FFROM TODAY’S SEATTLE TIMES (August 30, 2013) is titled “Obama may go it alone against Syria” (which can be found online as “Obama ready to forge ahead against Syria”) and is reprinted from The New York Times.” In a discussion of US intelligence agencies and the government of Bashar Hafez al-Assad, president of Syria, the article states:
“While the intelligence does not tie Assad directly to the attack, these officials said, the administration said the United States had the evidence and legal justification to carry out a strike aimed at deterring the leader from using such weapons again.” (page A4)
First, the “officials” being quoted are identified in the preceding paragraph as “top officials from the State Department, the Pentagon, and the nation’s intelligence agencies.”
So, if the intelligence does NOT tie Assad in with the attack, why are we planning a strike to “deter” Assad from doing again what we have admitted that we have no evidence that he did in the first place?
Three writers, two proofreaders, and a couple of editors
That is, the first ten words of the sentence tell the reader that Assad did not order the attacks using chemical weapons, while the last ten words tell the reader that he did use such weapons! Politics aside, this is bad writing with two contradictory messages in one sentence.
And this error got past as the three writers on the story’s byline, at least one proofreader and one editor at the NYT, and, I assume, at least one more editor and one more proofreader at The Seattle Times.
Also, the one lengthy sentence would read better as two shorter sentences. Here is that sentence rewritten for clarification and NO contradiction:
“According to government and intelligence officials, the intelligence does not tie Assad directly to the attack. Nonetheless, the administration said the United States had the evidence and legal justification to carry out a strike aimed at deterring the use of such weapons again.”
I bow to Ben Bradlee and his observation that if the restraints of proofreading, fact-checking, and other editorial oversights that are accorded a major book were used on a newspaper, that newspaper would go to print but once a month.
Nonetheless, the boner above is not a minor; it is a statement regarding the reasoning of the Obama administration for the US to commit what most of the world will interpret as yet another act of war in the Middle East.
And don’t worry, world: he didn’t do it!
But don’t worry—we won’t let him do it again . . .
William Strunk Jr’s original edition of The Elements Of Style (1919) was all of fifty-three pages long. In 1959, it was revised and expanded by one of his students, the famous children’s book author E.B. White. It is one of the best selling and most influential grammar and punctuation books ever published. I have used the authors’ names for one of the categories of this site: Strunkandwhiten It! For more information, refer to “On William Strunk and Elements of Style.”
SEO NOTE: he didnt do it!