The Goldberg Syndrome It renders journalists, and lobbyists, blind ...

Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for The Atlantic and a prominent supporter of the Iraq war, has a bone or two to pick with Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. Reviewing their book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy for The New Republic, he disdained "their methodological arrogance, their failure to meet any serious standard of empirical inquiry, their slavish reliance on second- and third-hand works" — this from a "reporter" who, before the invasion of Iraq, wrote two extensive pieces for the New Yorker detailing the now-debunked Bush administration talking point that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were allies.

Goldberg’s March 2002 reportage was based on the transparently untruthful testimony of one Mohammed Mansour Shahab, who was then being held prisoner in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. This testimony was easily exposed as fraudulent by Jason Burke, of the London Observer. According to Goldberg, Shahab had met Osama bin Laden near Kandahar, who had tasked him with smuggling weapons from Iran and Iraq to al-Qaeda — including a mysterious liquid hidden in refrigerator motors, biowar poisons no doubt. Except that Shahab had never been to Kandahar, as his inaccurate description of the city as made "entirely" of mud huts made all too apparent to Burke. And that was just one of the rather obvious holes in his story, which, somehow, Goldberg never saw or questioned, but merely reported as fact.

Goldberg was perfectly willing to accept Shahab’s lies as "fact," and go on television (CNN) spreading the Bush-driven meme that Iraq possessed "weapons of mass destruction" and was about to unleash them on the world — but it’s Mearsheimer and Walt, you understand, who have "failed to meet any serious standard of empirical inquiry."

As the war drums were beating, Goldberg went on NPR’s "All Things Considered," to spread the completely fictitious story that al-Qaeda had been instructed "in the teaching of the use of poison gas" by Saddam Hussein’s government. No such lessons had ever taken place, but Goldberg’s concern over lack of empirical evidence was not, then, considered a problem, at least by him. He was too busy writing, in Slate, that Saddam had "weaponized" a substance known as aflatoxin, which he meant to dump on children, who would then come down with liver cancer. Almost as an afterthought, he wrote that those who opposed the war had "limited experience in the Middle East — unlike himself, who swallowed Shahab’s whoppers whole, without even chewing. Such skepticism, he averred, had caused war critics to "reach the naive conclusion that an invasion of Iraq will cause America to be loathed in the Middle East, rather than respected."

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