Goldberg’s Little Mistakes on NPR (UPDATED)

Jeffrey Goldberg made a mistake on NPR yesterday, in appearances talking about his controversial new article for The Atlantic.

“On Point” host Tom Ashbrook asked tough questions of Goldberg, confronting him with critics like Glenn Greenwald. Goldberg fired back that Greenwald had retracted his criticisms, thereby dismissing his arguments. In fact, no such retraction happened. Greenwald points out that this was not just some lapse in memory about an event that happened long ago, but that it was a “complete fabrication” about commentary written last week (in Greenwald’s updates, you’ll find much of the back and forth between the two).

The accumulation of the small mistakes is troubling, given the prominence of Goldberg in the U.S. debate. This is even the case if his newest “article hews to a strictly reportorial perspective,” as his colleague James Fallows said. Errors of fact, no matter how small, are “reportorial” errors. Muddled reportage was a major disaster in the lead up to the Iraq War.

Goldberg himself has maintained that he was right about ties between Saddam and al-Qaeda-linked groups, but he stands corrected in his accusation that Saddam was actively trying to weaponize aflatoxin (unless he cares to respond). As Ken Silverstein pointed out way back in ’06, Saddam’s regime had looked into the cancer-causing poison, but hadn’t pursued it. Goldberg nonetheless stated as fact that Saddam had a “weaponization” program twice in the run up to the war — once on Slate and once on CNN.

Silverstein even points to this amazing line: Critics of the Iraq war plan have “limited experience in the Middle East (Their lack of experience causes them to reach the naive conclusion that an invasion of Iraq will cause America to be loathed in the Middle East, rather than respected).”

Are readers really expected, after the disaster that was Iraq, to wipe Goldberg’s slate clean? And even if they do, how many more little mistakes will Goldberg make before everyone realizes he’s walked them into another big one?

UPDATE (8/21/10): In the original version of this piece, I erred in reading Goldberg’s assertion on “All Things Considered” as a new break. I thought when he was talking about U.S. officials going to China to warn of Israeli unpredictability, Goldberg was conflating two events — namely the separate April trips by U.S. and Israeli officials, where opposite messages were delivered inre: China’s energy stability.

I was wrong. Goldberg was likely talking about a late 2009 trip by Dennis Ross and Jeffrey Bader where they did just that. A reader pointed me to multiple stories that said as much. My apologies.

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. Did anyone see the 2 stories on Israeli spending $36,000,000 in the past 2 years manipulating the US media? The Atlantic was mentioned in both. I read these on OpEdNews 8/20. One was from Russia TodayTV a video and the other was about a Congressional report with exerpts from the report.
    Haven’t seen it in the mainstream press.

    Good job with Goldburg, Tom.

  2. I think Gareth Porter’s analysis of Goldberg’s Atlantic piece (IPS, Aug. 13) tells us a lot about what’s important here. More and more I think that Goldberg’s article represents good news, and throws light on a diminishing (yes, diminishing) prospect of an Israeli strike on Iran in 2011.

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