Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Bob Woodward and the War

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Bob Woodward and the War

Article excerpt

Bob Woodward, whose reporting (or lack of) on the White House and WMD in the run-up to the war in Iraq has drawn much criticism, continues to shirk much of the blame. The latest evidence is in an interview this week with the news editor of the Reno (Nev.) News & Review. In it, Woodward's reveals that his attitude about Saddam and WMD was guilty-until-proven-innocent -- and he still largely defends that approach, which helped pave the way for more than five years of war.

In a maddening but revealing exchange, Woodward admits that he felt the evidence for WMD was skimpy but he took the word of his inside sources who said it was adequate. At another point he reveals that he knew there was no "smoking gun," and that there should be one before going to war -- but hey, what more could he do?

Finally, he claims that we couldn't just take Saddam's word that he had no WMD. His questioner points out that we did have weapons inspectors on the ground just before the war, who were finding nothing.

The interviewer, Dennis C. Myers, caught Woodward while he was in town for a scholarship dinner. After chatting about other media-related matters, Myers (a thoughtful fellow who has corresponded with me in the past) asked whether Woodward thought there was less scrutiny of "deception" in Washington by the press than in the past. Woodward replied, "I think there's an awful lot of scrutiny going on. I think there should be more, and I think it should be tougher, but there's a lot."

Myers then dropped a bomb: "It's said fairly commonly in journalism circles that people actually died in Iraq because reporters did not do their jobs. Do you believe that?"

Woodward, not getting it (or pretending not to), replied: "In what way?"

"There were sources out there who could have been tapped to find out about weapons of mass destruction, about things like that, and it didn't happen," Myers explained.

Woodward (according to Myers' transcript): "Well, it did happen and it was really hard and -- [pause]"

Myers: "For example, you guys didn't find what Knight Ridder folks found [about WMD]."

Woodward: "Yes, but if you go back and look at those stories, it's not clear what they had. …

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