Washington Babylon — May 1, 2008, 8:26 am

Journalism Ethics Lessons from the Iraqi War’s Chief Salesman

In his new blog, Jeffrey Goldberg complains that he recently was insulted by Matt Haber of the New York Observer. Haber cited an old item I wrote which said that Goldberg had helped sell the Iraq War with reporting that relied “heavily on administration sources and war hawks (and in at least one crucial case, a fabricator).” Goldberg said that in doing so, Haber had “repeated a discredited accusation made by an ethically-challenged journalist about my reporting.”

Presumably I am “ethically-challenged” because I went undercover for a story last year in which I posed as a flunky for the Stalinist government of Turkmenistan and tricked several top Washington lobbying firms into offering, for huge fees, to improve that regime’s image. Which, though I admit to a certain bias here, strikes me as being a lot less ethically-challenged than Goldberg having written articles in the run-up to the Iraq War that read like Bush administration talking points on Saddam Hussein having WMD stocks and ample ties to Al Qaeda. Goldberg so slavishly aped the administration’s views that President Bush and Vice President Cheney both publicly cited his work in making the case for war.

As to my “discredited accusation,” here’s what I wrote about Goldberg back in 2006, detailing his stenographic work for the administration. Many other writers have documented Goldberg’s outlandish pre-War work, including this recent item by Spencer Ackerman and this 2003 article by Jason Burke of the London Observer, which demolished Goldberg’s reporting.

Also, in her 2007 book Echoes of Violence: Letters from a War Reporter, the highly-regarded German reporter Carolin Emcke further shredded Goldberg’s work. In a review in BookForum, Eliza Griswold writes:

Most interesting, however, is a thirteen-and-a-half-page section titled “On Journalistic Misjudgments,” in which Emcke examines the work of Jeffrey Goldberg, whose New Yorker article “The Great Terror” was published in the lead-up to the Iraq war and advanced the administration’s argument that there was indeed a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Several weeks after Goldberg’s article appeared, Emcke traveled to Kurdistan and interviewed Mohammed Mansour Shahab, the so-called Al Qaeda link. While Goldberg had taken this source’s account to be true, Emcke, like others after her, found the story of Shahab (aka Mr. Fridge) to be incredible. Baffled as to how Goldberg could have taken him seriously, she contacted the reporter and subsequently writes about their exchange. “It is not our mistakes that endanger our credibility,” she concludes, “but our unwillingness to handle them critically.”

I guess the reporting of Ackerman, Burke, and Emcke (among many other critics of his work) is entirely “discredited” too, eh Goldberg?

P.S. Do not miss Ackerman’s delightful piece on Goldberg yesterday.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2015

The War of the World

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Sharp Edge of Life

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Great Republican Land Heist

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Captive Market

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Day of the Sea

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Great Republican Land Heist·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The wholesale transfer of public lands to state control may never be achieved. But the goal might be more subtle: to attack the value of public lands.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Sharp Edge of Life·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The struggle of the novelist has been to establish a measure, a view of human nature, and usually, though not always, as large a view as belief and imagination can wring from observable facts.”
Photo by Eddie Adams/Associated Press
Article
Captive Market·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Fear of random violence lives on, but the reality is that violent-crime rates have dropped to levels not seen since the early Seventies."
Photograph by Richard Ross
Article
The Day of the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Fifteen judges will then sit together in a wood-paneled room, in a city thousands of miles from the Andes, and decide whether the ocean Bolivia claims as its right will at last be returned to it.”
Photo by Fabio Cuttica/Contrasto/Redux
Post
The Art of Outrage·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Illustration by Art Spiegelman

Estimated total calories members of Congress burned giving Bush’s 2002 State of the Union standing ovations:

22,000

A fertility scientist named Panayiotis Zavos announced that he had created human-cow embryos that were theoretically viable, but denied that he planned to allow such a hybrid to be implanted in a woman’s womb. “We are not trying to create monsters,” he said.

A statistician determined that the five most common first names among New York City taxi drivers are Md, Mohammad, Mohammed, Muhammad, and Mohamed.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today