Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Iran Ate My Homework

Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times is once again at the center of a mainstream media story that appears designed to get the Bush administration's message out. On Tuesday, Gordon and co-author John F. Burns gave us the low down on the latest accusations about Iran's involvement in Iraq in "U.S. Says Iran Helped Iraqis Kill Five G.I.’s."

Previous accusations of Iranian intervention in Iraq were presented at closed press briefings by "officials" who insisted on remaining anonymous. This time, we get the name of the "senior military official" leveling charges against Iran. Brigadier General Kevin J. Bergner, a military spokesman in Baghdad, says that "agents of Iran" helped plan a January raid on the holy Shiite city of Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers.

This information, according to Bergner, came from interrogations of three men captured in Basra in May, one of whom was a Lebanese Hezbollah agent. The other two, Bergner said, were Iraqi Shiites working as agents for the Quds Force, the elite Iranian unit.

The star of the show was the captured Hezbollah agent, whose American captors initially called "Hamid the Mute” because he pretended for weeks after his apprehension that he could not speak or hear. Deaf and dumb Hamid turned out to be Ali Musa Daqduq, whom Brigadier Bergner said was a previous commander of a Hezbollah special operations unit.

The article goes on to point to dozens of indicators of Iranian sponsorship of Iraqi militants, none of which are definitive or entirely convincing.

Michael Gordon is perhaps best known these days as Judith Miller's partner in crime in spreading pro-invasion propaganda through the New York Times. He wrote articles in which "officials" argued the need for the surge in Iraq, and has also written numerous articles that echo the administration's case against Iran.

Brigadier General Kevin J. Bergner is no stranger to public affairs. In March 2006, while serving on the National Security Council as Special Assistant and Senior Director for Iraq, Bergner hosted one of those God-awful "Ask the White House " web chats. I'll hand this to the guy, he knows how to spread cheese. Some examples:
There are…efforts underway to enhance security in Iraq, including Baghdad. The Iraqi security forces are at the center of that effort and they are making significant progress…

…The President's National Strategy for Victory in Iraq has three tracks – Political, Security, and Economic. All three tracks are progressing. Some of the signs of progress include:
Political: Iraq has elected and is now forming a democratically elected government, based on their constitution.
Security: An all-volunteer Iraqi Security Force is increasingly taking responsibility for security.
Economic: Iraq’s economy is showing signs of recovering after 30 years of dictatorship. In 2005, the economy grew an estimated 2.6 % in real terms, and the IMF estimates it will grow by more than 10% in 2006…

…Our strategy is making progress in establishing the conditions for victory. Although we are confident of our progress, we do not put a date on when each stage of success will be achieved. Lack of a timetable does not mean that our posture in Iraq is static.

Brother. It's little wonder that Bergen was chosen to take over from Major General William Caldwell as the spokesman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq. From a Rovewellian point of view, he and Gordon are a propaganda match made in heaven.

Gordon is getting a little better at hiding his methods, but not much. The only person actually quoted by name in the article is Bergner. Gordon gives the names of the prisoners who were interrogated, but all we know about what they said is what Bergner told Gordon, and all Bergner knows about what the prisoner said was told to him by somebody else. So anything attributed to Bergner is fourth hand information at best.

Other officials are cited as giving condemning information regarding Iranian training and financing of Iraqi Shiite groups, but Gordon doesn't name those officials (of course). As lamentable as I find Gordon's practices, Brigadier Berger's offend me even worse. He knows damn good and well he's being used to spread misinformation--if not downright disinformation--and it doesn't appear to faze him one bit. He's typical of the new breed of flag officer that has emerged under the Bush administration: the bull feather merchant.

Is it any wonder that officers in the lower ranks are protesting the failure in generalship?


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


  1. As you noted, BG Bergner is quite political.

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