The NYT on its "kill more civilians" Op-Ed writer

The Op-Ed Page Editor's explanation of this bizarre piece raises more questions than it answers

Published February 22, 2010 10:23PM (EST)

(updated below)

Last week, I wrote about the mysterious Op-Ed writer, Lara M. Dadkhah, published by The New York Times, who urged that the U.S. be less restrained about slaughtering Afghan civilians with air attacks (when Dadkhar reads things like this from today -- "Airstrike kills dozens in Afghanistan . . . Ground forces at the scene found women and children among the casualties" -- she presumably thinks:  "yes, that's exactly what we need more of").  As I noted, beyond how deranged the argument was, virtually no information was disclosed about Dadkhah herself, who was allowed to tout her work for a "defense consulting company" without even specifying who it was.  The Hillman Foundation's Charles Kaiser asked NYT Op-Ed Page Editor David Shipley about this strange matter and received this reply:

We found Ms. Dadkhah from work she did in Small Wars Journal, work that was part of her Ph.D. dissertation at Georgetown. Ms. Dadkhah only recently took a job at Booz Allen. We tend not to mention the names of companies -- as it can run the risk of seeming self-promotional. I thought it was sufficient to have the author say, as she did high up in the piece, that "While I am employed by a defense consulting company, my research and opinions on air support are my own." It's worth underscoring that Ms. Dadkhah's research regarding close air support came entirely from her doctoral research, and that these are issues she has written about over the the last couple years for Small Wars.

Shipley's answer strongly suggests that Dadkhah did not submit her Op-Ed unsolicited, but rather, the NYT purposely sought out an Op-Ed to urge more civilian deaths in Afghanistan ("We found Ms. Dadkhah from work she did in Small Wars Journal").  Why would they do that?  Maybe tomorrow the NYT Editors can actively solicit an Op-Ed urging the use of biological agents and chemical weapons on civilian populations in Yemen.  After that, they can search out someone to advocate medical experiments on detainees in Bagram.  Perhaps the day after, they can host a symposium on the tactical advantages of air bombing hospitals and orphanages as a means of keeping local populations in line.

Beyond that, Dadkhah's employer -- Booz Allen -- has more overlapping ties with the Pentagon than virtually any other corporation on the planet.  The very idea that Dadkhah's employment with a company that has its hooks in virtually every aspect of war policy need not have been disclosed, when she's advocating greater use of air power, is absurd on its face.  And Shipley's claim that the companies which employ Op-Ed writers are not typically mentioned by the NYT is insultingly false; just today, Newt Gingrich's short Op-Ed contribution is accompanied by this tagline:  "founder of the Center for Health Transformation, a health-care policy consulting firm."  Yesterday, the NYT published an Op-Ed from the "former general counsel of the National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses,"  and throughout the month, the NYT had Op-Ed writers identified as "chairman of Convers Group in Moscow," "a vice president at Microsoft from 1997 to 2004," and "the director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop."  Suffice to say, concealing the employer of the Op-Ed writer is not customary policy.

To summarize:  the NYT Op-Ed Page decided, for whatever reasons, that it wanted to find someone to urge more civilian deaths in Afghanistan.  The person it found to do that is someone about whom virtually nothing was known, yet works for one of the largest, most sprawling and influential defense firms in the nation, a virtual arm of the Pentagon, but they decided there was no reason to have its readers know that.  

* * * * * 

Najibullah Zazi was charged in a civilian court with plotting to blow up subways in New York City, was given a lawyer, was Mirandized, was not sent to Guantanamo, was not subject to "enhanced interrogation techniques," and was not put before a military commission.  Today, he pled guilty, ensuring he will spend much of the rest of his life in prison, and is fully cooperating in an attempt to secure leniency in sentencing.


UPDATE: Speaking of The New York Times, I have a contribution today to its discussion of President Obama's health care bill.  Mine is here, and the others can be read here.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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