Monday, January 13, 2020

The Times’ disgraceful smear of America’s top defense officials - NY Post Editorial Board

by NY Post Editorial Board

Hat tip: Dr. Carolyn Tal

If the Times wants to stop hearing the words “fake news,” it needs to be more careful

Agenda-driven misreporting is a painfully regular feature of the Trump era, but last Sunday’s New York Times account of how President Trump came to order the drone strike that took out Gen. Qassem Soleimani still stands out.

“Trump’s Choice of Killing Stunned Defense Officials,” blared the top Page One headline of the Jan. 5 Times. Under four reporters’ bylines, the story claimed the president chose an option that Pentagon officials had presented to him only to make the other choices seem more acceptable.

As the Times told it, the Pentagon gave him a “menu” of retaliatory options after the Dec. 27 rocket attack on Iraqi bases that killed an American contractor. Trump chose to hit the Iranian-backed militia that had carried out the attack. When Iran responded by ordering a siege of the US embassy in Baghdad and plotting more American deaths, Trump chose another item off the “menu”: the strike on Soleimani.

“Top Pentagon officials were stunned,” says the Times; they didn’t expect Trump to choose “the most extreme response.” Then it explains: “Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Pentagon officials have often offered improbable options to presidents to make other possibilities appear more palatable.”

This is an outrageous smear of the nation’s top defense officials. In fact, as Alex Plitsas, an Obama-era chief of sensitive activities for the assistant secretary for special operations, told The Federalist: “The options that go to the executive are vetted through the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense before they are presented to the president.” And, emphatically: “You don’t do throwaway COAs,” or courses of action.

Notably, The Washington Post offered an entirely different account the next day. Yes, it reported, “Trump’s decision to target Soleimani came as a surprise and a shock to some officials” — because of “the president’s aversion to using military force against Iran.”

Plus: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “first spoke with Trump about killing Soleimani months ago, said a senior US official,” the Post reported — and Defense Secretary Mark Esper agreed with Pompeo by the time Trump made the decision.

And, as the Times itself reported days later, CIA chief Gina Haspel had advised “that the threat the Iranian general presented was greater than the threat of Iran’s response if he was killed” — and, in fact, “had predicted the most likely response would be a missile strike from Iran to bases where American troops were deployed.”

But that doesn’t excuse the original story. If the Times wants to stop hearing the words “fake news,” it needs to take more care not to publish it.

NY Post Editorial Board


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