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July 27, 2006
Rolling Stoned On Iran

Rolling Stone's James Bamford has a new article on the crisis in Iran that fundamentally misrepresents one of his sources and mangles history so badly that one wonders when RS laid off its fact-checkers. I have been in touch with Michael Ledeen, whose extensive quotes appear throughout the article, and he has a number of issues with Bamford's article.

Let's start with the factual errors as Micheal outlines them. Bamford writes:

Weeks later, in December, a plane carrying Ledeen traveled to Rome with two other members of Feith's secret Pentagon unit: Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode, a protégé of Ledeen who has been called the "theoretician of the neocon movement."

Ledeen told me that "They were certainly not on my flights in either direction. ... Only an ignoramus would call Harold a protege of mine. If anything, it was the other way around."

Completing the rogues' gallery that assembled in Rome that day was the man who helped Ledeen arrange the meeting: Nicolò Pollari, the director of Italy's military intelligence. Only two months earlier, Pollari had informed the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein had obtained uranium from West Africa—a key piece of false intelligence that Bush used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Ledeen: "Italian intelligence never said any such thing. Bush used British intelligence, not Italian, in his State of the Union address." In fact, Bamford misstates the evidence itself. The Bush administration said that Saddam had attempted to purchase uranium from Africa, not West Africa. They didn't claim that Saddam had actually concluded a purchase. The intel showed that Saddam was still attempting to develop nuclear weapons in defiance of the UN Security Council sanctions.

The British government still stands by that intelligence. In the Butler report, they explain that their intel came from a source not associated with the French/Italian counterfeited documents. Joe Wilson's own report to the CIA corroborated it, although Wilson tries the same spin that Bamford uses so clumsily here by claiming that Saddam never actually bought the uranium. Wilson's report went to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which noted that the Nigerien PM told Wilson that a secret trade delegation from Iraq had, in his opinion, tried opening a clandestine channel for uranium.

Ledeen, Franklin and Rhode were taking a page from Feith's playbook on Iraq: They needed a front group of exiles and dissidents to call for the overthrow of Iran. According to sources familiar with the meeting, the Americans discussed joining forces with the Mujahedin-e Khalq, an anti-Iranian guerrilla army operating out of Iraq.

Ledeen: "It never came up as far as I know. I did go to the bathroom from time to time, but I was present 99% of the time."

But by far the most egregious error in the article comes on page 3, in the same section discussing the trip to Rome. Bamford puts the time frame as December 2001, and Ledeen agrees. Here's what Bamford wrote about one of the major underpinnings of this entire conspiracy to start a war with Iran:

The men then turned their attention to their larger goal: regime change in Iran. Ghorbanifar suggested funding the overthrow of the Iranian government using hundreds of millions of dollars in cash supposedly hidden by Saddam Hussein. He even hinted that Saddam was hiding in Iran.

The idea that the Iranians would ever hide the man who waged a brutal war against them for eight years has a humor all its own. However, Bamford seems to have forgotten one critical point: Saddam was still running Iraq in December 2001, and would for the next sixteen months. Saddam may not have allowed people to know his specific whereabouts at any given moment, but we knew damned well he was still in Iraq, and still in charge.

Did Bamford bother to do any research at all on this story, or did he just make it up as he went along? And how about the Rolling Stone editors? Apparently, the levels of fact-checking ceased to exist on this story, and RS allowed Bamford to spin his fantasies unimpeded. No one ever questioned why the Shi'ite mullahcracy would shelter a genocidal Sunni madman that had brutally oppressed their brethren for decades. Hell, RS couldn't even read a calendar.

Ledeen sent this letter to Rolling Stone in response to this embarrassment:

Jeez, I thought it was only coffee in that cup Jim Bamford drank from at my house, but apparently he slipped something stronger into it when I was opening the box of cookies he brought over. Anyone who thinks I have any influence on the Bush Administration is regularly swallowing something more powerful than caffeine.

I've been writing for years now to encourage the government to support democratic revolution in Iran, but nothing of the sort has been done. I've openly and consistently opposed military invasion, yet Bamford says I'm trying--and on the verge of succeeding--to cause a "bloody war." He says that Douglas Feith brought me into his "cabal," but I have never worked for Feith, or Rumsfeld's Pentagon (Indeed I called for Rumsfeld to be replaced two years ago), or anyone else in this administration. As I told Bamford--and I have a recording of our conversation--I have no access to this administration, let alone sway over it. But he insists that I am Svengali to George Bush's Trilby. Any fact checkers left at the "Stone"?

He can't even run a decent "Nexis" search. He claims that our conversation was the first time I had discussed the meeting in Rome in 2001 that enabled the United States to obtain detailed information about Iranian plans to kill our soldiers in Afghanistan. In fact it was the umpteenth time I had been interviewed, in American and European publications and blogs, most recently in "Raw Story." I have written about it several times myself. And why not? That information saved American lives, as Bamford could have confirmed if he had been willing to work harder.

As for the endlessly maligned Mr. Ghorbanifar, who looks more reliable today, the CIA who described him as the world's greatest liar and refused to look at his information about murderous Iranian activities in Afghanistan and Iraq, or Mr. G himself? Nowadays his picture of Iran's role in the terror war against us is almost universally accepted. And by the way, the information Ghorbanifar gave me in the fall of 2001had to do with events inside Iran. Nothing secret, just unnoticed information about the widespread Iranian hatred of the regime. That, too, is now conventional wisdom. Bamford claims to be an independent critic of the Intellience Community, but here he has swallowed the company's bait en toto.

Whatever that stuff was in the coffee cup had long-lasting effects, because it totally knocked out the little grey cells in his frontal lobes. Somehow imagining that I want to invade Iran, he quotes an article of mine in "National Review Online" in which I call for the United States to support regime change in Syria and Iran, as if that meant a military campaign. If he had looked up a few lines he would have found these words:

"Give them a chance to fight for their freedom, as we did with the Georgians. The longer we dither, the more likely it becomes that we will sadly and unnecessarily find ourselves in a military confrontation of some sort, with all the terrible consequences that entails."

That's the actual context. The opposite of what Bamford says.

I can tell you from personal experience that Michael Ledeen has never supported armed intervention in Iran, for sound political and military reasons. He has even commented to that effect on more than one occasion on my blog. Ledeen has always championed an approach that funds democracy activists within Iran as a means of regime change. Anyone who has bothered to read Ledeen even superficially knows his viewpoint on action against Iran.

Bamford has no credibility as a journalist, and the Rolling Stone has become the purveyor of paranoid conspiracy fantasies.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 27, 2006 8:28 AM

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. . . when ex-single-source analysts try to deal with multi-source intel: In a screed Rolling Stone is passing off as journalism, James Bamford becomes the latest in a growing crowd of hacks to smear our friend Michael Ledeen. […] But this [Italian ... [Read More]

Tracked on July 28, 2006 3:39 PM


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