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. You fail to address the distinction I made between those killed by violence and those whose deaths are supposedly somehow tied to the war — vide my example of a person who dies of illness in a community where the hospital has been closed or destroyed by the war. If such deaths are to be included in the total, then I admit the numbers could swell considerably. My own view is that deaths by violence is the only statistic we can get some kind of a handle on. The best evidence is that deaths by violence in Iraq from 2003 to the present total 100-200,000.

    I don’t feel any need to rebut the ORB methodology. I’m commenting on a blog, not compiling a dissertation. My opinion is based on some knowledge of how such information is gathered; I assert no more than that. You’re entitled to believe I’m full of crap. That’s a matter of indifference to me.

    I did not say or, I think, imply that “the numbers are very high, therefore they can’t be right.” There’s no sound evidentiary basis for 600,000 civilian deaths, IF we are referring only to those killed by violence.

    The idea that public health researchers from a prestigious organization are, ipso facto, without political or other bias is naive in the extreme. Nor does the historical record reveal that qualified professionals are always competent. We see evidence of this every day, in the news and in our own lives. Mind you, I’m not saying that these particular people from Johns Hopkins were biased or incompetent. One would have to look much deeper to reach a conclusion. My point was a general one and did not refer to any particular study or group.

    The best evidence we have is that Iraqi civilian deaths directly caused by violence number somewhere in the region of 100-200,000. There is no good evidence for a figure approaching 600,000. Please note again that I refer to deaths directly attributable to violence.

    The examples you cite (Rwanda, Haiti) have no relevance to the circumstances of Iraq. Your sarcasm and ideological huffing and puffing add nothing to your argument either.

  2. You are entitled to your opinion, but not to your own facts. “The best evidence” is surely … evidence, by which we mean the systematic collection of facts by researchers. And different researchers, at different times, with different agencies, concluded that, indeed, “hundreds of thousands” died as a result of the US occupation. As the Johns Hopkins researchers noted, when they did surveys to find out how many died in Rwanda, no one objected. Only when they counted victims of US aggression were their conclusions challenged. And sorry, Jon, just coz you say the numbers must be wrong hardly is an argument. Nor does it imply blind faith in experts to take “evidence” seriously, especially when privately the warmongers admit they’re right. And even if Jon says they’re not.

    “Evidence” would look like this: here is a survey using established methods that reached different conclusions; here is a study using real science that reached different conclusions. Evidence is NOT “I don’t believe these numbers.”

  3. i’m sure 600k dead is a reasonable guess, but put that completely aside, how about the 4M (my best memory of the documented number, it’s a ballpark, not trying to be exact) who fled iraq to jordan, syria etc. I have not heard any recent follow-up on how many of those have been able to return, but surely that’s not even close to the numbers who lost their homes and family members on both sides of the sunni-shia ethnic cleansing.

    the kurds are the big winners by far. citing the happiness of the kurds for a claim the US did good is way beyond stupid. Making this argument proves how morally bankrupt Goldberg is. This is his way of taking responsibility for cheerleading for slaughter. The man is a monster, true sociopath.

  4. Once again you overlooked the distinction between deaths by violence and the more amorphous “died as a result of the US occupation.” I’m very comfortable with my views, and with your rejection of them as well. The bottom line is that there is no evidence to support the figure of 600,000 or more violent deaths in the period 2003-2010. That is the only fact I am asserting. Oh, and one other: that ideological pedilections will color many people’s beliefs. You’ve demonstrated that superbly.

  5. Many have looked at The Lancent’s published studies on the number of Iraqi dead and said the methodology is solid and the best we have. There were likely more than 600,000 Iraqis killed as a direct and indirect result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

    That was far more Iraqis that were ever killed by the Saddam regime. Multiples more.

    And that says nothing of the millions that are now refugees in other countries and those now left to live in much more disease, poverty and squander because of the war.

    1.0 million Iraqis killed is the equivalent of 10 million Americans had died.

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