‘NYT’ Reporter Who Got Iraqi WMDs Wrong Now Highlights Iran Claims


Richard Moore

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'NYT' Reporter Who Got Iraqi WMDs Wrong Now Highlights Iran Claims
By Greg Mitchell

From the St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Bay, Florida

Published: February 10, 2007 10:30 PM ET Friday updated Saturday

NEW YORK Saturday¹s New York Times features an article, posted at the top of its
Web site late Friday, that suggests very strongly that Iran is supplying the 
³deadliest weapon aimed at American troops² in Iraq. The author notes, ³Any 
assertion of an Iranian contribution to attacks on Americans in Iraq is both 
politically and diplomatically volatile.²

What is the source of this volatile information? Nothing less than ³civilian and
military officials from a broad range of government agencies.²

Sound pretty convincing? Well, almost all the sources in the story are unnamed. 
It also may be worth noting that the author is Michael R. Gordon, the same Times
reporter who, on his own, or with Judith Miller, wrote some of the key, and 
badly misleading or downright inaccurate, articles about Iraqi WMDs in the 
run-up to the 2003 invasion.

Gordon wrote with Miller the paper's most widely criticized -- even by the Times
itself -- WMD story of all, the Sept. 8, 2002, ³aluminum tubes² story that 
proved so influential, especially since the administration trumpeted it on TV 
talk shows.

When the Times eventually carried an editors¹ note that admitted some of its 
Iraq coverage was wrong and/or overblown, it criticized two Miller-Gordon 
stories, and noted that the Sept. 8, 2002, article on page one of the newspaper 
"gave the first detailed account of the aluminum tubes. The article cited 
unidentified senior administration officials who insisted that the dimensions, 
specifications and numbers of tubes sought showed that they were intended for a 
nuclear weapons program."

This, of course, proved bogus.

The Times ³mea-culpa² story dryly observed: "The article gave no hint of a 
debate over the tubes," adding, "The White House did much to increase the impact
of The Times article." This was the famous "mushroom cloud" over America 

Gordon also wrote, following Secretary of State Colin Powell's crucial, and 
appallingly wrong, speech to the United Nations in 2003 that helped sell the 
war, that "it will be difficult for skeptics to argue that Washington's case 
against Iraq is based on groundless suspicions and not intelligence 

Now, more than four years later, Gordon reveals: ³The Bush administration is 
expected to make public this weekend some of what intelligence agencies regard 
as an increasing body of evidence pointing to an Iranian link, including 
information gleaned from Iranians and Iraqis captured in recent American raids 
on an Iranian office in Erbil and another site in Baghdad.² Gordon's unnamed 
sources throughout the story are variously described as "Administration 
officials," "intelligence experts" and "American intelligence."

Today, in contrast to the Times' report, Dafna Linzer in The Washington Post 
simply notes, "Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said serial numbers 
and markings on some explosives used in Iraq indicate that the material came 
from Iran, but he offered no evidence."

For some perspective, here is how that "mushroom cloud" Gordon-Miller story of 
Sept. 8, 2002, opened:

³More than a decade after Saddam Hussein agreed to give up weapons of mass 
destruction, Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked 
on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb, Bush administration 
officials said today.

³In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed 
aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of 
centrifuges to enrich uranium. American officials said several efforts to 
arrange the shipment of the aluminum tubes were blocked or intercepted but 
declined to say, citing the sensitivity of the intelligence, where they came 
from or how they were stopped.

³The diameter, thickness and other technical specifications of the aluminum 
tubes had persuaded American intelligence experts that they were meant for 
Iraq's nuclear program, officials said, and that the latest attempt to ship the 
material had taken place in recent months.

³The attempted purchases are not the only signs of a renewed Iraqi interest in 
acquiring nuclear arms. President Hussein has met repeatedly in recent months 
with Iraq's top nuclear scientists and, according to American intelligence, 
praised their efforts as part of his campaign against the West.

³Iraq's nuclear program is not Washington's only concern. An Iraqi defector said
Mr. Hussein had also heightened his efforts to develop new types of chemical 
weapons. An Iraqi opposition leader also gave American officials a paper from 
Iranian intelligence indicating that Mr. Hussein has authorized regional 
commanders to use chemical and biological weapons to put down any Shiite Muslim 
resistance that might occur if the United States attacksŠ.

"'The jewel in the crown is nuclear,'' a senior administration official said. 
ŒThe closer he gets to a nuclear capability, the more credible is his threat to 
use chemical or biological weapons. Nuclear weapons are his hole card. The 
question is not, why now?' the official added, referring to a potential military
campaign to oust Mr. Hussein. 'The question is why waiting is better. The closer
Saddam Hussein gets to a nuclear weapon, the harder he will be to deal with.'

²Hard-liners are alarmed that American intelligence underestimated the pace and 
scale of Iraq's nuclear program before Baghdad's defeat in the gulf war. 
Conscious of this lapse in the past, they argue that Washington dare not wait 
until analysts have found hard evidence that Mr. Hussein has acquired a nuclear 
weapon. The first sign of a 'smoking gun,' they argue, may be a mushroom cloud.²

Last month, Byron Calame, public editor at The New York Times, and the paper's 
Washington bureau chief, Phil Taubman, agreed that Gordon had stepped over the 
journalistic line in a recent TV appearance by starkly backing the "surge" in 
Iraq. Gordon had said, "So I think, you know, as a purely personal view, I think
it's worth one last effort for sure to try to get this right, because my 
personal view is we've never really tried to win. We've simply been managing our
way to defeat."


The Washington Post joined in on Sunday in trumpeting the Iran weapons charge.

Greg Mitchell (•••@••.•••)

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