nations still seem undecided, but most
American newspapers, knowing that the time for prevarication has
passed, finally took a clear stand on the issue -- and the latest E&P
survey of the top 50 newspapers' editorial positions continues to
show a slight shift in the dovish direction.

Looking at the papers' most recent editorials from the past week, we
found that 18 newspapers support war now while 24 want to give
diplomacy more time. Seven did not editorialize on the war this week.
The Boston Globe still has not made up its mind.

Of that cautious group of 24, 11 support extending the deadline for
war for a short period, while 13 believe that inspections deserve
much more time.

The press, like the American public, may be divided -- but even so,
it is doubtful that America has ever been poised on the brink of a
major military action with a majority of top newspapers urging
caution and delay.

Perhaps most notable in this regard, the Los Angeles Times and The
Washington Post, previously on the hawkish side, seem to have shifted
course, arguing that diplomacy deserves a few more shots. "Bush and
his advisors bear much responsibility for the impasse that threatens
to wreck the system of collective security that emerged out of World
War II," the L.A. Times said on March 7.

The Post wrote on March 9: "If a few more weeks of diplomacy will
serve to assuage the legitimate concerns of undecided council
members, the effort -- even at this late date -- would be worth

The Boston Globe's editorial stance, meanwhile, remains the only one
that can not be discerned. It is summed up in the title of its March
11 editorial: "Warring impulses." The Globe seemed to place itself
along with "a lot of Americans" in what it called "the muddled
middle" swinging between positions "daily, sometimes hourly... "
before arriving at this conclusion: "There are no right answers yet."

Strongly Dovish

Among the other notable changes, The New York Times, after much
criticism for sending mixed signals, finally took a clear antiwar
stance. "We believe there is a better option involving long-running,
stepped-up weapons inspections," the Times wrote on March 9. "If it
comes down to a question or yes or no to invasion without broad
international support, our answer is no."

In a sharply worded editorial on March 11, The Star-Ledger of Newark,
N.J., agreed with the Times. "This rush to pre-emptive war is not in
keeping with our best traditions," they opined. "Without significant
international support, we will be seen as an arrogant colonial power
in the Muslim world, and we will have a hard time putting together
what we break apart."

The San Francisco Chronicle also emphasized the importance of global
cooperation before war. "Bush's threat to make the United Nations
irrelevant is a reckless and arrogant diplomatic act," they wrote on
March 11. "In the midst of rapid globalization, we need the world
just as much as it needs us."

"Bush says he will respect innocent Iraqi lives, even as his Pentagon
appointees cheerily advertise a strategy of 'shock and awe' intended
to leave Iraq's vital infrastructure blasted and its population
bloody and dazed," the Houston Chronicle said on March 7. "Even
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has wiped the cocky grin off his
face in recognition that there can be no joy in sending U.S. troops
into battle."

The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, in a lengthy and passionate March 9
editorial, said the March 17 war deadline "sounds less like a
deadline than a launch date." The Times claimed that Bush's war would
set a dangerous precedent and risk undermining the broader war
against terrorism.

Other papers espousing similarly skeptical views included The
Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, The Hartford
(Conn.) Courant, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
The Sun of Baltimore, and the Orange County Register in Santa Ana,

See E&P's complete coverage of Iraq and the Press.
Source: Editor & Publisher Online
Ari Berman (aberman at editorandpublisher.com) is a reporter for E&P.

[The full article is available at

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