On the front page of the New York Times, bottom left hand corner, the ultimate War Pornographer Michael Gordon offers up "Iraqi Shiite Cleric Reportedly Ends A Sojourn in Iran" which reads both smutty and child-like.
Gordo tells us that Moqtada al-Sadr "has quietly returned" to Iraq . . . unless of course he hasn't. Unless of course he was never gone. Unless of course he was out of Iraq but somewhere other than Iran. See, the War Pornographer builts his house upon official whispers, the War Pornographer built his house upon official whispers, the War Pornographer built his house upon official whispers. And, as his former co-writer Judith Miller could easily tell him, at some point
those who do that discover that the rains come tumbling down.
Gordo tells you that the rumor that al-Sadr has returned to Iraq (requiring you to accept as fact the rumor that he left -- when not all that long ago, US officials were publicly admitting that they did not know where al-Sadr was) is "[t]he prevailing view among American officials familiar with the intelligence reports" . . . or at least the prevailing view of the ones willing to talk to him -- a very, very small pool to be sure. Read in vain for a named source.
Now in paragraph six, you will come across one Toby Dodge. Dodge really doesn't count. He's "a Middle East expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London" which really doesn't qualify for "American officials."
Paragraph 12 does quote Robert Gates and, to be sure, he is an American official (Sec. of Defense for those still waking up this morning); however, Gordo's quoting him from the public record and going all the way back to March to do so. In the entire 17 paragraph doodle, Gordo has no named American official speaking on al-Sadr's alleged return to Iraq (following an alleged departure).
In paragraph 15, he does quote an unnamed official ("one Defense Department official") whose hot breat tickles the back of Gordo's ear with, "There is a range of speculation on what it might mean. Some say he will reassert himself. Some are not so surt of that. I don't believe the intelligence community has come to a firm assment on the meaning of his return to Iraq." On such weak, and unnamed grounds, is a front page story built.
Now al-Sadr did give a speech in Kufa today and clicking here will show that others putting forward arguments can actually name officials (Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., who is not in London and who is American, is actually named in paragraph five, for instance).
While noting that the Times loves to front page unattributed whispers, take a moment to grasp that today is day 14 that 2 US soldiers remain missing. The attack, the 3 that went missing never made the front page never made the front page until day 7 and that remains the only time they have -- despite the fact that one of the three turned up dead on Wednesday (which the military confirmed on Thursday). But transcriptions of Gordo's phone sex? There's always room on the front page of the Times for that nonsense.
Heads up, the latest Bill Moyers Journal begins airing in some markets tonight (PBS -- each station can determine when they air an episode) and features Maxine Hong-Kingston.
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