I have just sent this letter to the Editor of the Guardian, not for publication:
We have never met, although the Guardian was good enough to give me a column during the general election campaign, and I have written several comment pieces for you since.
I admit there are people in this country, a minority, who still support the Iraq war. Tony Blair did succeed in capturing the Labour movement, and so it is understandable (though to me regrettable) that a newspaper with ties to the broad left would contain a strong element which supports Blair. I have lived with that and never quite broken my 35 year old Guardian reading habit.
But I do think that Simon Tisdall’s unquestioning purveyance of US anti-Iranian propaganda just goes too far. For one thing, you would have completely to shut off your critical faculties to accept some of the scenarios he was fed by the US as plausible. And Tisdall was not retailing the story as “Isn’t it interesting, the US is saying this”, he was relating their wild surmise as plausible fact.
Juan Cole’s blog Informed Comment – which is always superb – has an excellent comment on the piece, which I think well sums up the baffled bemusement of the intelligentsia.
I was rather hoping Tisdall was giving us another San Serife, but the date was wrong.
Get a grip! You are supposed to be an Editor. I was, genuinely, a great fan of your writing as a reporter. Of course, some brilliant footballers make lousy managers.
I’ll post a reply if I get one.
I have now received a response, not from Alan Rusbridger
Dear Mr Murray, Thank you for your email to the editor, which he has been forwarded to me. The article to which you refer was published after careful consideration, and should be viewed in the light of Simon Tisdall’s extensive and well-sourced reporting from and about the region, as well as the record of the paper, which certainly cannot be accused of acting as a mouthpiece for the US administration. For the record Simon requested the interviews with US officials in Baghdad and not the other way around.
Simon has travelled to Iran three times in the past 12 months and the Guardian maintains a correspondent there. We regularly report Iran’s official view on these issues. Tuesday’s story is just one more part of a jigsaw of the growing power struggle in the region and our editors thought it in the public interest to publish the story. The second part of Simon’s report was on the front page yesterday (http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2085981,00.html)
Coincidentally, my colleague Murray Armstrong reported Tuesday’s morning’s editorial conference discussion on the story at http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/murray_armstrong/2007/05/iran_iraq_and_sources_of_infor.html
Conference returned to the subject this morning and a paraphrase of that discussion is here http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/murray_armstrong/2007/05/complaints_about_iran_coverage.html
There are also two very active blogs, echoing your sentiments on the Comment is free website, here http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/dd_guttenplan/2007/05/dont_get_fooled_again.html and here http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/dilip_hiro/2007/05/briefing_encounter.html
Siobhain Butterworth, the readers’ editor, is away this week but we will convey your concerns to her and she may wish to investigate the issue further.