Fast and Loose With the Facts

By
Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 3:11 pm
President George W. Bush (WDCpix)

President George W. Bush (WDCpix)

“The danger,” said President George W. Bush on Sept. 25, 2002, “is that Al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam’s madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world.” He proceeded to build on a lie that finally died last week — but only after nearly 4,000 U.S. troops and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis did as well. “The war on terror,” Bush said, “you can’t distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.”

Only if you’re a liar. For the CIA knew that Saddam Hussein had no ties of any significance to Al Qaeda. Richard A. Clarke, the long-time counterterrorism director at the National Security Council, knew that Saddam Hussein had no ties of any significance to Al Qaeda. Michael Scheuer, the CIA’s original bin Laden analyst, knew that Saddam Hussein had no ties of any significance to Al Qaeda. Eventually, the 9/11 Commission would know that Saddam Hussein had no ties of any significance to Al Qaeda.

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

But by the time the U.S. invaded Iraq, five years ago today, much of the public thought that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were tightly allied to strike the United States. And the public believed this because the Bush administration constantly intimated it in order to launch its long-desired war.

Donald H. Rumsfeld called the evidence linking Saddam and Al Qaeda “bulletproof.” (He would later say, “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two” — and then walk that statement back.) CIA Director George J. Tenet, carrying the administration’s water by misrepresenting what his CIA knew, said there were ties going back a decade. (He meant that they were a decade old.) Vice President Dick Cheney went on “Meet The Press” again and again to say that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an agent of Iraqi intelligence. (In early 2002, the FBI and the CIA debunked this claim.)

But the public also believed it because the press amplified the lie. The major networks and papers uncritically recycled what these administration officials said. The elite media was no exception — and played a major role in convincing less-expert journalists that the administration was on to something. Two writers in particular, though very different, stand out: Jeffrey Goldberg, then of The New Yorker and now of The Atlantic, and Stephen F. Hayes, of the neoconservative Weekly Standard.

Goldberg, in The New Yorker, wrote two pieces — one in March 2002 and the other on the eve of the invasion — backing the Saddam/Al Qaeda claim. Bush praised his work publicly, if inelegantly: “Evidently, there’s a new article in the New York magazine or New Yorker magazine–some East Coast magazine–and it details about [Saddam's] barbaric behavior toward his own people.” Asked about Goldberg by Tim Russert, Cheney called Goldberg’s 2002 piece, which breathlessly recycled the second-hand claims of prisoners of the Kurds that Saddam and bin Laden were allied, “devastating.”

Hayes, in the Standard, has made a career out of pretending Saddam and Al Qaeda were in league to attack the United States. He published a book — tellingly wafer-thin and with large type in its hardcover edition — called “The Connection.” One infamous piece even suggested that Saddam might have aided the 9/11 attack. Hayes can be relied on to provide a farrago of speciousness every time new information emerges refuting his deceptive thesis. Unsurprisingly, Cheney has repeatedly praised Hayes’s work, telling Fox News, “I think Steve Hayes has done an effective job in his article of laying out a lot of those connections.”

The Bush administration will leave office with the legacy of a disastrous and unnecessary war, which threatens to undermine the Republican Party for a second straight election. Bush and Cheney will probably leave office distrusted and loathed by a large majority of the electorate, and if they ever travel to Europe they might even face indictment as war criminals.

By contrast, Goldberg and Hayes have seen their careers flourish. Goldberg traded his New Yorker post for a lucrative spot at The Atlantic. Hayes wrote a lengthy hagiography of Cheney for major New York publisher, HarperCollins. Publicity for the book got him a special spot on “Meet The Press,” befitting his status as a high-profile television pundit who is never treated as the conspiracy theorist he is.

Every single inquiry into the Saddam/Al Qaeda link has revealed it to be untrue. First, in 2004, the 9/11 Commission’s definitive study found “no collaborative operational ties” between the two. (Hayes’ response was first to attack the commission, and then to claim that this was a legalistic way of saying that Saddam and Al Qaeda were actually in league.) Then, in 2006, the Senate intelligence committee rejected it. Then, in 2007, the Pentagon inspector general — albeit in a more circuitous way — rejected it. Now, in a report released last week, the U.S. military’s Joint Forces Command rejects it.

The Joint Forces Command study combed through 600,000 pages of captured documents about Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism throughout the years. It documents, in great detail, precisely that. But the label “terrorism” is a misleading category. The study refutes the idea that there was any “direct connection” between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Saddam’s support for terrorism was largely limited to Palestinian, anti-Kurdish and anti-Gulf state terrorist groups. (See the JFC’s Executive Summary here, another excerpt here and conclusions.)

About as close as anything could come to linking Saddam to Al Qaeda was a memo from one Saddam’s intelligence services “written a decade before Operation Iraqi Freedom.” It says: “In a meeting in the Sudan we agreed to renew our relations with the Islamic Jihad Organization in Egypt.” That organization would eventually merge with Al Qaeda in the late 1990s, long after the apparent meeting in Sudan. It also says that for a time in the mid-1990s, Saddam and Al Qaeda had “indirect cooperation” by offering “training and motivation” to some of the same terror organizations in that country.

Out of this thin gruel, Hayes attempted to make a meal in the Standard’s pages this week. He lifted as many bullet points from the report as he could that, out of context, seemed to bolster his theory. He then went about attacking reporters who accurately wrote that the study found no direct connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Hayes tacitly promised his readers that history will ultimately vindicate him, writing that “as much as we have learned from this impressive collection of documents, it is only a fraction of what we will know in 10, 20 or 50 years.” And he expressed puzzlement that an administration with an obvious credibility problem had not “done anything to promote the study.”

Hayes’s boss, New York Times columnist Bill Kristol, criticized the administration’s silence in an editorial, lamenting that “most Americans will assume there was no real Saddam-terror connection.” The phraseology is telling. Not even Kristol, a supreme propagandist, could bring himself to write of a “real Saddam-Al Qaeda connection,” preferring the sleight-of-hand approach to discussing Saddam’s ties to undifferentiated “terror” groups.

At the risk of belaboring the point, it should be obvious that if Saddam Hussein was as important to Al Qaeda as Hayes has erroneously and deliberately written for years, then Al Qaeda should be reeling years after the destruction of his regime. Instead, according to a mid-2007 warning from the National Counterterrorism Center, Al Qaeda is “Better Positioned to Strike the West.” Never once has Hayes, in all the thousands of words he has written on the “connection,” reckoned with this basic strategic problem. In essence, he asks every U.S. soldier and Marine in Iraq to be the last man to die for a debater’s point.

Goldberg’s approach has been rather different. He has simply kept quiet about what he did. In his March 2002 piece, he credulously recycled the claims of “Kurdish intelligence officials” that a Kurdish terror group called Ansar al-Islam was “shielding Al Qaeda members, and… doing so with the approval of Saddam’s agents.” (In a parody of a concession to reality, he caveated the claim by saying “they have no proof that Ansar al-Islam was ever involved in international terrorism or that Saddam’s agents were involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.”) Never once did he indicate to his readers — The New Yorker has a circulation of more than a million — that the Kurds, sworn enemies of Saddam Hussein, had an obvious motive to peddle lies to American reporters.

A subsequent piece baselessly asserted that “the relationship between bin Laden and Saddam’s regime was brokered in the early nineteen-nineties by the then de-facto leader of Sudan, the pan-Islamist radical Hassan al-Tourabi.” Needless to say, not a single investigation into Iraq or Al Qaeda has ever substantiated what Goldberg wrote.

Goldberg further pimped the assertions of “senior officials” that “an Al Qaeda operative–a native-born Iraqi who goes by the name Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi — was dispatched by bin Laden to ask the Iraqis for help in poison-gas training.” (It’s possible that this piece of information came from Abu Sheikh al-Libi, who was tortured into telling the Bush administration about Saddam giving Al Qaeda chemical and biological weapons training, before subsequently recanting.) And he again wrote of “another possible connection early last year,” gleaned — once again — from “Kurdish intelligence officials.”

Goldberg, perhaps chastened, largely stopped writing about the war after the occupation proved to be a disaster. Unlike Hayes, if he still believes that Saddam and Al Qaeda were indeed in league, he has not publicly said so. His beat at The New Yorker changed from the Iraq war to domestic politics. Yet even then, he could not resist the urge to lionize the architects of the Saddam-Al Qaeda connection. In 2005, he authored a puffy profile of former Pentagon official Douglas J. Feith. (“His glasses magnify his eyes, making him appear owlish, and his mouth is set in an expression of bemusement that can slip into impatient condescension when he hears something that he thinks is foolish, which is often.”)

All the while, he has neglected to correct the record. The closest Goldberg has come to acknowledging what he did in 2002 and 2003 was in an interview with New York magazine to promote a book he published in 2006. When the reporter, Boris Kachka, gently asked about his earlier reporting, Goldberg snapped, “Is that part of the interview? Okay, fine, if you really want to go into it, the specific allegations I raised have never been definitively addressed by the 9/11 Commission.”

Yet Goldberg enjoys a sterling reputation. The Atlantic’s wealthy owner, David Bradley, reportedly sent Goldberg’s children ponies in order to convince the reporter to leave The New Yorker for the prestigious magazine. “He’s incredibly persistent and makes you feel like you’re God’s gift to journalism,” Goldberg said of Bradley. The Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz approvingly referred to Bradley’s pursuit of “top talent.”

But it seems as though, despite Goldberg’s ability to escape accountability for his journalistic malpractice, he can’t help smirking to attentive readers. The cover story of the January/February edition of The Atlantic featured Goldberg’s meditations on the post-Iraq Middle East. It featured, of all things, a discursion into “a decrepit prison in Iraqi Kurdistan” where “a senior interrogator with the Kurdish intelligence service” tortured an Arab prisoner. Goldberg mentioned not a word of what his last dalliance with Kurdish intelligence yielded. To anyone who read his 2002 and 2003 pieces, it appeared that The Atlantic writer was returning to the scene of the crime.

Nearly 4,000 Americans and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and counting, will not have the same opportunity.

Follow Spencer Ackerman on Twitter


Categories & Tags: National Security| Politics|

Comments

20 Comments

anacherforester
Comment posted April 30, 2008 @ 11:08 pm

Goldberg is a second-generation neocon and Hayes is a big time hack. I’ve lost what little remaining respect I had for David Bradley.

-AF
sullyisafraud.blogspot.com


jayb
Comment posted April 30, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

<i>Saddam intended to kill off the Kurds , re-invade Kuwait and use nuclear weapons against Israel if he ever had the chance.</i>
<p>
Assertions such as these, well, are idiotic — especially without a link to back them up in some way.
<p>
<i>If Saddam had gotten free it is very likely that he would have killed more than the were killed by US actions. There are very good arguments against the war , but the moral argument isn


mclaren
Comment posted April 22, 2008 @ 3:52 pm

I think it was quite obvious that Stalin had no significant ties to Hitler. FDR built an entire illegal and immoral war where over 500,000 Americans and untold millions died on the lie that somehow a Stalin-Hitler Pact was dangerous to the United States. With this, he backed up his already-illegal war-for-oil against the Japanese — all with the flag-waving help of a few American journalists.

And that damned George Washington. His fascist little Culper Ring of spies so damagaed the image of the Colonies that it would be centuries before we could crawl out from under the sludge of shame, only to be thrown back under after Al Gore was cheated out of his rightfully won election. Not in my name, G.W!!!!

HALLIBURTON!!!!


mannstein
Comment posted March 29, 2008 @ 4:42 pm

I’m no weapons nor intelligence expert but I do have a smattering of common sense. Not once did I believe that Saddam had nuclear or biological weapons even after that pathetic performance by Colin Powell at the UN. Watching Powell’s body language at the time it was clear that not even he was convinced of the nonsense he was presenting on behalf of the Administration. Unfortunately they used the man’s good reputation to sell their illegal war to the world.

Joshka Fischer then Geramn Foreign Minister didn’t believe it either and told Donald Rumsfeld as much in Munich. But then he represented the Old Europe.

Sadly the scribblers in the Press are regarded to such high degree in the US that they will never be held accountable for the role they played in getting the American people involved in this criminal enterprise.


suryadharma
Comment posted March 24, 2008 @ 11:57 pm

During that other unjust war, also wrapped up in lies; the American public were given a memorable motto to describe a method of its madness: "It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it." Look like the old methods were put in use for called "Shock & Awe". Those who wish to make "a strong case that taking down Saddam saved lives"; a brand new quip may work better: "It is necessary to killed millions in order to take down one."
What makes Bush & his supporters think they can play God? Easy for scribes to play fast and loose with facts when cheer leading for war is a way for them to earn their keep or make profit. Easy for people to mouth that this "war is worth the sacrifice"; when the war has not cost them a loved one; no lost limbs; no mutilated mind. How many mothers will echo these words: "I gave them a good boy, and they turned him into a murderer"?
Five years on…Let’s remind the Iraqis that they owe the Americans showers of flowers for all those tons of ammunition & depleted uranium that were gifted on them.Go tell the Iraqis that the destruction, the misery, the mayhem, and the death are all worthwhile! They should be grateful for the privilege of enjoying this bloody cakewalk firsthand.
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever."
How many Americans carry this Jeffersonian conscience?


carleys
Comment posted March 24, 2008 @ 11:50 pm

Remember the whole crew! NYT, WaPo etc

World Press Freedom Day in the Eyes & Ears of the Beholder

by Trish Schuh May 29, 2007

Arab American News

UNITED NATIONS- On the annual World Press Freedom Day in May, UNESCO hosted an event for journalists called "Press Freedom, Safety of Journalists and Impunity." Under Article 1 of its Constitution, UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom.

United Nations Correspondent Association President Tuyet J. Nguyen spoke about the life-threatening danger faced by journalists covering such war zones as Rwanda and Iraq where the media is controlled by special interests or armed political parties.

Mr. Georges Malbrunot of France’s neocon Le Figaro spoke of newsgathering under various "vicious surveillance" states- all Arab- and starting with Syria. In contrast, Malbrunot’s embedding with American forces in Iraq was "not a bad solution", but opened embeddees to paranoid Arab charges of being "a spy…Its one of the major blames addressed to the foreign press today… Of course this blame is 99.9% wrong, but in the minds of these people who suffer from "conspiracy theory" this accusation is serious" and can cost a journalist his life. "There is alot of work to do to convince these groups that the journalist is not a spy." Malbrunot added that it is the work of Muslim Imams, scholars, leaders etc to persuade their Muslim flock of this fact… "Only then will the fate of the global war against terror be dramatically changed."

This writer asked the panel if journalists themselves could ever be partly responsible for such suspicions? Citing CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who admitted spending his earlier summers working for the CIA: "Doesn’t this kind of moonlighting put other journalists at risk?"

No response from the panel.

Representing half a million media professionals around the world on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists was Judith Matloff, a Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a member of the International News Safety Institute. Professor Matloff implored the international community to uphold UN Security Council Resolution 1738 which prohibits the killing and targeting of media, and protects free speech and freedom of the press globally.

In a followup conversation by telephone on May 25, I asked Prof Matloff for her opinion on how UNSCR 1738 applies to Lebanon’s Al Manar TV and the LMG communications network- Lebanese media outlets bombed by Israel during the 2006 war, and officially censored as a "terrorist organization" by the US Congress? Regarding this unprecedented, landmark free speech/censorship law- Ivy League academic Matloff said she was "unfamiliar with these situations" and refused to comment on "Middle East issues. "I am an Africa specialist".

But wasn’t free speech protected equally around the world under Res 1738? In the Middle East, as well as in Africa? Being a media expert, could she comment on what a law equating the media with "terrorism" could mean for freedom of the press? Concurrent with the repeated bombing of Al Jazeera in Afghanistan and Iraq?

"I never heard of that," Matloff said.

With her credentials- shouldn’t she have been familiar with such momentous "situations"?

Or perhaps she could assess how the MSM’s advocacy of falsehoods promoted an illegal war in Iraq? "The New York Times has apologized," she said, referring to a full page ‘mea culpa ad’. But isn’t the NYT repeating the same misleading tactics to promote a next war in Iran?

With this and similar questions, Matloff responded like a true press "pro": avoiding ethical implications, defending her product- the status quo, and referring most opinons to "other supervisors" or experts. Her refrain of "I don’t know", "don’t remember", "can’t comment" captured the essence of a White House Press Briefing.

As a trainer of America’s next generation of government "privatized propaganda contractors," (tomorrow’s ‘Mercenary Press’) Matloff diverted the subject, passed the buck, and expertly earned her tenure…

On Press Freedom Day I spoke briefly to New York Times correspondent Warren Hoge about the media, Iraq and World Press Freedom Day.

Q: Its World Press Freedom Day and I just wanted to ask if you have any comments about The New York Times and their reporting in the runup to the Iraq War, and if you feel any kind of responsibility?

A: I can’t talk about that- we’ve already said everything about that to be said in the paper, and I really don’t want to add to it. I mean, The New York Times- more than most newspapers- has absolutely admitted what we thought was faulty and what was not. There’s just nothing I can add to that at all. And I certainly don’t want to talk about that on

Press Freedom Day when our thoughts are with Alan Johnston and other journalists that are being killed.

Q: Well my thoughts are also with the Iraqis. There are half a million dead- thanks in part to

your newspaper-

A: Oh come on.

Q: Your newspaper was one of the primary advocates for the war-

A: Oh come on, I can’t talk to you-

Q: Your newspaper was primary- yes it was- Judith Miller got a security clearance from Donald Rumsfeld, sir-

A: The New York Times is not responsible for any dead Iraqis. I won’t listen to that-

Q: None of the other American journalists but Judith Miller from your paper got a security

clearance from the US Defense Secretary himself. How is this different from working for the government?

A: You are are defiling Press Freedom Day- Shut up! This is about Press Freedom, this is not about defiling the Press. We’ve just come back from a demonstration for Alan Johnston for journalists being killed and that’s what this day is about- Press Freedom.

Perhaps BBC World News Editor Jon Williams best summarized the outcome of "shutting up" journalists: "We must not stand by and allow the intimidation of journalists- wherever it happens. If we do, we will pay a heavy price… There will be no eyes or ears telling us what’s going on. We won’t have the insight from those able to make sense of it."

But then, that may be just how the Powers That Be really want it.


carleys
Comment posted March 24, 2008 @ 11:48 pm

this has all been documented for years on the internet, and you missed some of the most important perpetrators…

World Press Freedom Day in the Eyes & Ears of the Beholder

by Trish Schuh May 29, 2007

Arab American News

UNITED NATIONS- On the annual World Press Freedom Day in May, UNESCO hosted an event for journalists called "Press Freedom, Safety of Journalists and Impunity." Under Article 1 of its Constitution, UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom.

United Nations Correspondent Association President Tuyet J. Nguyen spoke about the life-threatening danger faced by journalists covering such war zones as Rwanda and Iraq where the media is controlled by special interests or armed political parties.

Mr. Georges Malbrunot of France’s neocon Le Figaro spoke of newsgathering under various "vicious surveillance" states- all Arab- and starting with Syria. In contrast, Malbrunot’s embedding with American forces in Iraq was "not a bad solution", but opened embeddees to paranoid Arab charges of being "a spy…Its one of the major blames addressed to the foreign press today… Of course this blame is 99.9% wrong, but in the minds of these people who suffer from "conspiracy theory" this accusation is serious" and can cost a journalist his life. "There is alot of work to do to convince these groups that the journalist is not a spy." Malbrunot added that it is the work of Muslim Imams, scholars, leaders etc to persuade their Muslim flock of this fact… "Only then will the fate of the global war against terror be dramatically changed."

This writer asked the panel if journalists themselves could ever be partly responsible for such suspicions? Citing CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who admitted spending his earlier summers working for the CIA: "Doesn’t this kind of moonlighting put other journalists at risk?"

No response from the panel.

Representing half a million media professionals around the world on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists was Judith Matloff, a Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a member of the International News Safety Institute. Professor Matloff implored the international community to uphold UN Security Council Resolution 1738 which prohibits the killing and targeting of media, and protects free speech and freedom of the press globally.

In a followup conversation by telephone on May 25, I asked Prof Matloff for her opinion on how UNSCR 1738 applies to Lebanon’s Al Manar TV and the LMG communications network- Lebanese media outlets bombed by Israel during the 2006 war, and officially censored as a "terrorist organization" by the US Congress? Regarding this unprecedented, landmark free speech/censorship law- Ivy League academic Matloff said she was "unfamiliar with these situations" and refused to comment on "Middle East issues. "I am an Africa specialist".

But wasn’t free speech protected equally around the world under Res 1738? In the Middle East, as well as in Africa? Being a media expert, could she comment on what a law equating the media with "terrorism" could mean for freedom of the press? Concurrent with the repeated bombing of Al Jazeera in Afghanistan and Iraq?

"I never heard of that," Matloff said.

With her credentials- shouldn’t she have been familiar with such momentous "situations"?

Or perhaps she could assess how the MSM’s advocacy of falsehoods promoted an illegal war in Iraq? "The New York Times has apologized," she said, referring to a full page ‘mea culpa ad’. But isn’t the NYT repeating the same misleading tactics to promote a next war in Iran?

With this and similar questions, Matloff responded like a true press "pro": avoiding ethical implications, defending her product- the status quo, and referring most opinons to "other supervisors" or experts. Her refrain of "I don’t know", "don’t remember", "can’t comment" captured the essence of a White House Press Briefing.

As a trainer of America’s next generation of government "privatized propaganda contractors," (tomorrow’s ‘Mercenary Press’) Matloff diverted the subject, passed the buck, and expertly earned her tenure…

On Press Freedom Day I spoke briefly to New York Times correspondent Warren Hoge about the media, Iraq and World Press Freedom Day.

Q: Its World Press Freedom Day and I just wanted to ask if you have any comments about The New York Times and their reporting in the runup to the Iraq War, and if you feel any kind of responsibility?

A: I can’t talk about that- we’ve already said everything about that to be said in the paper, and I really don’t want to add to it. I mean, The New York Times- more than most newspapers- has absolutely admitted what we thought was faulty and what was not. There’s just nothing I can add to that at all. And I certainly don’t want to talk about that on

Press Freedom Day when our thoughts are with Alan Johnston and other journalists that are being killed.

Q: Well my thoughts are also with the Iraqis. There are half a million dead- thanks in part to

your newspaper-

A: Oh come on.

Q: Your newspaper was one of the primary advocates for the war-

A: Oh come on, I can’t talk to you-

Q: Your newspaper was primary- yes it was- Judith Miller got a security clearance from Donald Rumsfeld, sir-

A: The New York Times is not responsible for any dead Iraqis. I won’t listen to that-

Q: None of the other American journalists but Judith Miller from your paper got a security

clearance from the US Defense Secretary himself. How is this different from working for the government?

A: You are are defiling Press Freedom Day- Shut up! This is about Press Freedom, this is not about defiling the Press. We’ve just come back from a demonstration for Alan Johnston for journalists being killed and that’s what this day is about- Press Freedom.

Perhaps BBC World News Editor Jon Williams best summarized the outcome of "shutting up" journalists: "We must not stand by and allow the intimidation of journalists- wherever it happens. If we do, we will pay a heavy price… There will be no eyes or ears telling us what’s going on. We won’t have the insight from those able to make sense of it."

But then, that may be just how the Powers That Be really want it.


jooripgwarhhee
Comment posted March 24, 2008 @ 2:27 am

You make a strong case as usually except for one point. While it is true that many Iraqis had died cause of US actions one can also make a strong case that taking down Saddam saved lives. Saddam intended to kill off the Kurds , re-invade Kuwait and use nuclear weapons against Israel if he ever had the chance

If Saddam had gotten free it is very likely that he would have killed more than the were killed by US actions. There are very good arguments against the war , but the moral argument isn’t one of them.


nellre
Comment posted March 24, 2008 @ 12:36 am

I wonder though, that perhaps the only people who read this stuff are other pundits.

Americans have become remarkably lazy thinkers. If it can’t be said in 30 seconds their eyes glaze over.


stallard
Comment posted March 21, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

Wow.

I remember reading this New Yorker piece, and being quite impressed by it. Up til then I hadn’t taken the idea of a Saddam/Al Qaeda link very seriously, but afterward, I felt I had to reevaluate that position. I took the piece at face value – it seemed so authoritative and so full of inside knowledge.

Yes, journalists and pundits simply must have their track records advertised, and their failures criticized. If you present yourself as an expert that people should take seriously when they form their own opinions, then it is only right that they take your past performance.


jayb
Comment posted March 20, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

This is from a Slate article from 2002 during the rush to war. Johnathan Schwartz had cited this on his Tiny Revolution site in October of 2007:

<i>There is not sufficient space…for me to refute some of the arguments made in Slate over the past week against intervention, arguments made, I have noticed, by people with limited experience in the Middle East (Their lack of experience causes them to reach the naive conclusion that an invasion of Iraq will cause America to be loathed in the Middle East, rather than respected)…</i> <b>gotta love that last part. It should be put on his gravestone</b>
<i>The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.</i>

— Jeffrey Goldberg

It’s hard to not get extraordinarily enraged at this. The condescension toward anti-war critics. The catastrophic wrongness. The smug assumptions.

The amount of things he got wrong in two paragraphs is staggering. And now, nearly <b>six</b> years after he wrote this, he offers a tepid, "who could have guessed" mea culpa in Slate. Nice work Spencer.


drip
Comment posted March 20, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

The conflation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons into the "WMD" category is another example of the intentional disinformation that hayes and Goldberg used to reach their erroneous conclusions. The world was certain (wrong, it turns out, but certain) that Saddam had chemical weapons. The world was certain because the US gave him the weapons and watched as he used them with our blessing on Iranians. By claiming that Saddam had WMD rather than nuclear weapons, the administration could claim the threat of WMD was known by "everyone" and if there were no nuclear weapons found, well, they were still truthful in that there were chemical weapons. Except there weren’t and the lie is revealed. No one in the newspapers I read at the time made mention of any of this, there was just the constant regurgitation of the administrations claims without any evaluation of their plausibility.

Great work on this, please stay with it. And turn "Latest Disgrace" up to 11.


jrarris
Comment posted March 20, 2008 @ 1:03 pm

Excellent, excellent work. It takes courage to reveal the mendacity of those in your own profession (just ask any cop) particularly in the insular world of journalism. I know, I used to be a reporter, and watched in alarm as the little American flags began to spring up all around my newsroom in the run up to the invasion of Iraq. I also remember reading the AP wire, the LA Times, The NY Times, and The Post every day and being astounded that a single quote from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, or Powell would often serve as the front page headline ("Saddam a Grave Threat," etc) and that the article under that headline would quote ONLY administration sources with no dissenting voices allowed. It was like reading Pravda. Day after day after day.

The reporters responsible for selling this war have never had to pay any kind of professional price for their horrendous misconduct. The fact that Mr. Ackerman is willing to shine a light on some of their misdeeds, warms my heart.


spencer_ackerman
Comment posted March 20, 2008 @ 8:22 am

That it does. Jeff Goldberg Representing Universal Love Eternally’s Slate piece went up as my piece was going through edits, and I didn’t see it until late last night. I’m blogging it now. As I read it I thought of that Fugazi song, "Latest Disgrace."


golestan
Comment posted March 20, 2008 @ 2:40 am

It seems that the article needs to be updated: http://www.slate.com/id/2186954/.
Specifcally, Goldberg writes about the terrorism connection:

"I believed that Saddam was a supporter of terrorism. The report on Saddam’s terrorist ties released last week by the Joint Forces Command confirms this (not that you would know it from the scant press coverage of the study). The study, citing captured Iraqi documents, indicates that Saddam’s regime supported various jihadist groups, including Ayman al-Zawahiri’s, and including Kurdish Islamist groups, about whom I have reported. But read the study for yourself; it’s actually quite an achievement of translation and analysis."


squeakrat
Comment posted March 19, 2008 @ 7:10 pm

I wish we had more of this kind of media record-keeping. I’m tired of these high-profile hacks who get to present themselves as disembodied, pastless, recordless, unaccountable "experts." People like this should have their past howlers stapled to their foreheads forever.


Bah Bah Black Sheeple
Comment posted August 31, 2009 @ 8:25 am

Where was Mr Ackerman's expose when it could have helped- and would have been risky to say it? Now, many years AFTER the lie is fully known, documented elsewhere in hundreds of places and the damage done… Where was he before the war got to be such a failure? Now it is popular to decry the liars- NOW Ackerman and his ilk show up to swoop up credit for being journos with integrity who are calling his own kind to task?

He is as much a fraud/opportunist as they are. Grotesque, as he also did so by plagiarizing most of his facts from internet scoops who had it all out there when it WAS risky. Now I suppose he'll get a Pukitzer for his intrepid 'bravery'.


mbt shoes
Comment posted May 10, 2010 @ 12:31 am

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Comment posted September 18, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

Like her counterpart Sen. Harry Reid, her stance on stopping illegal immigration is in one word” Un-American” She is obviously for an open border because her record shows that


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