February 10, 2007
The NY Times returns to pre-Iraq-war "journalism"
Over the past few weeks, The Los Angeles Times has published several detailed and well-documented articles casting serious doubt on the administration's claims that Iran is fueling the Iraqi insurgency with weapons. A couple of months ago, The Washington Post published a very well-researched article reporting that extensive searches by British military brigades in Southern Iraq -- specifically in the areas where such weapons would almost certainly be transported and maintained -- have turned up nothing. It seemed as though the media was treating the war-inflaming claims of Bush officials against Iran much more skeptically, refusing to simply pass along accusations without first conducting an investigation to determine if those claims were true.
But today, The New York Times does precisely the opposite -- it has published a lengthy, prominent front-page article by Michael Gordon that does nothing, literally, but mindlessly recite administration claims about Iran's weapons-supplying activities without the slightest questioning, investigation, or presentation of ample counter-evidence. The entire article is nothing more than one accusatory claim about Iran after the next, all emanating from the mouths of anonymous military and "intelligence officials" without the slightest verified evidence, and Gordon just mindlessly repeats what he has been told in one provocative paragraph after the next.
Start with the headline: Deadliest Bomb in Iraq is Made by Iran, U.S. Says. That is a proposition that is extremely inflammatory -- it suggests that Iranians bear responsibility for attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, even though that is a claim for which almost no evidence has been presented and which is very much in dispute. Why should that be the basis for a prominent headline when Gordon's sole basis for it are the uncorroborated assertions of the Bush administration? The very first paragraph following that headline is the most inflammatory:
The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.
Is that extremely provocative claim even true? Gordon never says, and he does not really appear to care. He is in Pravda Spokesman mode throughout the entire article -- offering himself up as a megaphone for administration assertions without the slightest amount of scrutiny, investigation or opposing views.
What is the basis for the entire article? Gordon summarizes it this way:
The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete.
In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing lethal support to Shiite militants in Iraq.
Every one of Gordon's sources are officials in the Bush administration, and all of them are completely anonymous, so one has no way to assess their interest, perspective, bias, or independence. And Gordon himself does not offer the slightest information to enable the reader to make such determinations, and he himself appears blissfully uninterested in any of that.
This is completely irresponsible journalism. The latest indications, including new revelations over the last few days, lend strong support to the suspicion that the Bush administration is intensifying its preparations for a military confrontation with Iran. The emotional and psychological impact of Gordon's story is glaringly obvious -- if Iranians are purposely supplying Shiite militias with the "most lethal weapon directed against American troops," that obviously will have the effect of heightening anger towards Iranians among Americans and leading them to believe that war against Iran is necessary because they are killing our troops.
Gordon recognizes the high stakes of his story, but naively passes this along:
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for February 10, 2007
Title:The NY Times returns to pre-Iraq-war Journalism