In conservative circles, I take a lot of ribbing for the fact that I used to work for The New York Times. But during the years I was at the paper, my editors held us to a very high standard. Apparently, things have changed.
The most recent example is the Times quoting what it called “a prominent Sunni extremist, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi” (which roughly translates as “Father of Omar, the guy from Baghdad.”) The Times further reported that “Mr. Baghdadi is the purported leader of the Islamic State in Iraq, a militant group linked with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia …”
But Maj. Gen Kevin Bergner has repeatedly said that — based on intelligence obtained from the captured al-Qaeda leader Khalid al-Mashhadani – it is clear that Omar al-Baghdadi is only “the fictional head” of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a character played by an “actor … they use another individual to be his voice.”
Why does al-Qaeda do that? Bergner says: “To put an Iraqi face on the leadership of al-Qaeda” in Iraq. Bergner adds: ‘The Islamic State of Iraq is a front organization that masks the foreign influence and leadership within al Qaeda in Iraq …”
Here’s the kicker: It appears the fictional character of Omar al-Baghdadi was created by the al-Qaeada leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri. Know what al-Masri means? It means “the Egyptian.”
It’s hard to believe that Times editors are ignorant of all this. More plausibly, like many opponents of the war, the Times is invested in the narrative that the U.S. is a foreign occupier being fought by an indigenous Iraqi resistance movement. Evidence contrary to that narrative is not fit to print.
BTW, two of the best reporters on Iraq are the Times’ John Burns and Michael Gordon. My guess is that they are embarrassed by all this but that it would be inadvisable for them to admit that publicly.