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Daily Column
US Papers Saturday: Iranian Evil Doers?
A Banner Day for Insights, Scoops, and Blunders -- Mostly Blunders
By EASON JORDAN 02/10/2007 01:58 AM ET
This is one of those rare days when Iraq-related blunders outnumber scoops and insights in the key east coast papers.

Let’s start with four blunders -- or at least three confirmed and one alleged.

Blunder one: The Washington Post issues a page two correction, saying its big page one story yesterday – “Official’s Key Report On Iraq Is Faulted” – wrongly attributed key quotes to the Pentagon inspector general rather than to Democratic Senator Carl Levin. Here’s the full correction as posted on the Washington Post Web site and the original flawed Friday page one story.

Blunder two (military, not journalistic): U.S. forces in Mosul fired on allied Kurdish militiamen in a case of mistaken identity that killed at least five and as many as nine Kurdish guards. The Kurds are furious and are demanding answers. The U.S. forces mistook the Kurds for al Qaeda fighters. Washington Post correspondent Ernesto Londoño quotes a U.S. military spokesman as saying U.S. forces fired on the Kurds after the Kurds ignored demands to lay down their weapons. A Kurd spokesman brands that claim nonsense and calls the killings a “massacre.” The NY Times story by Richard Oppel and David Cloud quotes the same Kurd spokesman as saying the Kurd area attacked was well known to U.S. forces as a regional office of one of the key Kurdish political parties.

Blunder three (alleged): In a page one exclusive report that breaks news about alleged Iranian involvement in funneling bombs, missiles, and other weapons into Iraq for use against U.S. forces, NY Times correspondent Michael Gordon (and the Times itself) takes a big risk, if not making an outright blunder, by relying entirely on anonymous sources for this news. How good of an idea can it be to report such incendiary charges from unnamed sources after Gordon and the Times were burned by anonymous sources who provided them with what turned out to be erroneous information about alleged Saddam regime shenanigans in the lead-up to the Iraq war in 2003? The people of the U.S. and the world deserve better amid concern about the possibility of U.S. military action against Iran. Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell rightly takes Gordon and the NY Times to task for this thinly-sourced reporting.

Blunder four: With U.S. General David Petraeus officially taking charge as the U.S. military’s point man in Iraq today, one wonders why the NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal fail to even mention Petraeus’s name today. He’s “Mr. Surge,” and President Bush has bet his presidency on Petraeus and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki succeeding in their effort to turn the tide in Iraq. But we must wait until tomorrow for word on the official change of command ceremony marking the transition from General Casey (confirmed this week as the new chief of the U.S. Army) to Petraeus.

The Post and the Times report on the fallout from the Pentagon inspector general’s report about the one-sided intelligence produced by Douglas Feith’s Pentagon department. The NY Times's David Cloud reports Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin intends to summon present and former White House officials to explain themselves before the Committee. In the Post, Walter Pincus (co-author of the flawed report yesterday that prompted the Post correction) and Karen DeYoung say Democrats and Republicans are squabbling about the significance of the inspector general's report, with Republicans saying it’s no big deal, with Democrats crying foul and demanding answers.


A newspaper editorial headlined "The Build-A-War Workshop" lambasts the Bush administration for the Feith group's twisted pre-war Iraq intelligence and calls on Congress to ensure we get to the bottom of it and to prevent a repeat episode from happening amid all the fuss about Iranian threats to the U.S. and the world.


Correspondent Dafna Linzer scoops with a report headed "U.S. in Bind Over Men Held in Iran." Linzer reports Iranian authorities recently intercepted two key Iraq-bound Al-Qaeda suspects and detained them. The report explains that Iran is holding several other key Al-Qaeda suspects, including a bin Laden son and a former Al Qaeda spokesman. Now there’s a debate in Washington about whether pressing Iran on other issues – Iranian-supplied arms making their way to Iraq, for one – will result in those Al-Qaeda suspects being freed. Linzer quotes sources as saying Iran offered to turn over key Al-Qaeda suspects in exchange for key Iranian rebels in Iraq and that the U.S. refused the offer even though the Iranian rebel group is branded “terrorist” by the U.S. government.

In an illuminating report -- let's brand it insight -- prolific correspondent Ernesto Londoño profiles Iraqi Sunni Vice Prime Minister Salam Z. al-Zobaee, who’s so weak politically he seems to be a token figurehead who can’t even get his allegedly innocent cousin sprung from prison. Al-Zobaee is quoted as saying the U.S.-led coalition is foolish to put its faith in the Shia-led Iraqi government, and he says the “surge” will fail because the Iraqi security forces is not even “50% ready” to execute the plan.

Josh White reports on a federal appeals court ruling than an American in U.S. custody overseas is entitled to a hearing in a U.S. court. The case stems from an incident in Iraq where a joint U.S.-Jordanian citizen was detained by U.S. forces on charges of helping the insurgency. The U.S. government argued the suspect should be allowed to be held indefinitely without charge and without appeal outside the U.S.

On the editorial page, Democratic presidential candidate Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor, writes that the U.S. military must end its involvement in Iraq now. He argues that the war will end when Iraqis decide to end it. He closes his op-ed with this line: “Those who voted for the war, those who voted to continue to support the war and those who voted to continue funding the war can all surely vote to stop the war and do what's right for our military personnel and nation.”


Jonathan Gurwitz, who's a member of the editorial board of the San AntonioExpress-News, writes of the American heroes (mostly Iraq war vets) who are being treated at the new Center for the Intrepid physical rehabilitation facility in Texas. He quotes the chairman of the board of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund as saying, “We can never give them back what they lost.... But it is out duty as Americans to give them back as much normalcy in their lives as we can. That will be the best legacy this center can provide." USA TODAY

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