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Death's Factotum: Michael Gordon and the Times Pour Pentagon Poison into Nation's Ear

by Chris Floyd
Monday, 5 May 2008
Although Michael Gordon is probably not paid directly by the Bush Regime to peddle their propaganda, he serves precisely the same function as the military brass that the Administration embedded as "independent analysts" on the network news shows.

Judith Miller might have been the poster child for the corporate media's collaboration with the Bush Administration's war of aggression against Iraq -- but her New York Times colleague and co-writer, Michael Gordon, was every bit as culpable and complicit, happily playing stovepipe to the bloodthirsty bullshit gurgling up from the White House and Pentagon cesspits.

Miller is gone from the mainstream heights, but Gordon soldiers on at the Times -- literally. Although he is probably not paid directly by the Bush Regime to peddle their propaganda, he serves precisely the same function as the military brass that the Administration embedded as "independent analysts" on the network news shows -- a nefarious practice most recently exposed in great detail by...the New York Times.

But the Times, like most of our great institutions, piously follows the scriptural injunction, and lets not the right hand know what its left hand is doing. And so while it exposes television's willing collusion with White House warmongering, the paper continues its own collaboration with fomenting aggression -- this time, the conflict with Iran.

Gordon's latest is a classic of this sinister genre. He dutifully stovepipes claims by the usual unnamed "American officials" who tell him that Iranian agents have revealed that Hezbollah is training anti-American Iraqi Shiites inside Iran. This information, we are told, comes from "interrogations" of four Shiite militia members who were captured by American forces last year.

In other words, four Shiites who have been subjected to George W. Bush's beloved (and personally approved) "harsh interrogation techniques" for an entire year have --  surprise, surprise! -- told American officials exactly what they want to hear: that Iran is training Iraqi insurgents to kill Americans. Or to speak plainly and with no addition: four men have been tortured into confessions that serve the Bush Faction's militarist agenda.

But let us be absurd, and entertain for a moment the notion that Gordon's story is true; or rather, that the information tortured out of Iraqis held in indefinite detention and subjected to "strenuous interrogation" for a year is actually true, that Iran is actually using Hezbollah as a proxy to train Iraqi Shiites. The only sensible reply to such an assertion is: So what?


Why shouldn't Iran do exactly what the United States is doing in Iraq: training friendly militias to advance its own "national interests"? (Albeit in a far less extensive, less lethal way -- and in a troubled nation that sits on its border, and which recently invaded Iran?) In the perverted moral universe of the nation-state, Iran would only be following the lead of world's most exemplary nation. What's more, consider the wider, truer context of the story: it takes place at a time when Bush has ordered the escalation of the ongoing U.S. covert campaign inside Iran itself, in which Washington is paying and arming terrorist groups to murder Iranians and wreak violent destruction -- while also authorizing U.S. covert agents to assassinate Iranian officials. Given this reality, why shouldn't Tehran -- or any nation thus targeted for terrorism and assassinations -- take measures to respond?

But of course, Gordon's story is almost certainly false -- especially in its raw, context-less, unnuanced and uncritical regurgitation of Pentagon spin. And in any case, as actual experts such as Juan Cole and Nir Rosen have noted over and over, Iran's closest allies in Iraq are the same extremist factions that Bush himself now maintains in power in Baghdad, at an immense cost of American blood and treasure (not to mention the cost of a million Iraqi lives). Here's Rosen:

The truth is, most allegations about Iran's role in Iraq and the region are unfounded or dishonest. Iran was responsible for ending the recent fighting in Basra and calming the situation after Iraqi parliamentarians who backed Prime Minister Maliki approached it. The Iranians, never close to Muqtada or his family, were so annoyed with Muqtada and his presence that they reportedly ordered him out of Iran where he had been living in virtual house arrest anyway since arriving six months earlier. Iranian officials and the state media clearly supported Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraqi government against what they described as "illegal armed groups" in the recent conflict in Basra, which is not surprising given that their main proxy in Iraq, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council dominates the Iraqi state and is Maliki's main backer.

The Supreme Council is of course also the main proxy for the US in Iraq and somehow in the Senate testimony it was forgotten that its large Badr militia was established in Iran and is actually the only Iraqi opposition group to have fought on the Iranian side against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. Moreover, the Badr militia was a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that is so demonized today, and Badr dominates the ministry of interior, if not most of Iraq at the higher echelons. But none of this openly available information made its way to the Post's editorial writers or the dominant discourse in the US.

As long as Bush's favored Shiite factions remain in office in Baghdad, Iran will have close and willing allies in charge of Iraq. In fact, the worst possible result for Iran at this juncture would be the collapse of the present Baghdad government and its replacement by a faction or coalition actually devoted to the interests of an independent, sovereign Iraq. In this, Tehran and Washington have the same goal: the continuation of a weak, vulnerable and easily cowed and manipulated government nominally in charge of the broken, ruined nation once known as Iraq. If Hezbollah is actually training any Iraqis in Iran, it is the militias of the parties now in charge of the Bush-backed government.

The Bushists know all this. They know that Iran is actually backing Bush's own allies in Iraq, and, if anything, have helped keep that collection of grifters, grafters and collaborators in office. But it doesn't matter to the Bushists that Iran is serving Washington's short-term interests in Iraq -- any more than it mattered that Saddam Hussein was performing an invaluable service for the West during his tenure in power -- including after the first Gulf War. As Michael Scheuer put it recently:

Saddam Hussein was the single most important ally of the United States against al-Qaeda and its allies, and he was the best kind of ally because he did what America needed done without our having to coax, pay, or coerce him to do so. As long as Saddam was in power, the jihadis were stuck in place in South Asia and they were not coming west to permanent bases because the Iraqi intelligence and military services lethally greeted them on arrival. Saddam surely supported Palestinian terrorists, but so what; they attacked Israel not the United States. For America, Saddam was the cork in the neck of the bottle that kept the Sunni Islamists penned-up. Feith and his neocon sidekicks pull the cork from the bottle and now the jihadis have moved 2,500km west to more seriously threaten the Arab Peninsula, the Levant, Europe and Israel.

I believe that the chieftains of the Terror War were well aware of all this, just as they are obviously aware that Tehran is backing America's own partner in Iraq. But just as this knowledge didn't stop them from removing Saddam -- to the obvious detriment of their professed aims -- neither will it stop them from trying to remove the Iranian regime, despite their mutual alliance with Tehran in backing the Green Zone government. That's because it is not and has never been their goal to see secular, democratic, independent governments in either Iraq or Iran. They do not and have never cared a single instant about the freedom and well-being of the Iraqi or the Iranian people. (Or the American people, for that matter.) They are engaged on a long-range project of perpetual war toward an eventual goal of iron-clad military domination of a strategic portion of the world's energy supplies and distribution, and the establishment of America's "unipolar domination" over geopolitical affairs.

The many wars that are being fought -- and will be fought -- toward that goal are regarded as highly profitable sidelines. Their details don't really matter -- which collaborators can be cobbled together, which temporary alliances can be formed, what kind of governments emerge in the shattered territories, what actually happens to the worthless rabble who happen to live in the targeted lands. As we have noted before, this is why the Bush Administration's Iraq war aims and strategies and tactics have appeared to be constantly changing and blatantly contradictory -- because these details do not matter. As long as the war grinds on -- in whatever form -- the militarists will reap gigantic war profits (with the concomitant skewing of the political playing field at home; that kind of swag buys a lot of politicians, a lot of think tanks, and a lot of corporate media), and will keep the ball rolling toward the ultimate goal.

Michael Gordon has long been one of the most useful non-entities pushing this wheel of fire and death down the road for the masters of the war machine.  And with his latest piece of shameless, craven stenography, he has done them sterling service once again.

photo of Chris FloydChris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at

This column is republished here with the permission of the author.

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This story was published on May 6, 2008.