NYT’s Michael Gordon’s Record in Iraq

I have a longish piece up at the Tehran Bureau website: a follow-up on my Columbia Journalism Review piece that asks some uncomfortable questions about New York Times reporter Michael Gordon’s past record and how his reporting on Iran’s nefarious role in Iraq — especially in light of the conclusions he drew from the Wikileaks document dump — perhaps should be viewed with a grain of salt.

You should read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:

With the sights of Washington’s hawks now focused squarely on Iran, many critics feel they’ve seen the movie before as the Islamic Republic’s alleged nefarious activities in Iraq are relentlessly trotted out. And many of them even have their roots in the same journalist, Michael Gordon, who played a central role in the Times’ catastrophic abdication of its responsibility to the public in 2002 and 2003. […]

Gordon, rather than exercising caution with the information he was receiving, seemed to go beyond what he reported and what he was handed. Investigative journalist Gareth Porter documented for the American Prospect how it was not Gordon’s sources, but Gordon himself who “articulated the narrative of an Iranian-inspired attack on Americans” in a briefing reported for a mid-2007 New York Times story.

And you might also be forgiven for considering Gordon a reporter with a less than savory record on matters that might drive the nation to war. He was the reporting and writing partner of none other than Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter whose cozy relationships with Iraqi defectors and administration officials were instrumental in rousing public opinion against Iraq. Miller has since been dispatched by the Times and has staked out a more overtly ideological position writing for outlets like Fox News, where her distortions and use of almost exclusively neoconservative-aligned sources don’t prompt questions.

In 2002, however, Miller and Gordon were working together on stories about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction for theTimes. On Sunday, September 8, they had a front-page story on Iraq’s attempts to acquire aluminum tubes. Miller and Gordon wrote that the tubes were intended for centrifuges aimed at producing highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. […]

That Judith Miller was dismissed at all is something of an aberration. Gordon’s treatment is more par for the course. [Glenn] Greenwald notes that even after his error-laced Iraq reporting, [Jeffrey] Goldberg was lured away from the New Yorker, presumably with “bags full of cash,” by the Atlantic. He and Michael Gordon have now moved on to reporting about Iran — Goldberg through the eyes of the hawkish Israelis, and Gordon from Iraq, through single-source raw intel and unnamed military and administration officials.

This is not looking forward nor looking back, but not looking at all — a collective aversion of the eyes — as those same journalists responsible for enabling an aggressive war on questionable premises do so once again from their perch atop the journalistic establishment.

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.