A New York Times article uncritically reported White House press secretary Tony Snow's assertion that it is “preposterous” to suggest that the verdict in the trial of Saddam Hussein “was timed to coincide with this week's elections in the United States,” despite the U.S. government's heavy influence on the tribunal that tried Saddam and the Bush administration's history of reportedly timing Iraq- or terrorism-related actions to the U.S. political calendar.
A November 5 New York Times online article uncritically reported White House press secretary Tony Snow's assertion that it is “preposterous” to suggest that the verdict in the trial of Saddam Hussein -- issued on November 5, two days before U.S. midterm congressional elections -- was timed to coincide with the elections. However, as Media Matters for America has noted, several media outlets -- including the Times -- have reported that the U.S. government has had a heavy influence on the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT), the Iraqi court that tried and has now convicted Saddam Hussein. Moreover, Media Matters has catalogued other instances in which the administration reportedly timed Iraq- or terrorism-related actions to the U.S. political calendar. As Media Matters noted, Snow told CNBC on November 2 that the Saddam Hussein verdict “will be a factor” in the midterm elections.
The Times reported on May 21 that “American influence” on the SICT “has been undeniably pervasive, with about 90 percent of the $145 million in annual costs for the court and associated investigations paid for by the United States Justice Department, and lawyers sent by Washington acting as advisers.” A January 25 Washington Post article reported that U.S. agencies ran the logistics and provided significant amounts of security for Saddam's trial:
The U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Regime Crimes Liaison Office run much of the day-to-day arrangements for the trial. Plainclothes security workers, many of them Americans, and Iraqi soldiers guard the turreted, fortress-like former Baath Party headquarters in the American-held Green Zone where the trial is playing out.
In contrast with the Times' uncritical report of Snow's claim, Media Matters has noted that, in an exchange with host Wolf Blitzer on the October 31 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware said that, although U.S. officials deny that they were involved in the scheduling of the verdict, it is “very, very hard to tell” whether it was timed “to help Republicans in the elections back here in the States.”
From a November 5 New York Times online article by Christine Hauser, headlined “Praising Verdict, Bush Says U.S. Will Stand By Iraq” :
Speaking this morning after the court in Baghdad delivered its televised decision, the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, denied that the Bush administration had manipulated the timing of the verdict to come out two days before the election.
“The idea is preposterous,” he said in an interview on CNN's “Late Edition,” that “somehow we've been scheming and plotting with the Iraqis.”