A bit more silliness

With the tenacity of a pit bull — or, at least, a very angry yorkie — Sullivan continues to try to spin the non-story of the missing words “a bit” into a scandal which undermines the very credibility of that damned newspaper which no longer runs his work. (There doesn’t seem to be a permalink, so you’ll have to scroll down.) (Also, I’m going to let you go there for his links, rather than cutting-and-pasting them all.)

MORE NYT MYSTERY: The incorrect quote from the New York Times story about Lt. General William Wallace is a story that won’t quit. As a quote, it wasn’t a minor deal. Here’s a Google search of its impact – an entire array of media sources perpetuating a quote that was inaccurate. In fact, a whole wave of “quagmire” spin was promoted by the quote. And yet – and here’s the new twist – a few days earlier, a different New York Times story, by Jim Dwyer, got the quote right. Here it is. The same day, the Washington Post got it wrong. So the New York Times, having started out in better shape than its rival, then swerved into inaccuracy.

Sullivan seems to want to convince his readers that the missing “a bit” was a deliberate omission, an attempt to change the meaning of Wallace’s quote to suit the twisted agenda of that damned newspaper which no longer runs his work. As I discussed at excruciating length yesterday, this is dubious logic at best. It’s also demonstrably false, if one bothers to go back and read the original stories to which Sullivan has linked, such as this one (which includes the missing words which are sending our friend from across the pond into such hysterics):

WITH THE 101ST AIRBORNE, in central Iraq, March 27 — The removal of the Iraqi government is likely to take longer than originally thought, Lt. Gen. William Wallace, the commander of the Army forces in the Persian Gulf, said today.

“The enemy we’re fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against, because of these paramilitary forces,” General Wallace said. “We knew they were here, but we did not know how they would fight.”

The general said the bad weather and the obstinate resilience of the Iraqi forces had caused the delay, but did not say how much more time would be required. Before the war, the possibility that Saddam Hussein’s government might collapse as soon as it was attacked was frequently aired in Washington, at the Pentagon but also elsewhere in the administration. Since the war started, President Bush has been careful to emphasize that it will not end soon, and will not be easy.

In discussing a war that would move at a deliberate, rather than a lightning pace, General Wallace was stating aloud what many soldiers have been saying privately. He is the commander of V Corps, which controls all the Army units taking part in the invasion, and he spoke while visiting the base here, known as Forward Operating Base Shell.

Asked whether the fighting of recent days increased the chances of a longer war than forecast by some military planners, General Wallace said, “It’s beginning to look that way.”

So — as those of you with minimal reading comprehension skills will have already noted — the missing two words did not change the meaning of the General’s comments in the slightest. On March 28, he believed that the battle ahead would be more difficult than anticipated. Was he right? I have no idea, and neither do you. Maybe Baghdad is a “house of cards.” Maybe this war will be over in time for dinner tonight, and hand-wringers like your host will be happily proven wrong. But that’s not the point. The point is, the news stories on which Sullivan is so fixated accurately conveyed the concerns of the General at the time they were written. And see, that’s called “journalism.” The job of the journalist in a free society is — at least theoretically — not to report what the government would like us to believe; it is to try to give us some understanding of what is actually happening in the world.