The Gray Lady and Officials Anonymous

The New York Times, the “Gray Lady” that abetted the efforts of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to dupe America into supporting the Iraq invasion, is still the willing echo chambermaid of the warmongery. The most egregious piece of covert propaganda the NYT ran during the run-up to Gulf War II was the Sept. 8, 2002, article by its access-poisoned reporters Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller that heralded “HUSSEIN INTENSIFIES QUEST FOR A-BOMB PARTS.”

We now know that the article was part of the elaborate Nigergate hoax, and that Gordon and Miller were establishing a practice that would become the NYT‘s standard disinformation tactic for years and perhaps decades to come. In presenting the case that Hussein was pursuing nuclear weapons capability from Niger, Gordon and Miller cited unnamed administration officials, American officials, senior officials, intelligence officials, government officials, United Nations officials and plain old generic “officials” a walloping 28 times.

In May 2004, the NYT‘s editorial board gave a smirking apology that allowed as how it “found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been” in its pre-invasion reporting. Nonetheless, the editors maintained that in most cases “what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted” from sources that were “themselves dependent on sketchy information.” And these sources passing along sketchy information were who? “Administration officials” who “now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation.” Poppycock. Those officials fell for the misinformation they wanted to hear, and they had no qualms about passing it along to the unsuspecting public.

If the NYT had been sincerely contrite about leading us down a primrose path to quagmire, it would have stopped allowing faceless officials to make baseless assertions about the threats posed by presumed “enemies.” NYT‘s editors weren’t a smidgen rueful, or course, and only an industrial-strength case of Orwellian doublethink could have led them to believe their sources were unaware that the information they were passing along was as genuine as a round dollar bill.

Don’t think for a moment that the 2008 election brought about a change in the NYT‘s pro-war position; it will exploit any flimsy excuse to help keep the public scared witless. Stanley McChrystal canonizer Dexter Filkins is but one of the many NYT reporters whose noses are permanently embedded up the COINdinistas‘ tent flap.

I wasn’t a bit surprised to see the story frequent Filkins collaborators Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane filed on May 5 that evoked phantom-sourced tales of the evildoers’ latest act of evil derring-do. “Evidence Mounts for Taliban Role in Bomb Plot” the headline blared. Hmm.

Who do you suppose is trying to beat up support to stay the course in the Bananastans*, and maybe re-re-re-escalate the reindeer games there? Why, “American officials,” of course. They tell the NYT it is “very likely” that the Pakistani Taliban, “once thought unable to attack the United States” helped “inspire and train” Faisal Shahzad, the naturalized U.S. citizen (immigrant!) under arrest for allegedly attempting to bomb Times Square on May 1.

The NYT says information about the Shahzad-Taliban connection comes from interrogations of Shahzad, which in turn comes from the aforementioned unnamed officials, who say unnamed “investigators” have “accumulated other evidence that they would not disclose,” and in fact, somewhere down around paragraph six, Filkins and Mazzetti admit that the officials, who only spoke with Filkins and Mazzetti on the condition they could stay anonymous (of course), “gave few details about what Mr. Shahzad had told investigators.” Just enough, apparently, for the NYT to run a front-page story with a headline that says the Taliban were behind the Times Square bombing.

The Filkins-Mazzetti story contains a pile of other trash about how the Times Square attempt ties in with other terror attempts and other terror groups, and how it’s President Obama’s drone attacks that are getting all these terrorizers riled up at us, and how some officials think Obama has “not taken the Pakistani Taliban threat seriously,” an eye-watering claim considering that we’re fighting the Taliban in a stupid, seemingly endless war half a world away.

I can’t speak with any authority about what motivated the Mazzetti-Shane article, but the piece has the earmarks of being part of an effort by team McChrystal – most notably by his information warfare officer, Rear Adm. Greg Smith – to ward off the oncoming bus that the Obama administration and a senior element within the five-sided hunker bunker are preparing to throw Banana Stan under subsequent to his failure-in-a-box Marjah offensive.

And all this hoopla is over another terrorkind who was an even bigger screw-up than the panty bomber. Shahzad built a bomb that couldn’t have caused a large explosion even if it had gone off. He locked the keys in both the car bomb car and the getaway car so he had to take a subway car home and beg his landlord to let him into his apartment. He got caught because the number in the memory of a cell phone he left in the car bomb car matched one he’d given customs authorities earlier. When officials arrested him on an aircraft about to take off for Dubai, Shahzad said, “I was expecting you.” He should have said, “What took you bozos so long?”

On May 8, the NYT‘s Jane Perlez reported that anonymous officials say the locked-car bombing attempt came “amid increasing debate within the administration about how to expand the American military’s influence – and even a boots-on-the-ground presence – on Pakistani soil.” One of the officials says we’re telling Pakistan, “Sorry, if there is a successful attack, we will have to act,” by further escalating our presence in that country.

Lost in the NYT-generated hoopla is reporting by the Associated Press from May 5 – the same day the Mazzetti-Shane fright piece hit the streets – that authorities don’t believe there are any other suspects in the plot and that several arrests in Pakistan in the past two days were not related. The Pakistani Talibani have denied any connection with Shahzad, and even McChrystal’s mentor “King David” Petraeus admits that Shahzad was a “lone wolf.”

The New York Times continues to set unprecedented sub-standards in printing third-hand innuendo and framing it as cold fact. Imagine what this country would be like if the NYT took its “newspaper of record” buzz-label seriously and not as license to get away with journalistic murder, literal murder of both our troops and of civilians in the countries they occupy.

* The Bananastans are Pakistan and Afghanistan, our Central Asian banana republics.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.