Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Yet another New York Times edition. Judy Miller doesn't work at the New York Times any more. Why does Michael Gordon?
Democracy Now! | New York Times Trumpets Pentagon's Claims Over Iran Sending Bombs to Iraq: AMY GOODMAN: The new accusations of Iranian-supplied bombs in Iraq first appeared in Saturday's New York Times. The article was headlined "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq is Made by Iran, US Says." Some media critics immediately compared the New York Times piece to its articles on Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons program that were used by the Bush administration to make the case for invading Iraq.
These critics have pointed out two similar features between Saturday's article and those before the war: near complete reliance on unnamed government sources and the byline of New York Times reporter Michael R. Gordon.
Gordon and former New York Times reporter Judith Miller co-authored the infamous September 8, 2002 piece, alleging Iraq attempted to purchase aluminum tubes towards developing nuclear weapons. The New York Times later singled out the article as part of its editor's note apologizing for its inaccurate coverage of Iraq and WMDs. Well, Michael Gordon appeared on Democracy Now! last March. During our interview, I asked him about his reporting in the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq.
MICHAEL GORDON: There was no agency in the American government that said Saddam was not involved in WMD. You know, the State Department, although it's turned out to be correct, certainly on the nuclear issue, did not turn out to be -- you know, didn't challenge the biological case, the chemical case, and I'm going to offer you this last thought, and I'm happy to respond to any questions you have, but you know, there are a number of complicated WMD issues --
AMY GOODMAN: Let me just ask something on that. Are you sorry you did the piece? Are you sorry that this piece --
MICHAEL GORDON: No, I'm not. I mean, what -- I don't know if you understand how journalism works, but the way journalism works is you write what you know, and what you know at the time you try to convey as best you can, but then you don't stop reporting.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me, let me --
MICHAEL GORDON: Can I answer your question, since you asked me a question?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, no, I wanted to get --
MICHAEL GORDON: No, wait a second, if you ask me a question -- I'm happy to answer all your questions, but what I'm trying to explain to you is one thing. That was what I knew at the time. It's true that it was the key judgment. It's the same information they presented to Colin Powell, by the way, and it's what persuaded him to go to the United Nations and make the case on the nuclear tubes. I wrote the contrary case, giving the IAEA equal time. They disputed it. I don't have a dog in this fight. I didn't know what was the ultimate truth. When the IAEA came out in January and disputed it, I reported it.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Gordon, let me just respond. We don't -- we have limited time in the program, but I just --
MICHAEL GORDON: Well, then you should let me answer your questions.
AMY GOODMAN: I did.
MICHAEL GORDON: No, you haven't let me answer your question.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you sorry then, that the New York Times was sorry that this piece appeared as it did on the front page of the New York Times.
MICHAEL GORDON: I don't think "sorry" is the word the New York Times used.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the New York Times reporter Michael Gordon speaking on Democracy Now! last March. I'm joined in studio now by Rick MacArthur, publisher of Harper's....
RICK MACARTHUR: ...[W]hat's interesting about Michael Gordon is that when he did the reporting on the phony aluminum tube story with Judith Miller four years ago, he somehow escaped unharmed and is now thriving.... [H]e's going around acting like he's an expert on Iraq, when, in fact, he's still playing the role of conduit for the official line, the Army line or the government line, depending on who he's talking to on what day....
[W]hat's interesting is the play that they gave his story on Saturday.... They put it on the top of the front page... the lead story.... [N]ot far down in the... Monday story -- you find a paragraph where they say -- and this is very interesting -- that they don't have any real evidence, any direct evidence, that any of this is true.... Newsday, a perfectly respectable newspaper, puts "US: Iran is Arming Shia" on page 22 on Monday.... They report what the military officials [in Washington] are claiming, but in the second paragraph, they say the military command in Baghdad denied, however, that any newly smuggled Iranian weapons were behind the five crashes of US military helicopters... shot down by insurgent gunfire.... [T]hat is what journalism is, contrary to what Michael Gordon says. It's putting the story in perspective, pointing out that the... [insurgency is] dominated by Sunni, not by Shia.... [T]he most damning omission... is complete lack of perspective on who's fighting whom, who's shooting at whom in Iraq. Does the Iranian government really have an interest in destabilizing what's now a Shiite-dominated government? Doesn't make any sense.... [T]here's no logic to it... just this massive omission...