Goldberg vs. Greenwald

Corporal Jeffery Goldberg is pissed.

See, on his Salon blog, Glenn Greenwald wrote a scathing critique of Goldberg through the lens of the Dave Weigel-Washington Post affair. The post, on how Goldberg’s rush to judge Weigel is emblematic of flaws throughout his writing, got a lot of coverage (as catalogued by Mondoweiss).

So Goldberg took to his Atlantic blog defending his reporting by citing his most notorious achievement: the Iraq War.

While Greenwald makes many excellent points about peculiar brand of journalism practiced by Goldberg (the Mideast reporter who, despite being an IDF veteran, decries everyone else as “partisans”), he does return to the Iraq War. Curiously, Goldberg, recounting a recent e-mail exchange with an Iraqi pol, runs through justifications for the 2003 invasion — though he insistently refers to it as his “early support for the Iraq war” [my emphasis]. He extends an invite from his e-mail buddy, Iraqi Kurdistan PM Barham Salih, to visit and talk to everyone in Iraq who supported the U.S. invasion:

If [Greenwald] were to meet with representatives of the Kurds — who make up 20 percent of the population of Iraq and who were the most oppressed group in Iraq during the period of Saddam’s rule (experiencing not only a genocide but widespread chemical gassing) — I think it might be possible for him to understand why some people — even some Iraqis — supported the overthrow of Saddam. […] I could also arrange a visit to Najaf or the equivalent, where Greenwald could meet with representatives of the Shi’a, who also took it on the chin from Saddam.

Yes, Corporal Goldberg, Glenn Greenwald could very well travel to Iraq with you and meet all types of people there who supported the war. But there are at least 600,000 Iraqis who, I imagine, are not too thrilled about the way it all turned out and with whom Greenwald will never get a meeting.

One could also dredge up some Iranians — from within and without Iran and, yes, of all political stripes, classes, ethnic groups, and religious affiliations — who might support a U.S. invasion of the Islamic Republic. Does that mean that Goldberg is also ready to lend “early support” to that war?

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. Jon Harrison,

    I believe the 600,000 figure refers to a peer reviewed estimation published by The Lancet. It’s been disputed but it’s also not the highest estimation around.

    From my reading of the figures the Iraq Body Count estimate of ~100,000 seems to leave out those who die from hunger or lack of infrastructure that the invasion and occupation of Iraq have caused, including only those casualties that occur directly as a result of bombings or gunfire. In that light, 600,000 casualties doesn’t seem unreasonable at all.

  2. For that matter I am sure that Mr Goldberg and Mr. Greenwald could also be introduced to at least a few million Iraqis who support Hezbollah over Israel. Just because a few million Iraqis (I’d even say a majority of the Iraqis) feel that way, would Mr Goldberg champion that US policy be changed or influenced by those Iraqis?

  3. @ Jon H. By “totally unsupported by facts,” you mean “based on scientific surveys published in peer-reviewed academic journals.”. Iraq’s own surveys found at least double the Iraq Body Count figures, and Iraqi health officials couldn’t get to the worst areas because of bad security. The more extensive work by public health scientists found hundreds of thousands had died. And in their more recent survey of Iraqi households, Opinion Research Business found that “the range is a minimum of 733,158 to a maximum of 1,446,063.”

    US and British warmongers, with their allies in the corporate press, have sought to discredit and diminish the horrifying reality, with great effect. (In secrecy, the officials admit that the research methods producing these huge numbers are robust.) But it is not that hard to understand the “known facts.”

  4. The ORB survey is a joke. Giving a range of 700,000 plus to 1.4 million plus reveals, ipso facto, poor methodology.

    I hate to sit here debating how many thousands of people may have died in Iraq. Whatever the number, every one of them represents a flesh-and-blood human being, a human life cut short. I have written tens of thousands of words in opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq. The human cost of the war has always been in the forefront of my criticism.

    That said, I will try to answer those who responded to me above. First we must establish what we mean by civilian deaths caused by the war. If a hospital closes due to armed conflict, and a person dies of some illness in that town, do we count that as a civilian death caused by the war? If we say yes, then I have to admit I have no idea how many “civilian casualties” the Iraq war has caused. If we mean civilians killed by violence either deliberately or as “collateral damage,” then the best evidence available would give a total of 100,000 to 200,000 killed. The latter figure would take into account the known fact that many civilian deaths in Iraq are never reported and therefore not counted. Admittedly, the number of unreported deaths can only be estimated; but there is no evidence to suggest that they exceed the number of known deaths by violence.

    The very high numbers — 600,000, 700,000, a million and more — are without any factual basis (even though they may have been “peer reviewed”), assuming we are talking about deaths by violence. If instead the numbers are meant to reflect people dead from all causes who would otherwise be alive had the war not been fought — well, you can throw around any figure you want, because there’s no sound basis for determining the actual number. Numbers published will reflect the political predilections of those who put them out.

  5. @ Jon. How many died in Rwanda? Or in the Haitian earthquake? No one actually counts them — yet somehow the figures for these death tolls are bandied about without attracting much opposition. Only when tallying deaths of US direct action do surveys and epidemiological research come under scrutiny.

    You should quickly fire off a statistical rebuttal of the ORB methodology to an academic journal — as soon as you get it published, you’ll have a leg to stand on.

    Your main argument seems to be: the numbers are very high, therefore they can’t be right. Never mind that the people actually doing the research, of course with large margins of error, come up with numbers in the hundreds of thousands. “Hundreds of thousands” is what Greenwald wrote; Gharib wrote 600,000. These numbers were attacked by the warmongers; privately we now know that “the chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence described the methods used by the second survey as “close to best practice” and added that the “study design is robust”. So what does Jon know that the British government scientists do not?

    As for responsible: The US, as the occupying power, is of course responsible for the deaths, devastation, refugees etc. unleashed by bombing, invading, occupying. Basic international law.

    BTW: what are the “political predilections” of Johns Hopkins public health researchers and ORB — that’s quite a conspiracy you’re uncovering…

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