The New York Times and the Left’s Stockholm Syndrome | VALID | #TWIBnation

The New York Times and the Left’s Stockholm Syndrome

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The story is so old the original now exists in digital form only behind Rolling Stone’s paywall, but I remember it well enough to recite the essential details by heart. Fortunately, I don’t have to do that, because Common Dreams reproduced the story for us.

In any event, it involves a public relations firm known as the Rendon Group, which was hired by the Clinton Administration to create the fiction of an organized expatriate Iraqi resistance known as the Iraqi National Congress (“INC”). Whatever Clinton’s reasons were to create this fiction, history shows that he did not use it as a pretext to invade Iraq; in fact, Clinton resisted calls to do just that from the Project for a New American Century, which counted among its illustrious members … Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. But in the hands of a political neophyte like George W. Bush, who was easily controlled by guys like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, the fictitious Iraqi resistance provided the cover needed to sell a willing America on the idea of invading the wrong country.

And so the Rolling Stone story begins on December 17, 2001, with a CIA operative in Pattaya, Thailand, interviewing a Kurdish Iraqi expat named Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, who’s strapped to a polygraph machine telling “an explosive tale” of hidden chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, “just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for.” But the polygraph results proved the story to be a lie, and so the CIA operative returned home, disappointed.

But lo and behold, just three days later, on December 20, 2001, the New York Times ran al-Haideri’s now-debunked story, in an article penned, of course, by Judith Miller:

AN IRAQI DEFECTOR TELLS OF WORK ON AT LEAST 20 HIDDEN WEAPONS SITES, declared the headline. “An Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer,” Miller wrote, “said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago.” If verified, she noted, “his allegations would provide ammunition to officials within the Bush administration who have been arguing that Mr. Hussein should be driven from power partly because of his unwillingness to stop making weapons of mass destruction, despite his pledges to do so.”

How did the Times and Miller get this story just three days after a CIA operative determined it wasn’t true? Well, it appears that Miller got it from Ahmad Chalabi, the titular leader of the INC, who helped arrange for al-Haideri to tell his story to the CIA and who might have (ahem) “coached” him and other defectors the CIA was talking to.

So Miller and the New York Times were essentially acting as stenographers for the INC, a fake group used to sell lies about Iraq’s WMD programs, led by one of the great charlatans of the 21st century (as Leslie Gelb explained in this April 2008 piece in the New York Times).

And it wasn’t a minor mistake:

For months, hawks inside and outside the administration had been pressing for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq. Now, thanks to Miller’s story, they could point to “proof” of Saddam’s “nuclear threat.” The story, reinforced by [Paul] Moran’s on-camera interview with al-Haideri on the giant Australian Broadcasting Corp., was soon being trumpeted by the White House and repeated by newspapers and television networks around the world. It was the first in a long line of hyped and fraudulent stories that would eventually propel the U.S. into a war with Iraq – the first war based almost entirely on a covert propaganda campaign targeting the media.

Fast-forward to today. The Iraq war is over. Nearly 5,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines died there, along with hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians. Tens of thousands of the men and women who were fortunate enough to return home from Iraq carry with them physical, mental and emotional scars that may take years to heal. If at all. And after all that, Iraq remains one of the most violent places on earth.

There’s no alchemy that can transform Miller’s and the Times’ misrepresentations into the truth. Knowingly or not, they peddled lies, and as a direct and proximate result, untold thousands of people suffered and died.

But now the New York Times wants us to be outraged over Pres. Obama’s actions in relation to the press. “With the decision to label a Fox News television reporter a possible ‘co-conspirator’ in a criminal investigation of a news leak,” says the Times, “the Obama administration has moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news.” Pres. Obama, according to Times guest columnist Glenn Greenwald, “has waged a sustained and unprecedented war on whistleblowers, press freedoms and the basic mechanisms of the newsgathering process.” Sounds pretty serious, no?

We liberals eat this stuff up. We rally to defend the Times and other media outlets because there are broader issues at stake, important constitutional principles to be vindicated, despite the fact that the Times and the rest of the media repeatedly abuse the rights they have, sometimes with horrifyingly deadly results. It’s almost as if we somehow believe that if we keep defending the media, eventually – maybe, hopefully, someday – they’ll do their damn job.

I get it. What choice do we have? But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my enthusiasm for protecting the press dies a little more with every lie, every trumped up phony scandal, every “both sides do it” bit of drivel that trickles out of the lowly fourth estate. So, please, New York Times, spare me the spittle-flecked exercise in First Amendment outrage. I’ll defend you, but that doesn’t mean I have to like you.

David Von Ebers

An evil trial lawyer from Chicago, which makes me almost as bad as Barack Obama himself. Except, I am a Cubs fan, unlike our President, and so, as the kids say, I AM SHAME. I blog about legal issues, politics, sports, music (that long-haired rock 'n roll music all the kids are into), and, frequently, the interaction between any and all of the above. When I'm not busy undermining the Constitution or circumventing your freedoms, I run, watch too much sports on the teevee, and hang out with my long-suffering wife and three kids.

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  1. Randle Aubrey May 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Thank goodness! For a minute there, I thought you were going to state that the recent targeting of James Rosen wasn’t problematic, because it totally is. The argument that the DoJ is using on Rosen is the same one they’ve been using to target Wikileaks in their ongoing investigation, as well as part of the logic behind the seizure of AP phone records. This idea that the lengths investigative journalists are required to go to with their sources to help them find the ability and courage to speak out somehow makes them co-conspirators is not only weak and flimsy, but puts the entire investigative journalism profession at risk. And, like with every other movement along these lines, the DoJ is starting with the people that are on the fringe, who’s actions or opinions have been unpopular: Fox News, Wikileaks, etc. Nobody cares if they get harassed, but if we stand by and do or say nothing now, when they come for someone like, say, Rachel Maddow, we’ll have little room to bitch.

    The most important First Amendment cases almost always involve protecting the speech of people we don’t like, because even if they’re full of shit and everyone knows it, if we shut them down, we shut ourselves down. It’s a two-way street, and while there needs to be some serious reformation to journalistic integrity, it’s not going to start with criminalizing shit-disturbers like Rosen.

  2. Arrogant Demon May 23, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Great read David

    Publications like the New York Times, who cheerleaded the war for the Bush Administration, never apologized to my recolection, now wants us to be up in arms over the Obama Administration going after whistleblowers/leakers.

    This gets the perverbial “Naw son”

    Right now, they are misleading us into thinking the DOJ just snatched records, or listened in on phone calls when it was a legally obtained subpeaona over a two month period, and with Rosen, who was stroking Kim’s ego to leak info to force the Administration into a more conservative posture in foreign policy, this is what is going on now.

    We have long since pass the times when we had Walter Cronkite & Ed Bradley, Mike wallace to trust, now who do we got…..Jon Karl, and others like him who try to make themselves part of the story than the actual issue at hand?

    Naw son

    • Randle Aubrey May 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      Yeah, the NYT is full o’ shit, but does that mean we shouldn’t be up in arms over the whistleblower crackdown? It’s not like it isn’t actually happening, and it’s incredibly pernicious. Furthermore, whatever precedent the Obama Administration sets on this issue is the torch that will be passed to our next president, and every one to follow.

      It’s the same thing that happened with nation security and foreign policy; Bush set the stage for Obama, and now he’s essentially furthering those policies. Since he’s a ‘Democrat’ most people on the Left are giving him a pass, and they shouldn’t be. Not because he’s a worse president than Bush, but because we need him to be better. A LOT better.

      • Arrogant Demon May 29, 2013 at 7:04 pm

        There’s a difference between informing the public of govt wrongdoing and leaking classified information about our efforts to ruin the Iranian nuclear program via Stuxnet, or putting out where conducting an operation to foil a bomb plot from Yemen. Rosen was getting classified info to publish so he can warp our foreign policy to more his liking. And this was demanded of the Obama Admin to go after the leaks, and they did, but now its bad….really?

        And on continuing Bush policies, we’ve stopped torture, we’ve ended one war, leaving another, and he wants to end the war on terror & repeal the AUMF, hardly continuing anything of Bush. He’s also not into giving the Syrian rebels any arms, cause, you know, past history & all. And with all the coverage about drones, it seems the left isnt giving him a pass, it’s just most people are not concerned with it as greatly as they are.

        • Randle Aubrey May 30, 2013 at 3:22 pm

          Regardless of Rosen’s motives(which I don’t agree with any more than you do), we have to look at his actions and how they are being handled by the DoJ. He’s a hack-and-a-half to be sure, but he’s no co-conspirator in committing treason. He used the same methods to obtain his information as every other investigative journalist does, and the DoJ claiming any different is fraudulent at best, and downright dangerous at worst. If they were to charge him with treason(which I doubt they will, as that doesn’t seem to be the point), then by proxy, every investigative journalist would be guilty of it, as well.

          As far as our current foreign policy goes, if you read between the lines of Obama’s recent speech at the National Defense University, there’s a lot of problems there. First of all, while we may have stopped torturing people ourselves(which I find highly doubtful), we’re still engaging in extraordinary rendition, which means we ship our prisoners off to people who aren’t squeamish about torturing people, and have them phone in the information they obtain. Sure it allows us to no longer get our hands dirty on paper, but we’re still totally complicit in it.

          Second of all, while Obama is to be commended for talking about ending the war on terror, he spoke at great length about continuing the war against ‘extremists’, which is really just a dangerous semantic trick that actually expands the range of people the government can persecute. Don’t believe me? Take a look at what’s going on on the so-called ‘eco-terrorism’ front right now. Will Potter’s ‘Green Is The New Red’ is a great place to start. Just like the word ‘terrorism’, ‘extremism’ is a word that means what it needs to mean when it needs to mean it.

          In regards to the AUMF, while he made token comments about repealing it, he spoke more about simply redefining and curbing parts of it, and getting Congress more involved through more active ‘briefing’. But the ‘briefing’ that JSOC, the FISA courts, and the DoD provide doesn’t actually give any real information about what’s actually going on, because it doesn’t have to. Hell, even the Senate Intelligence Committee doesn’t get any kind of real information of the kind that would allow them to make effective decisions. Briefing is a joke, and I’ll not be fooled by it, and neither should you.

          It’s probably for the best in the short-term that he’s not yet offering up any arms to the Syrian rebels, as some of the more prominent rebel groups are offshoots of Al-Qaeda. But don’t think that will last forever, as Assad continues to commit atrocities in the region, and with Russia’s tacit blessing. And with all of this half-cocked ‘intelligence’ about the supposed use of chemical weapons floating around, it won’t be long until the president is forced to make a decision on this one. The GOP won’t stand for less, and they’re gunning for a proxy war with Russia, since in many of their eyes, the Cold War never ended. If you want to know more about what’s been going on there as of late, check out the piece I wrote recently about it here.

          Lastly, the drones. Oh, the drones. In one breath, Obama admitted that he understand that they were probably the best recruitment tool Al-Qaeda has in their continued aggression against the U.S., but in the next stated that he’ll not end the program, or transfer that power to those that would use it more responsibly, such as the Army or the Air Force. The drone program will instead remain in the hands of the CIA, who answers only to the President and not to Congress. He can say all he wants about using drones more responsibly, but without genuine oversight and public accountability, I’m not going to get my hopes up.

          So in the end, no: I’m not going to give Obama a pass on this one. Again, props to the man for bringing this conversation forward to the public in a way that his predecessor did not, and should have. This one’s long overdue, and I’m glad we’re finally addressing the elephant in the room. But everything he described in his speech didn’t sound like real reform so much as it sounded like him crystallizing his private policies to the general public. You want a pass, Obama? Release the prisoners from Guantanamo, WITHOUT putting them on the threat list afterwards. Put the drone program in the hands of those who will use it responsibly, and be accountable to the American people. Repeal the AUMF, completely and totally. And for God’s sake, define what is and what isn’t a ‘terrorist’, so that we can have a clear idea of what we’re dealing with. These people are criminals not enemy combatants in a war against an adjective.

          • Arrogant Demon May 30, 2013 at 9:50 pm

            I want to push back a little on the drone issue. As said in the speech, Congress was consulted about everything, so their hands are not so clean in this. As their hands are not clean from blocking prisoners transfers & its funding.

          • Randle Aubrey May 31, 2013 at 3:25 pm

            ‘Consulted’ is a word used very much like ‘brief’ in the context of Obama’s speech; the information Congress is being given is heavily redacted and edited, and is spun to justify every aggressive response. It creates the appearance of communication between the Executive and Legislative branches, while at the same time allowing Congress to essentially rubber stamp every action so as not to appear ‘soft’ on terror. Because really, that’s the other elephant in the room: the idea that if you fail to continue ratcheting up fear and alarm over supposedly ‘imminent’ threats, that you’re somehow throwing our doors wide open for Al-Qaeda to walk in here and bomb the shit out of everything. Attempting to use reason in a war driven by hysteria is political suicide. That’s one thing both sides can agree upon.

            As far as Guantanamo is concerned, every action the president is promising he’ll move forward on is one he could have taken without the authorization of Congress, but chose not to. Why? Who knows. His advisers are likely whispering in his ear that it’s a bad idea strategically, politically, and so on. But the upshot is, he hasn’t done it thus far, he said he will not, but I’m not holding my breath.

            Lastly, when it comes to the drones, I have two words: signature strikes. A tactic we’ve historically lambasted our enemy for has become one we’ve decided to use, and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to it. Sure, the president said our use of signature strikes will decline when the Adjective War de-escalates, but by who’s standards are we judging de-escalation? Obama’s? JSOC’s? The CIA’s? Who knows? What I know is that they need to end, and they need to end yesterday. I’d argue that using drones for signature strikes is the biggest terrorist recruiting tool, not using them period.

            Again, the president is to be commended for bringing this conversation to the living rooms of millions of Americans. But until he starts putting his money where his mouth is one this one, I’m not holding my breath.

  3. Efrem May 24, 2013 at 9:06 am

    GREAT article!!! Very well said.

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