FW: US officials anonymously “brief”(hoax?) press on Iranianinvolve

From: Andrew Johnson

Date: 2007-02-14 21:41:39

  Remember how the NYTimes cheerled for an invasion of Iraq, then apologized for their coverage? I guess they were just “crying crocodile tears” –what could be more obviously propaganda than Defense Department officials being given anonymity in an official press briefing?  What has become of our level of intellectual standards that they could even think the populace would take this seriously? What has become of the press that they could even entertain the notion that this would be acceptable behavior on their part–that the gov’t should be helped to distribute official information through anonymous channels? ‘MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS’: One senior defense analyst at yesterday’s briefing admitted that there was no “smoking gun” linking Tehran and Iraqi militants. Three anonymous Defense Department officials offered what they described as a “growing body of evidence” that high-level Iranian officials are involved in manufacturing and exporting “armor piercing explosives, known as ‘explosively formed penetrators,’ or EFPs, that have killed more than 170 coalition troops” in the past two years. The Washington Post described the briefing as the “farthest that coalition forces have gone to make the case that Iran is working to attack U.S. and Iraqi troops.” But as NPR noted, reporters walked away “with more questions than answers,” frustrated that the officials were “saying they have all this evidence” but weren’t “showing it to [them].” Even Iraq’s deputy foreign minister, Labeed M. Abbawi, said, “It is difficult for us here in the diplomatic circles just to accept whatever the American forces say is evidence. If they have anything really conclusive, then they should come out and say it openly, then we will pick it up from there and use diplomatic channels” to discuss it with Iran. The recently released National Intelligence Estimate acknowledged that Iran is attempting to support Shiite militias in Iraq. But it also clearly stated that Iran is not the driving force behind Iraq’s violence: “Iraq’s neighbors influence, and are influenced by, events within Iraq, but the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability.” Sunday’s presentation came after multiple delays. On Feb. 2, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said that White House twice pulled it back because it wanted to get the presentation “narrowed and focused on the facts.” But according to a report in National Journal, it was actually the intelligence community — not administration officials — who demanded that the presentation be “scrubbed” of overstated claims. MEDIA REPEATING PRE-WAR MISTAKES: Media outlets expressed only limited skepticism about Sunday’s briefing, with most deciding to put the story on the front pages. Editor and Publisher notes, “An article by Joshua Partlow from Baghdad — currently atop the [Washington Post’s] Web site — carried the declarative headline, ‘Iran Sending Explosives to Extremist Groups in Iraq,’ without even ‘U.S. officials say.'” Former CNN reporter Eason Jordan, who now runs the site IraqSlogger, reported that the Voices of Iraq news service identified one of the anonymous Defense Department officials who presented reporters with the Iran presentation was “Major General William Caldwell, whose portfolio includes public affairs and who holds frequent news conferences and grants one-on-one interviews.” “So, if the VOI report identifying Caldwell is correct, why did every other news organization apparently agree to grant anonymity to the general who’s the official spokesman of the US-led Multi-National Force in Iraq?” questioned Jordan. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman similarly asks today, “Why wasn’t any official willing to take personal responsibility for the reliability of alleged evidence of Iranian mischief, as opposed to being an anonymous source? If the evidence is solid enough to bear close scrutiny, why were all cameras and recording devices, including cellphones, banned from yesterday’s Baghdad briefing?” A Saturday New York Times article by Michael Gordon previewed yesterday’s Baghdad briefing and recited administration claims about Iran’s involvement in Iraq “without the slightest questioning, investigation, or presentation of ample counter-evidence.” Editor and Publisher’s Greg Mitchell points out that it was Gordon “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.”

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