Jeffrey Goldberg has never faced ‘pundit reckoning’ for pushing Iraq war

Middle East
on 10 Comments

Ken Silverstein has a pro-Hezbollah piece up at the Observer. Yeah, you read that right. The world is changing. The piece contains an excellent discussion of the achievements of Jeffrey Goldberg, the leading American journalist on Israel/Palestine issues, granted access by President Obama lately (because he speaks to the Israel lobby). Silverstein says he is an awful reporter who fabricated a moral case for invading Iraq.

Much of the American media’s coverage of the Middle East is simplistic and boring, and is naively sympathetic toward one side or the other. Among the most awful of all reporters covering the Middle East—and naturally among the most successful—is Jeffrey Goldberg. During the run-up to the Iraq War he authored a series of highly influential and resoundingly inaccurate pieces, which made and advanced the Bush administration’s case for invasion.

(I’m not the most impartial analyst of Mr. Goldberg’s oeuvre. Over the years, I’ve written about his excesses and distortions for various news outlets. In response, he has, among other things, derided me as “ethically challenged” because I once went undercover to pose as a foreign businessman who was seeking to hire a lobbying firm in D.C. to see how far—and how low—major D.C. lobby shops would go to secure a lucrative contract from a dictatorial regime. Short answer: Very far and very low.)

Mr. Goldberg strenuously sought to tie together Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and he also fabricated a “moral” case for invading Iraq on the grounds that Saddam was nothing less than a latter-day Hitler. Not only did he air the unconfirmed WMD allegations of Ahmed Chalabi as unassailable inside intelligence, he also propagated as gospel the ravings of a Kurdish prisoner who claimed to have proof of the Saddam-Al Qaeda link. But unlike some reporters—for example, Judith Miller, who covered Iraq for The New York Times—Mr. Goldberg never faced a moment of pundit reckoning. Instead, he’s failed steadily upward, gliding seamlessly from The New Yorker to Atlantic Monthly and now writing for a variety of publications. In writing about the Middle East, Mr. Goldberg has consistently served as a mouthpiece for the Israeli point of view.

It’s worth examining a two-part series Mr. Goldberg wrote for The New Yorker in 2002 when he traveled to Lebanon and elsewhere to report on Hezbollah. His resulting lurid two-part series won a National Magazine Award—a distinction that now looks like the journalistic equivalent of Henry Kissinger winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the first of the two stories, very little happens. Mr. Goldberg travels to the land of the hijab to meet a shadowy Hezbollah operative who allegedly kidnapped Americans 20 years ago. He never did meet the operative, but he stared down a “stiff and unhappy-looking man” whom Hezbollah had sent to “assess my intentions.” Our hero then returns to Beirut after downing three Pepsis at a café.

In the second story, Mr. Goldberg followed his terrorist quarry back to the New World, seeking evidence of Hezbollah sleeper cells in America and Paraguay. He found very little to support his thesis. Mr. Goldberg’s most sensational revelation concerned a Hezbollah cell in Charlotte, N.C., led by a Lebanese immigrant named Mohamad Youssef Hammoud. “In the course of a year and a half [the cell] sold $7.9 million worth of cigarettes illegally in Michigan and sent some of the profits to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Mr. Goldberg reported. What he didn’t note was that of that money, a paltry $3,500 was sent to Lebanon. Hammoud said money he helped send to Lebanon went to support Hezbollah’s efforts to distribute books at schools and improve public water systems.

Mr. Goldberg closed his story with this chilling discovery:

“Investigators in North Carolina found anti-American propaganda among the belongings of several of the cell members … [and] a series of photographs taken in Washington, D.C. In one of them, a member of the cell stands in front of the Washington Monument, smiling. In another, two members are posing in front of the White House.”

Probably half of the American population has similar photographs taken during trips to Washington. An astute analyst of Middle Eastern affairs will recognize, however, that Arab-American cigarette smugglers don’t smile while standing in front of monuments unless they’re planning to blow them up. (The case went to trial soon after the 9/11 attacks. Even at this moment of maximum public alarm, a North Carolina jury was deadlocked on the charge that Hammoud actually lent material support to a terrorist group. It came back with a conviction only after the judge ordered jurors to keep deliberating. Hammoud is still serving time but maintains his innocence. (His brother, Chawki Hammoud, was found guilty of charges that included cigarette smuggling and racketeering.)

More than a dozen years later, Mr. Goldberg remains a respected commentator on the Middle East. It’s a pity, because his work obscures rather than illuminates, and in fundamental ways.

Well lots of folks have not had their pundit reckoning, even as Jeb Bush gets pummeled, justly, for vacillating on whether the war was a bad thing. Last night at the 92nd Street Y, Ari Shavit twice twitted Peter Beinart for the fact that Beinart also supported the disastrous Iraq war, once saying he had “messianic” ideas about the war. Beinart nodded, seeming to acknowledge responsibility. Jim Fallows has tried to enforce some accountability re Bill Kristol.

“Genuine Q: What is the track record of accurate predictions or principled commentary that keeps getting B Kristol onto Sunday talk panels?”

IMHO this accounting is all incomplete without talking about the Israel piece. Beinart, Kristol and Goldberg (among others) approved an American invasion and occupation in the Middle East, I believe, because they care deeply about Israel and they wanted the U.S. doing Israel-like things and deposing an enemy of Israel along the way– and because Kristol’s father said that a weak US military was a threat to Israel. This disastrous background is the reason that Chuck Schumer, who also supported that war, now feels called upon as a Jewish leader and Zionist to disentangle the American and Israeli interests in going to war with Iran.
About Philip Weiss

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10 Responses

  1. Donald
    June 11, 2015, 12:14 pm

    The Goldberg pieces on Hezbollah are worse than depicted. Here’s a paragraph on what Goldberg calls their propaganda at the former Israeli/SLA torture center at Khiam, which was a museum then (later destroyed by Israel in the 2006 war according to wikipedia). Notice that Goldberg is much more interested in making fun of the Hezbollah captions than he is in telling his readers whether there is evidence for what the captions say.

    ————————————

    The centerpiece of Hezbollah’s propaganda effort in the South is the former Al-Khiam prison, a rambling stone-and-concrete complex of interconnected buildings, a few miles from the border, where I stopped on the way to Kfar Kila. For fifteen years, the prison was run by Israel’s proxy force in Lebanon, the South Lebanon Army, with the assistance of the Shabak, the Israeli equivalent of the F.B.I. Prisoners in Al-Khiam—which held almost two hundred at any given time—were allegedly subjected to electric-shock torture and a variety of deprivations. The jail has been preserved just as it was on the day the Israelis left. There are still Israeli Army-issue sleeping bags in the cells. Hezbollah has added a gift shop, which sells Hezbollah key chains and flags and cassettes of martial Hezbollah music; a cafeteria; and signs on the walls of various rooms that describe, in Hezbollah’s terms, the use of the rooms. “A Room for Investigation and Torturing by Electricity,” reads one. “A Room for the Boss of Whippers.” “A Room for Investigation with the Help of the Traitors.” And “The Hall of Torturing-Burying-Kicking-Beating-Applying Electricity-Pouring Hot Water-Placing a Dog Beside.” A busload of tourists, residents of a Palestinian refugee camp outside Beirut, were clearly in awe of the place, treating the cells as if they were reliquaries and congratulating the Hezbollah employees.

    ———————————–

    Here is what Human Rights Watch had to say about Israel and Khiam in 1999.

    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/1999/10/27/torture-khiam-prison-responsibility-and-accountability

    • just
      June 11, 2015, 12:48 pm

      That’s quite the bombshell, Donald. Thanks for that.

      It’s so Goldbergian to omit all of that as well. He is, after all, a volunteer IOF prison guard at heart and by deed. I always find it interesting that his wiki entry begins with : “Jeffrey Mark Goldberg (born September 1965) is an Israeli-American journalist.” He was born in Brooklyn, NY.

      Good for Ken Silverstein for bringing up this travesty of unaccountability, and for calling him out.

      “Mr. Goldberg never faced a moment of pundit reckoning. Instead, he’s failed steadily upward, gliding seamlessly from The New Yorker to Atlantic Monthly and now writing for a variety of publications. In writing about the Middle East, Mr. Goldberg has consistently served as a mouthpiece for the Israeli point of view.”

      Brilliantly written and oh, so true. So is this:

      “His resulting lurid two-part series won a National Magazine Award—a distinction that now looks like the journalistic equivalent of Henry Kissinger winning the Nobel Peace Prize.”

      Thanks Phil. I agree with your statement:

      “IMHO this accounting is all incomplete without talking about the Israel piece. Beinart, Kristol and Goldberg (among others)”

      It’s that big ol’ elephant in the room, isn’t it?

  2. Citizen
    June 11, 2015, 1:24 pm

    Traitor. But so is the US Congress. USA now is nothing but a slave nation to Israel. Zionists say that’s exactly what it should be. If you object, you may as well be David Duke.

    • pabelmont
      June 11, 2015, 6:45 pm

      citizen: Yes, Israel/AIPAC want USA to be an Israeli vassal. True indeed.

      But it is another and greater truth that the system called “neoliberalism” by which the USA and much of the world are ruled is a system rather like the old feudalism in which the mega-corporations are the overlords, the politicians and nations are the lesser lords (vassals), subservient to the overlords, and the people who live in the nations are nearly powerless serfs. This is where our money-driven elections have brought us. This is also what is codified in treaties such as TPP (written by and for mega-corporations, which the Senate is asked to enact without reading it, without hearing from expert witnesses other than from the corporations, etc.) Israel/AIPAC is one of the overlords in the USA and UK. What the people want (or would want if they were well informed) doesn’t matter to the overlords or to the politicians, their vassals.

      Maybe, as to Israel/AIPAC, that is changing a bit recently, suggesting that the other overlords are collectively getting tired of Israel, but the system’s been in place a long time and the feudal rules have long been set, so that the only question is whether BDS etc might shift public opinion enough to weaken the particular overlord known as Israel/AIPAC, The rest of the feudal system will remain in place. And since it elects to ignore climate change, climate change will go a lot farther in destroying the earth than it might have done had the feudal order responded quicker.

      • Keith
        August 11, 2015, 4:11 pm

        PABELMONT- “But it is another and greater truth that the system called “neoliberalism” by which the USA and much of the world are ruled is a system rather like the old feudalism in which the mega-corporations are the overlords, the politicians and nations are the lesser lords (vassals), subservient to the overlords, and the people who live in the nations are nearly powerless serfs.”

        I tend to think of neoliberalism more as a process leading to the neofeudal dystopia you describe. Also, one cannot overemphasize the importance of the global financial system in shaping the global political economy.

  3. Atlantaiconoclast
    June 12, 2015, 10:24 am

    The notion that we went to war against Iraq for Oil, and not Israel, must be exposed. Too many progressives still are clueless about the real motives for invading Iraq.

  4. Hostage
    June 13, 2015, 2:12 pm

    Jeffrey Goldberg has never faced ‘pundit reckoning’ for pushing Iraq war

    Oddly enough, the US government is trying to impose legal sanctions on persons or groups who call for peaceful measures, like boycotts, divestments, and sanctions of Israel over violations of international human rights (HR) conventions and conventions on international humanitarian law (IHL). The US is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an HR Convention which stipulates:

    Article 20

    1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.

    But the USA filed a reservation explaining that its power to adopt a prohibition was limited by the 1st Amendment. Nonetheless, it seems pretty obvious that the Executive and Legislative branches have found what they consider constitutionally sufficient grounds to justify the adoption of policies and statutes that have the practical effect of discouraging the exercise of constitutionally protected political rights regarding BDS, by simply invoking the “perception” of Antisemitism on college campuses. Surely then, there ought to be initiatives to discourage the danger of another war, like the one in Iraq, in which propaganda concerning WMDs led to at least 600,000 unnecessary deaths, and the displacement of 2 million refugees in violation of our obligations under the UN Charter and the relevant HR and IHL conventions.

    Likewise Goldberg has never been prosecuted for carrying out unlawful orders that amount to accessory to kidnapping and war crimes when he served as a prison guard and member of the Israeli armed forces during the 1st Intifada. Palestinians were forceably transferred out of the Occupied Territory in violation of IHL and held in a prison in the Israeli Negev under his control. Many were tortured and held without charge and/or detained for use as “bargaining chips”, and some even died in captivity. Like John Demjanjuk, he was engaged in an inherently illegal operation for which individual criminal responsibility applies, regardless of the motive involved, and for which, no statutory limitations apply.

  5. traintosiberia
    June 14, 2015, 3:47 pm

    Fight against Hizbullah or Assad or both lead to the same goal – smoothing the flight pathway to Iran by Israel and then getting US involved to clear ” the mess. “. ( ” per Chney gang )

    Here is Joshua Landis as quoted by http://www.antiwar.com. /http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2005/10/24/let-justice-be-done/

    ” “I have it on good authority that Steven Hadley, the director of the US National Security Council, called the President of the Italian senate to asked [sic] if he had a candidate to replace Bashar al-Assad as President of Syria. The Italians were horrified. Italy is one of Syria’s biggest trading partners so it seemed a reasonable place to ask! This is what Washington has been up to.”

    It was Syria who was on the coalition against Saddam, it was Syria that provided timely information that saved USA lives in post 2003 ME from attacks by al Quida hijackers . Syria also tortured ( the human right violations that Neocons didn’t want Syria to be accused of) the rendition victims. It got rid of CW. It’s role was limited to maintain good defensive alliances . Its interests do overlap with that of US . But the power that be don’t want Syria be known as ally but as enemy. Same is the fate of Hizbulah and both are connected.

    • Walid
      June 14, 2015, 8:13 pm

      “Fight against Hizbullah or Assad or both lead to the same goal ” (traintosiberia)

      Curiously, the mighty US along with a coalition of 20 partners all of them armed with F16s, drones and satellites are knocking out an ISIS Toyota pick-up every 5 days or so (never one of ISIS’ 2500 Humvees for some mysterious reason) while Hizbullah is busy clearing the Lebanese-Syrian badlands border areas of all ISIS presence there without the need of any sophisticated weapons. Also doing a great job cleaning up Anbar and retaking Ramadi for the Sunni by capturing hundreds of ISIS fighters:

      • traintosiberia
        June 14, 2015, 11:38 pm

        If the neocons were exposed and prosecuted ,then the war in ME wouldn’t have expanded and escalated to this stage. That would have deterred any prospective future warmongers from doing things behind the shadow under the radar.
        The gulf and Saudi fear of Shia to great extent are manufactured by the same neocon . it has the explanatory power for sudden Saudi hatred against Iran . But is just a new lie that the war against Iran and its allies are Saudi manifestation of insecurity . I think its the proof of pressure on Saudi to enter into defacto alliance with Israel. Neocons can always go back to the drawing board and dust off the old allegation of terror links . Neocons also can unleash thse jihadist against Saudi( Counterpunch covered this angle in an article written by Mr Israel ) . It is also possible that the genuine fear of internal revolt of Arab spring type forced these royals and sheikhs forced them use the diversionary tactics ( jihadi violence from IS and Nusra) against Iran which met Neocon game plan well. But Saudis are living on borrowed time .
        Question is why Turkey?

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