Bull Feather Merchant Marines

The New York Times continues to serve as headquarters of the Pentagon’s bull feather merchant marines.

The headline of an Oct. 20 Times piece by Carlotta Gall on the Kandahar offensive read “Coalition Forces Routing Taliban in Key Afghan Region.” Nothing in the text of the piece supported the conclusion that anything remotely like a “rout” is taking place.

“NATO commanders” told Gall that they are making “deliberate progress.” Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, the British commander of NATO forces in the Kandahar offensive, says, “We now have the initiative. We have created momentum.” Lt. Col. Rodger Lemons, who commands Task Force 1-66 and who may or may not also be a Brit (Gall doesn’t tell us), says that “a lot” of the Taliban “are getting killed.” In my day we called those sorts of remarks “condemnation by faint praise.”

It tells you something that Carter and Lemons aren’t altogether giddy about the operation’s prospects even though they both have a serious stake in its outcome. Lt. Col. Lemons has reasonable expectations of becoming full-bird Col. Lemons unless he screws up by, say, blurting the truth to reporters from the New York Times. Maj. Gen. Carter may have ambitions to become Lt. Gen or even just plain Gen. Carter. Carter’s wish may come true if he can walk out the Khyber Pass smelling like the man who saved NATO.

For a lot of war wonks, preserving the NATO alliance is the only remaining legitimate objective of Obama’s War. The project to save NATO is doubtless the reason Gall referred to Carter’s command as NATO and not as ISAF, an acronym that officially stands for “International Security Assistance Force.” The war-friendly mainstream media regularly referred to Carter’s command as ISAF until Michael Hastings revealed in his June Rolling Stone article that U.S. troops had taken to deriding ISAF as being short for “I Suck at Fighting.” So I guess we’ll hear the coalition referred to as NATO until somebody figures out that it really means “Needed for Afghanistan, Terminated Otherwise.”

Alas for Carter and Lemons, they’ve probably already achieved their terminal ranks, because the Helmand operation is going down just like the rest of the offensives we’ve conducted in Afghanistan since March 2009 when President Obama’s national security “Chess Masters” came up with their own original plagiarized version of the clear-hold-build strategy. The Taliban, savvy Maoist guerrillas that they are, are avoiding a direct confrontation with a superior force, moving on to strike undefended targets, while our generals, who make Gomer Pyle look like Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, continue to adhere to a doctrine that’s been a proven failure since Vietnam.

But that makes no never mind because the New York Times says we’re routing the Taliban in Kandahar, and hey, the Times is one of them liberal newspapers, so if they say we’re winning it must be true, right? (Huh!)

On Friday afternoon I heard the in the background news noise about how WikiLeaks had released a billion or so new documents showing how the war in Iraq was even worse than we had thought and how our military and government had lied to us and other ho-hummery. I switched on the Nightly News to see how the Pentagon’s spin commandos were going to fight their latest fire, and, sure enough, NBC trots out military correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. Jim’s looking, as he always does, about 49 minutes into happy hour with his brows slightly knit from the effort of trying to remember what his Pentagon pals told him to say when he got on camera. Oh, yeah, he remembers now: The Pentagon is very concerned, Brian, very concerned, that this unauthorized leak of secret information will put their sources in danger, dire danger, Brian, they’re very concerned, very dangerous, very concerned, very concerned and dangerous…

I got up early Saturday to see what kind of damage control the New York Times had done for the Pentagon, and sure as death and tax cuts there was the headline on page A1: “Leaked Reports Detail Iran’s Aid for Iraqi Militias.” Then I glanced at the byline, and, lo and behold, the first name on it was Michael R. freaking Gordon.

Michael R. Gordon, chief military correspondent for the New York Times, is the epitome of access-poisoned news reporting, and he has likely done more harm to the world he inhabits than any other living journalist. He and fellow Times reporter Judith Miller helped the neoconservative cabal spearheaded by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to pull off the Nigergate yellowcake hoax in which documents later proven to be forgeries became a major justification for the invasion of Iraq. A Sept. 8, 2002, Gordon-Miller Times piece announced, “Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.” Gordon and Miller supported this explosive assertion by citing anonymous “officials” an eye-watering 31 times, setting an all-time low, and lamentably the new standard, for phantom sourcing in American journalism.

Gordon has remained a trusted gunman of the Long War mafia. He aggressively marketed the Iraq surge for his war-mongrel cronies, publishing stories like “Grim Outlook Seen in West Iraq Without More Troops and Aid” and “General Warns of Risks in Iraq if GIs Are Cut” and “Get Out Now? Not So Fast, Some Experts Say.”

Gordon has also been at the forefront of aiding the Pentarchy’s push for war with Iran, filing front-page Times stories like February 2007’s “Deadliest Bomb in Iraq is Made by Iran, U.S. Says,” and bolstering his assertions with his trademark citations of unidentified “senior administration officials.”

His latest shenanigan follows his established modus. Gordon reports that Azhar al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi Shi’ite militia commander who was accused of being involved in the kidnapping and murder of four American soldiers, was trained by Iran’s “masters of the dark arts of paramilitary operations” (yes, masters of the dark arts, those were Gordon’s exact words).

This revelation is based on a report written by an unknown party, presumably an intelligence analyst who could have been a buck private for all we know. The report, drawn from unidentified sources and peppered with mumble modifiers, states that Dulaimi’s superior, Jaysh al-Mahdi, “allegedly planned to attack U.S. Humvees traveling in two to three car convoys with the intent to kidnap U.S. soldiers in Baghdad.” Al-Mahdi chose Dulaimi to plan and execute the plot, the report says, because Dulaimi “allegedly trained in Iran” and he “reportedly obtained his training from Hezbollah operatives.”

Gordon uses several such reports to back up his latest anti-Iran screed. Every one of them is the sort of thing that competent senior intelligence analysts take home and put in their parrot’s cage so the paper they’re written on doesn’t go completely to waste. They’re laughable as pieces of intelligence, but they’re more than sufficient for a propaganda pimp like Gordon to spin a front-page Times article out of.

To get a feel for how quickly the Gordon piece was being picked up on by the echo chamber, I flicked on the Saturday version of Nightly News just in time to catch The Mick, and sure enough I got an earful: Oh, the released documents revealed that Iran was doing bad things all along in Iraq, very very bad, very bad bad, very very very bad bad bad (hic!).

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.