Monday, February 12, 2007

Iran: NYT Repeats History, WaPo Rewrites It

Also at DKos.

The echo chamber has kicked into high gear on the "proof" that Iran has been sending weapons into Iraq. Here's how this latest propaganda campaign evolved, and how two of our most "trusted" news sources enabled it.

On Saturday, February 10, the New York Times ran a story by Michael R. Gordon titled "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says."
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.

That's some assertion, especially considering that it's sourced to the nameless, faceless "United States Intelligence." Gordon also wrote that, "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."

No, it's not entirely complete. And it doesn't look entirely on the up-and-up either. Gordon also said that "The Bush administration is expected to make public this weekend some of what intelligence agencies regard as an increasing body of evidence pointing to an Iranian link, including information gleaned from Iranians and Iraqis captured in recent American raids on an Iranian office in Erbil and another site in Baghdad."

Lo and behold, this story by Joshua Partlow appeared on Sunday at the Washington Post web site.
Iran Sending Explosives to Extremist Groups in Iraq, Officials Say

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 11, 2007; 1:54 PM

BAGHDAD Feb 11 -- Iranian security forces, taking orders from the "highest levels" of the Iranian government, are funneling sophisticated explosives to extremist groups in Iraq, and the weapons have grown increasingly deadly for U.S.-led troops over the past two years, senior defense officials said Sunday in Baghdad.

Once again, we had allegations being made by unnamed "senior defense officials" who included an "unnamed" weapons expert. But there's even more monkey business involved in this WaPo story.

Sunday afternoon, I raised holy Hamas about Partlow's story at Pen and Sword and elsewhere, and included a link to the Partlow article. Monday, in the process of preparing this article, I clicked on the hyperlink, and to my shock and awe I found this:
Military Ties Iran To Arms In Iraq
Explosives Supplied To Shiite Militias, U.S. Officials Say
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, February 12, 2007; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Feb. 11 -- Senior U.S. military officials in Iraq sought Sunday to link Iran to deadly armor-piercing explosives and other weapons that they said are being used to kill U.S. and Iraqi troops with increasing regularity.

Thinking I may have somehow made a mistake, I went to the WaPo site and searched Joshua Partlow." The search results included one link to Partlow's February 12 story and two links to his February 11 story. Funny thing--both links to the February 11 story led to the February 12 story.

It looks like the grownups came in on Monday morning, saw the February 11 story, and said, "What the hell have we done?" So they had Partlow or someone else (Danfa Linzer, it looks like) rewrite the Feb 11 story to include the responsible disclaimers and skepticism that should have been in the article in the first place.
With so much official U.S. buildup about the purported evidence of Iranian influence in Iraq, the briefing was also notable for what was not said or shown. The officials offered no evidence to substantiate allegations that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government had sanctioned support for attacks against U.S. troops. Also, the military briefers were not joined by U.S. diplomats or representatives of the CIA or the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

And they "disappeared" Partlow's original version of the article. This stuff's straight out of George Orwell and Joseph Heller.
I'm almost willing to give Partlow a pass on his journalistic incompetence. What the heck, he was just a WaPo intern as recently as 2003. But who in the hell at WaPo was giving him editorial guidance over the weekend? A graduate from the intern class of 2002?

Michael R. Gordon of the Times, though, doesn't have an excuse. He has a long history as his paper's chief military correspondent, as well as a history for helping the Bush administration "spread the word." As Editor and Publisher noted about his Saturday article:
Michael R. Gordon, [is] the same Times reporter who, on his own or with Judith Miller, wrote some of the key, and badly misleading or downright inaccurate articles about Iraqi WMDs in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.
The same neo-conmen who duped us into the Iraq misadventure are pushing us into another woebegone war with Iran, and the same media outlets who aided and abetted them the last time are doing it again. With "free press" sources like the Washington Post and the New York Times, who needs Fox News?

And by the way--those pictures of mortar rounds and such you're seeing on television? They're out of an Army Field Manual. No cameras were allowed at the "briefing" Partlow and the other stooges attended in Baghdad.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.


  1. Bacon's Rebellion3:41 PM


    I agree with your general premise that the Bush Administration is ginning up the propaganda effort to justify what will probably be an air campaign against Iran's nuclear and military infrastructure. However, that does not preclude the probability that Iran is supplying both logistical assistance and military advisors to Shiite groups in Iraq. In fact I would be greatly surprised under the current conditions if the government of Iran were not doing that.

    As for Michael R. Gordon being a proponent of the Iraq War and Bush's (i.e. Cheney's) I don't believe that is correct. Gordon was the co-author of Cobra II with Mick Trainor (Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor, USMC ret.) which was highly critical of the both the invasion and occupation of Iraq. If you have not read that book I think it might change your opinion concerning Gordon. While I suspect that Gordon was brought into collaboration with Trainor for his writing skills rather than his military expertise he is nonetheless the co-author of the book. General Trainor's academic background and broad genuine military experience (including combat in Korea and Viet Nam) certainly give him the weight to comment effectively on what has been wrong with the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and assorted Neo-con generated military policies. I recommend the book strongly for your consideration.

  2. Gordon's association with Bernie Trainor doesn't get him off the hook with me.

  3. And the Bush team is always looking for credentialed experts willing to sell out, and join the sycophant squad.

  4. Anonymous5:01 PM

    History doesn't repeat itself, but ocasionally it does rhyme....

  5. Perhaps you have learned by now that Michael Gordon is a voice activated tape recorder?

    The story is all around the net - $27.95 frrom the Radio Shack on 43 St.

  6. bacon's rebellion (great screen name, BTW) wrote:

    "...Gordon was the co-author of Cobra II with Mick Trainor (Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor, USMC ret.) which was highly critical of the both the invasion and occupation of Iraq..."

    Yes, but he was also the co-author with Judy Miller of the over-hyped, unsubstantiated WMD lies that put the lid on the rush to war.


    New York Times Reveals "Reporter" Michael Gordon Actually Voice-Activated Tape Recorder
    NEW YORK—New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller today announced that the paper's longtime staff writer Michael Gordon is not an actual person, but rather a voice-activated tape recorder.

    "I'm not sure why everyone didn't figure this out before now," said Keller, pointing to the fact that, in Gordon's 26-year career, all of "his" stories have consisted entirely of transcribed statements by anonymous government officials.

    According to Jill Abramson, the paper's Managing Editor, Gordon was purchased for $27.95 at a Radio Shack on West 43rd Street. Describing the situation as "a prank" that had "gotten slightly out of hand," Abramson said the paper had decided to acknowledge Gordon's identity because—after the tape recorder's front page story today, "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says"—there "was no place left to take the joke."

  8. Bacon's Rebellion12:57 AM


    I had clearly overlooked Gordon's connection with Judith Miller at the beginning of the war. However, a quick check of Gordon's byline would seem to indicate that he is a prolific writer and seems to take a wide variety slants over time. Very little of his body of work for the NYT was done in concert with Miller. His more recent series of articles dealing with Iraq are done either solely under his own byline or in collaboration with a wide variety of other writers and correspondents including John Burns, who has spent a great deal of time in Iraq. Burns is hardly what I would term a Bush supporter but neither does he go overboard in vilifying him or excoriating the failures of the war.

    Here is a link to a synopsis of Gordon's work for the NYT related to Iraq War and the build up to it.

    Below is a link to the text of an interview done by Gordon concerning Cobra II and the Iraq War. It was conducted on March 21, 2006 at Berkeley and reflects the situation that existed at that time. His background and experience don't really put him in sync with the Neo-cons or the Bush/Cheney mob --- at least in my opinion.

    I'll let the readers (or those with sufficient interest in the subject) wade through Gordon's work and draw their own conclusions about whether or not he is a Bush/Cheney shill or simply a writer who perhaps doesn't always see clearly through the veil of misinformation provided by the various proponents of the Iraq War.

  9. Bacon- It's my impression that he's a good writer with some solid grounded skills, who would do very well as what used to be called a "rewrite" man. You'll understand what I mean when I remind you of those 1930s movies where the young reporter phones in a scoop to the city desk editor and is handed off to a rewrite man to whom the reporter dictates the story. The rewrite textualizes the story, cleans up the grammar, etc.

    Perhaps it's merely unfortunate coincidence that Gordon's work appears vapid and dishwater-thin when he appeases the Bu$h malAdministration and signs his name atop their handouts.

  10. Horselover,

    Thanks for the link and text on the parody.

    My impression is that Gordon has gone the press release rip off too many times.

  11. Bacon's Rebellion2:01 PM

    Lurch & Jeff,

    At the risk of prolonging this longer than it probably warrants I agree with your points.

    Gordon, like most members of the press, relies heavily on his contacts in the military and the related organs of government. He couldn't survive on his present assignment covering the military without them. Does he reciprocate favors by writing some articles that don't ask obvious questions or probe as deeply as he might? The answer is obvious. In return for the many tips and handouts that he gets from his government sources he is upon occasion asked to play the strumpet. Off hand I cannot think of anyone in that profession, who is successful, who does not succumb to that sort of quid pro quo. Do I condone it. No, I don't. Do I understand it. Certainly.

    As for his being a "rewrite man" I think you are exactly right. I wish I'd used that phrase to describe him myself. He's a very competent rewrite guy and that is undoubtedly why Mick Trainor (or his publisher/editor) teamed up with Gordon again for his second book. I say his second but General Trainor may well have written a number of other works of which I'm simply unaware. I'm of course referring to "The Generals' War" and "Cobra II".

  12. John Shreffler2:55 PM


    I assume that your comment is accurate and proveable about the mortar pictures coming from an army field manual, and, assuming that's so, that particular fact is very significant and deserves to be elaborated and so proven, and in a very public place. I pointed it out with a link in a comment on Col. Lang's blog Sic Semper Tyrannis, but you could make more of that juicy little bit, it seems to me. Thanks for that.

  13. John,

    Perhaps I should have used a more generic term than "Army Field Manual," as I couldn't tell you for sure which FM they are from. They might also have come from a Jane's publication.

    But they sure as hell weren't pictures taken by reporters at that briefing.