by Alexander Cockburn
all of Judith Miller's New York Times stories end to end, from late 2001 to June 2003, and you get a desolate picture of a reporter with an agenda, both manipulating and being manipulated by U.S. government officials, Iraqi exiles and defectors, an entire Noah's ark of scam artists.
And while Miller, either under her own single byline or with NYT colleagues, was touting the bioterror threat, her book "Germs," co-authored with Times-men Stephen Engelberg and William Broad, was in the bookstores and climbing the best seller lists. The same day that Miller opened an envelope of white powder (which turned out to be harmless) at her desk at The New York Times, her book was No. 6 on The New York Times best seller list. The following week (Oct. 21, 2001), it reached No. 2. By Oct. 28 (at the height of her scare-mongering campaign), it was up to No. 1. If we were cynical.
We don't have full 20/20 hindsight yet, but we do know for certain that many sensational disclosures in Miller's major stories between late 2001 and early summer 2003, promoted disingenuous lies. There were no secret biolabs under Saddam's palaces, no nuclear factories across Iraq secretly working at full tilt. A huge percentage of what Miller wrote was garbage, garbage that powered the Bush administration's propaganda drive toward invasion.
What does that make Miller? She was a witting cheerleader for war. She knew what she was doing.
And what does Miller's performance make The New York Times? Didn't any senior editors at the paper or even the boss, A.O. Sulzberger, ask themselves whether it was appropriate to have a trio of Times reporters touting their book, "Germs," on TV and radio, while simultaneously running stories in The New York Times headlining the risks of biowar and thus creating just the sort of public alarm beneficial to the sales of their book? Isn't that the sort of conflict of interest prosecutors have been hounding Wall Street punters for?
The knives are certainly out for Miller. Leaked internal e-mail traffic disclosed Miller's self-confessed reliance on Ahmad Chalabi, a leading Iraqi exile with every motive to produce imaginative defectors eager to testify about Saddam's biowar, chemical and nuclear arsenal. In late June, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post ran a long story about Miller's ability in recent months to make the U.S. Army jump, merely by threatening to go straight to Donald Rumsfeld.
It was funny, but again, the conflicts of interest put The New York Times in a terrible light. Here was Miller, with a contract to write a new book on the post-invasion search for "weapons of mass destruction," lodged in the Army unit charged with that search, fiercely insisting that the unit prolong its futile hunt, while simultaneously working hand in glove with Chalabi. Journalists have to do some complex dance steps to get good stories, but a few red flags should have gone up on that one.
Dec. 20, 2001, headline: "Iraqi Tells of Renovations at Sites for Chemical and Nuclear Arms." Miller rolls out a new Iraqi defector, in the ripe tradition of her favorite, Khidir Hamza, the utter fraud who called himself Saddam's Bombmaker.
Story: "An Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago.
"The defector, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, gave details of the projects he said he worked on for President Saddam Hussein's government in an extensive interview last week in Bangkok..The interview with Mr. Saeed was arranged by the Iraqi National Congress, the main Iraqi opposition group, which seeks the overthrow of Mr. Hussein.
"If verified, Mr. Saeed's allegations would provide ammunition to officials within the Bush administration who have been arguing that Mr. Hussein should be driven from power partly because of his unwillingness to stop making weapons of mass destruction."
Notice the sedate phrase "if verified." It never was verified. But the story served its purpose.
Sept. 7, 2002, headline: "U.S. says Hussein intensifies quest for A-bomb parts." Another of Miller's defectors takes a bow: "Speaking on the condition that neither he nor the country in which he was interviewed be identified, Ahmed al-Shemri, his pseudonym, said Iraq had continued developing, producing and storing chemical agents at many mobile and fixed secret sites throughout the country, many of them underground.
"All of Iraq is one large storage facility," said Mr. Shemri. Asked about his allegations, American officials said they believed these reports were accurate."
Sept. 18, 2002, headline: "Verification is Difficult at Best, Say the Experts, and Maybe Impossible." Khidhir Hamza made a cameo appearance reporting his supposed knowledge that "Iraq was now at the 'pilot plant' stage of nuclear production and within two to three years of mass producing centrifuges to enrich uranium for a bomb.
Jan. 24, 2003, headline: "Defectors Bolster U.S. Case Against Iraq, Officials Say." Al-Haideri is still in play: "Intelligence officials said that some of the most valuable information has come from Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a contractor who fled Iraq in the summer of 2001. He later told American officials that chemical and biological weapons laboratories were hidden beneath hospitals and inside presidential palaces. Mr. Haideri was relocated anonymously to a small town in Virginia."
We'll leave al-Haideri in well-earned retirement and Miller heading toward her supreme triumph of April 20, 2003, relaying the allegations of chemical and bio-weapon dumps made by an unnamed Iraqi scientist she'd never met.
July 9, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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