On Saturday, February 10, 2007, The New York Times' lead front-page article was an alarming piece by Michael Gordon entitled: "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq is Made by Iran, U.S. Says." Back in the fall of 2002, Gordon teamed up with Judith Miller to disseminate the Bush Administration's case that the WMD threat from Baghdad was so dire it warranted invading and occupying Iraq. Now, Gordon is going solo, serving as a stenographer for those in the Bush Administration who are currently pushing for a U.S. military strike on Iran.
Gordon's "journalism" here is useless as a source of information, but it does offer a glimpse into what the Bush Administration wants the public to ponder as it methodically constructs a pretext for attacking Iran. Gordon's article consists of thirty-four paragraphs of charges, quotations, assertions, and "assessments," that are from the mouths of his powerful friends from Washington officialdom.
It is not until the eighteenth paragraph where Gordon cites a non-U.S. government source. He shoehorns in a fragment of a sentence from an Op-Ed piece by Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif, stating that the Bush Administration is "trying to make Iran its scapegoat and fabricating evidence of Iranian activities in Iraq." That is the only text from a non-official source.
First, it is not surprising that Iran might be providing arms to the Shia majority in Iraq, just as the Saudis are probably arming Iraqi Sunnis. The U.S. occupation has catapulted the region into sectarian warfare, and it is to be expected that Shia Iran, a regional power, will find ways to assist its fellow religionists, as it does in Lebanon. Are we supposed to be "shocked?" Why make a big deal out of this "revelation" unless it is intended to lead to some action against Iran? Maybe the U.S. should follow the advice of the Baker-Hamilton Commission and talk to Iran instead of the same old threats and saber rattling.
Second, the sudden "discovery" of Iranian weapons in Iraq, which have been there since late-2003, has nothing to do with why the Bush Administration has chosen to pass on this "scoop" to its mouthpieces in the media. This "new" revelation is only a piece of a building crescendo of unsubstantiated charges leveled at Tehran that the Bush Administration will continue to pour forth. It is all part of an elaborate sales pitch to justify Bush's pre-planned air strikes on Iran's nuclear research facilities. It is the attack on Iran's nuclear installations for which Gordon's official sources are laying the groundwork; the kind of air strikes that the Neo-Cons and hardliners in Israel have been demanding for years.
In paragraph six, Gordon reassures his readers that "officials said" they "were not trying to lay the basis for an American attack on Iran." And he leaves it at that. He takes them at their word. A real journalist might also quote someone who expressed a little skepticism about that claim, especially given our recent experience with the Iraq intelligence.
Now, let's deconstruct Gordon's sources:
Paragraph 1: "United States intelligence asserts";
Paragraph 2: "officials acknowledge";
Paragraph 4: "military officials say";
Paragraph 6: "The officials said";
Paragraph 6: "and we're not trying to lay the basis for an American attack on Iran";
Paragraph 7: "Administration officials said";
Paragraph 8: "The Bush Administration is expected to make public this weekend";
Paragraph 9: "Information expected to be made public this weekend";
Paragraph 10: "According to American intelligence";
Paragraph 10: "American intelligence agencies do not believe";
Paragraph 11: "Robert M. Gates appeared to allude to this intelligence";
Paragraph 12: "Some American intelligence experts believe";
Paragraph 14: "the report continues";
Paragraph 15: "a senior administration official said";
Paragraph 16: "An American intelligence assessment described";
Paragraph 17: "Other officials believe";
Paragraph 20: "American military officers say";
Paragraph 21: "said Lt. Col. James Danna";
Paragraph 22: "Adm. William Fallon . . . alluded";
Paragraph 23: "Admiral Fallon said";
Paragraph 24: "Mr. Gates told reporters";
Paragraph 26: "American officials say";
Paragraph 30: "According to American intelligence agencies";
Paragraph 32: "Assessments by American intelligence agencies say";
Paragraph 33: "Marine officials say";
Paragraph 34: "American intelligence agencies are concerned";
Paragraph 34: "Gen. Peter Pace . . . said last week."
The editors at The New York Times could save money by cutting out Michael Gordon as the middleman, and instead just reprint Bush Administration press releases on their front page. In this piece of "journalism," Gordon makes Judith Miller look like I.F. Stone.
Nevertheless, Gordon's article is extremely important because in it Bush has tipped his hand. He is going to attack Iran. And the editors of The New York Times have tipped their hand too. They are on board.
The question is: Will the Congress and the American people, after what has transpired in Iraq, fall for yet another media-hyped call for war?