07 May 2008

Letter to Michael Gordon, NYT re "Hezbollah Trains Iraqis in Iran, Officials Say "

Also see UPDATES below.

Hezbollah Trains Iraqis in Iran, Officials Say

I'm just wondering why the NYT still insists on publishing material based on claims by an unnamed "American official", which are themselves the result supposedly of "interrogation reports", bearing in mind a) your newspaper's (and your own personal) responsibility in propagating lies put out by unnamed American officials which contributed towards deceiving public opinion prior to the illegal war of agression on Iraq, and b) your country's reputation concerning 'interrogation' - Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca, CIA 'black sites', etc. - in fact, torture, whose only real use is to provide 'false' confessions (the person being 'interrogated' will tell his interrogators anything they wish to hear in order to stop the pain).

You then further insult the intelligence of your readers with this paragraph:

"The official summed up the information from the interrogation reports but did not make them available. He declined to be identified because the information had not been released publicly."

Wasn't he just releasing the information publicly? What a shame he didn't make the report available, isn't it? Would have stopped any doubts at all, wouldn't it? So why didn't he?

You also quote "a senior Iraqi government spokesman", who is mentioned by name: Ali al-Dabbagh. But you fail to mention this bit however: "Asked about reports that some rockets made in 2007 or 2008 and seized in raids against militias were directly supplied by Iran, al-Dabbagh replied: "There is no conclusive evidence." (1)

And further, according to the UK's Sunday Times "British officials believe the US military tends to overestimate the effect of the Iranian involvement in Iraq." (2)

You also state "It is not known if the delegation confronted its Iranian hosts with the information, or how the Iranians responded."

However, according to AP: "A five-member Iraqi delegation returned Saturday from Tehran where they held meetings aimed at halting the suspected Iranian aid to militiamen. One of the meetings was with Gen. Ghassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps that has been accused of training and funneling weapons to Shiite extremists in Iraq. The Iraqi delegation was said to have carried documents and other material implicating the Quds Force in supplying weapons and training Shiite fighters...According to officials familiar with the meeting, the delegation received a frosty reception from Soleimani, who questioned the origin of the documents." (1)

Exactly, where did they come from?

Finally, the Sunday Times also tells us via unnamed 'western intelligence sources' that the "US military is drawing up plans for a “surgical strike” against an insurgent training camp inside Iran". (2)

My goodness, what a coincidence! So that's what its all about, of course, the release of unsubstantiated claims masquerading as fact in order to pave the way for yet another agression on a sovereign state. And there you are Mr Gordon, right in the middle, playing your part in these psyops.

As for your 'proof' of Hezbollah involvement, this again rests on information gained after the person in question refused to talk but "eventually acknowledged under questioning".

What kind of questioning would that have been Mr. Gordon? With dogs, drugs, waterboarding? Do you even care?

This kind of gutter 'journalism' should have been cleaned out of the NYT a long time ago, along with the other fantasists Jason Blair and Judith Miller.

(1) "Iraqi official says Iran arms evidence not conclusive" SAMEER N. YACOUB AP News May 04, 2008 13:10 EST

(2) "United States is drawing up plans to strike on Iranian insurgency camp" Michael Smith, The Sunday Times May 4, 2008


Even more intriguing is why Gordon insisted on not revealing the name of the American official when it is to be found in other reports, such as AP and Fox News. Habit?

Unnamed American official named by Press TV

""We have multiple detainees who state Lebanese Hezbollah are providing training to Iraqis in Iranian IRGC-QF training camps near Tehran," Air Force Colonel Donald Bacon, a US military spokesman, alleged on Monday. "We have captured other Iraqis who have discussed their training in Iran and who state many of their instructors were Lebanese Hezbollah," the Associated Press quoted Bacon as saying."


Check out these other articles all in the same vein:

Chris Floyd
Death's Factotum: Michael Gordon and the Times Pour Pentagon Poison into Nation's Ear

"Judith Miller might have been the poster child for the corporate media's collaboration with the Bush Administration's war of aggression against Iraq -- but her New York Times colleague and co-writer, Michael Gordon, was every bit as culpable and complicit, happily playing stovepipe to the bloodthirsty bullshit gurgling up from the White House and Pentagon cesspits.Miller is gone from the mainstream heights, but Gordon soldiers on at the Times -- literally. Although he is probably not paid directly by the Bush Regime to peddle their propaganda, he serves precisely the same function as the military brass that the Administration embedded as "independent analysts" on the network news shows -- a nefarious practice most recently exposed in great detail by...the New York Times."

Greg Mitchell at Editor & Publisher
'NYT' vs McClatchy on Iran's Link to Iraqi Insurgents

"Michael Gordon, the military writer for The New York Times who contributed several false stories about Iraqi WMD in the runup to the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2002, has written several articles in the past year about Iran’s alleged training of Iraqi insurgents -- or supplying them with weapons to kill Americans. He produced another major report on this subject for today’s Times – based solely on unnamed sources -- which is at odds with an account from McClatchy’s Baghdad bureau. "

Glenn Greenwald
Who needs Dana Perino when you have the NYT's Michael Gordon?

"As usual with Gordon's articles, nothing is done here other than uncritically repeating Bush administration claims under the cover of anonymity. Virtually every paragraph in this article is nothing more a mindless recitation of uncorroborated assertions which he copies from Bush officials and then weaves into a news narrative, with the phrase "American officials say" tacked on at the end or the phrase "according to officials" unobtrusively interspersed in the middle,"

Juan Cole
How Important is Iranian/ Hizbullah Training

"I am suspicious of this story not because it is necessarily untrue (how would I know?) but because it shares with typical Bush administration propaganda the 'gotcha' technique in which questions of proportionality, significance and causality do not arise.
Under torture, Ibn al-Sheikh Libi told the US that Saddam was training al-Qaeda operatives in the use of poison gas. It was a lie. That is the problem with putting people in so much pain that they will tell you anything. Cheney and Rice parroted this falsehood over and over again.
The Pentagon story about Iran is fishy for these reasons:

The main pro-Iran militia in Iraq is the Badr Corps of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Iran is happy with Badr's vast influence. Badr has conflicts with the Mahdi Army. Why should Iran undermine its own client by favoring the latter? And note that the US never condemns Badr, which until recently was actually part of the Iranian military until recently.

The information on the supposed Hizbullah training in Iran seems to have come from two or three captured Lebanese Shiites. That is a very small number. The US has 24,000 accused insurgents in captivity. If it only has a handful of Lebanese Shiites, then they just aren't very important. The Principle of Proportionality holds.

Moreover, the allegations may have been produced by US torture of the captives and so may not be reliable.Then even if it were true, how important is it? The Mahdi Army is tens of thousands of slum kids. Sadrism goes back to the 1990s in Iraq and is a mass movement. Iran had nothing to do with them historically. Moreover, how important is all this? Have, like, 4 Lebanese guys really trained all that many Mahdi Army militiamen? How many exactly? How much more effective would they be as a result? Wouldn't the political support of millions of Iraqi Shiites in the South really be the source of Muqtada al-Sadr's power and authority?

What is being alleged is too small to produce a really big, nation-wide effect in Iraq. The Mahdi Army fought the US military for two long hard months in spring of 2004, and for another month in August. Iran was not around.Occam's Razor dictates that we do not need Iran as a hypothesis for explaining the Sadr Movement or its activities in Iraq. Behind the scenes opinion polling suggests that the Sadr Movement has become more and more popular with the electorate. This, despite Iran's having helped buy the election for the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq in 2005. Having gotten their clients in power, why would Iran now try to blow up Badr commanders who have become provincial governors or deputy governors.

The Sadrists are not even very strong in Basra city, which is one reason al-Maliki attacked them there. Iran was backing Badr in Basra.If training is so important, then why does the Mahdi Army still defeat the highly trained and equipped Iraqi Army, which has had lots more training, often from high powered American and European and Jordanian trainers. Are you saying Iranian trainers are better? How would you fix that?So, have a few hundred militiamen maybe gotten some basic guerrilla training from fellow Shiites somewhere? That isn't the right question. The question is, how significant would that be if true. Remember, they are getting real time battle experience against US Marines, which is much more valuable than mere rudimentary boot camp. But, how could you rule it out? And, could such a thing really steer the fortunes of Iraq as a country? I think not."

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