A Marine's Real Story: You Won't Read It in the NYT

Columnist Michelle Malkin hits New York Times reporter James Dao for leaving off a vital part of a quote of a Marine killed in Iraq, a portion that showed how committed the Marine was to the cause of freedom there.

As Malkin describes in a column in the New York Post:

"Last Wednesday, the Times published a 4,624-word opus on American casualties of war in Iraq. '2,000 Dead: As Iraq Tours Stretch On, a Grim Mark,' read the headline. The macabre, Vietnam-evoking piece appeared prominently on page A2. Among those profiled were Marines from the First Battalion of the Fifth Marine Regiment, including Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr."

Malkin quotes the Times: "Another member of the 1/5, Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, rejected a $24,000 bonus to re-enlist. Cpl. Starr believed strongly in the war, his father said, but was tired of the harsh life and nearness of death in Iraq. So he enrolled at Everett Community College near his parents' home in Snohomish, Wash., planning to study psychology after his enlistment ended in August.

"But he died in a firefight in Ramadi on April 30 during his third tour in Iraq. He was 22.

"Sifting through Cpl. Starr's laptop computer after his death, his father found a letter to be delivered to the Marine's girlfriend. 'I kind of predicted this,' Cpl. Starr wrote of his own death. 'A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances.'"

But Malkin soon received information that changed the atmosphere around the Marine's last words: "The paper's excerpt of Cpl. Starr's letter leaves the reader with the distinct impression that this young Marine was darkly resigned to a senseless death. The truth is exactly the opposite. Late last week, I received a letter from Cpl. Starr's uncle, Timothy Lickness. He wanted you to know the rest of the story -- and the parts of Cpl. Starr's letter that the Times failed to include:

"Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

Malkin explains that when a reader questioned Dao on his reporting, the Times reporter lashed back: "Even the portion of his e-mail that I used, the one that you seem so offended by, does not express anti-war sentiment. It does express the fatalism that many soldiers and Marines seem to feel about multiple tours. Have you been to Iraq, Michael? Or to any other war, for that matter? If you have, you should know the anxiety and fear parents, spouses, and troops themselves feel when they deploy to war. And if you haven't, what right do you have to object when papers like The New York Times try to describe that anxiety and fear?"

The military blogger GreyHawk has some more examples of what he considers reprehensible misquoting and selective quoting of soldiers.

In one case from early July noted by TimesWatch, the paper changed an op-ed written by Army reserve office Phil Carter. As the paper corrected itself, Carter "did not say, 'Imagine my surprise the other day when I received orders to report to Fort Campbell, Ky., next Sunday,' nor did he characterize his recent call-up to active duty as the precursor to a 'surprise tour of Iraq.' That language was added by an editor and was to have been removed before the article was published. Because of a production error, it was not. The Times regrets the error."

Now it seems the paper has another one to regret.

For more bias from the New York Times, visit TimesWatch.

Iraq New York Times
Clay Waters's picture