"Listen, and verify."
The corresponding old phrase is "Trust, and verify". My deviation is based on two overwhelming factors.
The first is that little with any major significance can be trusted to begin with in modern societies. Our perception of the world is influenced by many artificial, conscious, and subconscious distortions. Politicians lie, "experts" lie, news media lie, and corporations lie: the more important something is, the more they lie, and the longer they lie. We all know that political power corrupts, but so does economic power, which is not realized by many people and ignored by others.
A case in point, the 2003 Iraq War and WMD stuff. The West establishment was hyping Iraqis WMD since 1991. It would constantly bombard the populace with misinformation and instill an image of evil, fear, and urgency. By 2002 and 2003, the brainwashing was so complete that when Dick Cheney proclaimed that Iraq had reconstituted nuclear weapons, most people in the US thought it flowed naturally.
The list goes on and on and on. Every war by the US or the West in recent memories follows the same pattern. Long time demonization, then war in a relatively short notice. If you have any dissent, you are unpatriotic, pro-Hitler, or both.
It is happening again in the Iran discussion right now. It is truly amazing that those liars in the administration, the warmongering Congress, the cheer-leading media, other blood-thirsty, "independent" experts, so many of them, having uttered so much falsehood before, including regarding Iraq, still retain so much credibility to be able to propagate nonsense on TV every day. The whole system is absolutely rotten to its core.
In short, New York Times can not be trusted, except, perhaps, the sports scores. Read it, but remember by default it is propaganda from the system. Verify even the scores from time to time.
The second is that it is easier now than ever to spread misinformation faster and farther but also easier to check something for accuracy. When NYT reported something not in your neighborhood 50 years ago, it was very hard to confirm the accuracy. The best you could do is to read other newspapers, but they are all likely from the same company or source. With the internet it is now simple to check for yourself, if you are diligent and vigilant.
Coming back to the Iraq story. From the beginning you would have been very suspicious about the attention, tone, and coverage by the Western establishment. Countering every single one of the outlandish claims, you would have known, from your own little research, that Iraq's WMD were weak from the start, Iraq was subjected to serious sanctions and inspections, Iraq could not buy the ingredients and equipment, Iraq's original WMD, if not uncovered by the inspectors, would have been useless by 2003. Such information was out there, even in the UN reports, although it never received the same attention as the nonsense and was buried in A25 if ever reported. In fact, stuff like the aluminum tubes, mobile labs, yellow cake, connection to 911, was already debunked even before the war began, yet the officials stuck to their guns, and newspapers continued to print them on A1.
If you have had followed this commandment, you would have been opposed to the war on solid ground in 2002, and are against the impending Iran war by now.
The remaining point is, how do you or what can you verify?
There could be diverse opinions on any subject, but cold facts should be the first and foremost things upon which everything else must be based.
Whether you have WMD can be verified, eventually. But whether you committed genocide or ethic cleansing is mostly an opinion. This is why Clinton got away with his war crime in Kosovo easier than Bush. Again, following years of vilification, Clinton and Blair bombed to stop a modern Hitler or genocide in 1998, or later when it was not, ethic cleansing, or nowadays according to the Western media when neither was no longer verifiable, the so-called "brutal crackdown by the Serbs". The media can change their prints, but dead people do not come back alive. If you followed the news in the Balkans since early 1990s, you would have smelled the fishy miles away. Reports of atrocities contained so much bias and deceptions (how many died, who they were, how they died, when and where they died?) that the overall NATO story could be easily nullified before the war.
The key is to look through the fog and seek out the truth before everything is irreversible. There is little use of saying sorry after the sad facts or re-writing old stories. Countless offenders have got away too easily with their crimes with a simple, meaningless apology, and the societies do not punish them severely enough.
If one questions these wars, then he also must question other common knowledge, the many unquestionables, in the societies. The political systems, the economic structures, laws, histories, the underlying rationales, etc. Not everything will turn out wrong or reversed, but most likely deserve significant modifications for the good of the human race.
Lastly, two more examples of mis-perceptions, both related to World War II. These days when people in the US talk about it or Hitler, the first image that comes to mind is the Holocaust. As terrible as it was, the Holocaust was only part and arguably not the worst part of World War II. You can't say with a straight face that more Russians did not die, or they were less innocent than the Jews because they had a larger population or many were soldiers. This subtlety is fed to the people because it is advantageous from the West's viewpoints to emphasize human rights but de-emphasize wars, which the West is waging a lot now.
Many Chinese also died at the hands of the Japanese from 1931 to 1945. A common number is about 20 million, but if better census numbers were available, like the ones used to "demonstrate" that more than 30 million people "starved" during 1959-1961, the death toll during the war would have been much higher. But most people in China and Japan now only argue about Nanjing massacre in 1937. Did it happen? How many died? 300,000 or fewer? How many were soldiers? Many Japanese, including ministers, governors, congressmen, deny it wholly or in part, some perhaps as a way to skirt the entire issue of World War II. To me, tangling in the Nanjing massacre debate is useless, as it is largely a red herring.
One just needs to remember: Aggressive war is never justified, nor is any resulting death from self defense.