o I read disgraced former New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s new book, The Story. It’s awesome! She’s really not kidding about a comeback. It might be the weirdest episode in journalism since “Kenneth, What Is the Frequency?”
I’d say this will be a no-holds-barred review, but I promised myself I wouldn’t compare this book to Mein Kampf for at least 500 words. So it’s not completely without restrictions.
Miller was renowned as a Times national-security reporter prior to 9/11, achieved stardom as the face of the pro-war propaganda effort prior to the Iraq invasion, and then became a household name all over the world once it was discovered she’d made the most impactful mistake the media business had ever seen.
She is most infamous for a piece she co-wrote with Michael Gordon in September of 2002. In “U.S. says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts,” she confidently reported that “Iraq … has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.” This same story described a 14-month campaign on the part of Saddam Hussein to buy “aluminum tubes,” which the U.S. “believed” were needed to enrich uranium.
After this piece was published, Bush administration officials like Dick Cheney and Condi Rice held up this story as evidence confirming what they were saying about Iraq’s weapons capability. This was the ultimate in snake-eating-its-own-tail propaganda. The Bush administration, open about being in the reality-creating business, created a reality about WMDs by running a bogus tale through the New York Times wash cycle.
Judith Miller was the plod picked for this mission of regurgitating the invented WMD story to the American public. She was the perfect mark: an outspoken zealot on the issue of a possible terrorist attack who was, moreover, well-known in the journalism community for being a hyper-ambitious byline-hogger who would gladly bulldoze her own colleagues for a story.