he didnt do it! and we won’t let him do it again!

FROM 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?

Writers, proofreaders, and 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 …

 

 

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