On Iran, the Times is Eyeballs-Deep in Muddy Water

January 31, 2012   ·   0 Comments

Source: NYTX

NYT Magazine Cover

By Michael M’Gehee:

Thomas Jefferson, our third president, was a strong supporter of a free press. Its role was to keep the people informed and to sound the alarm, especially of the tyranny of governments. For Jefferson, “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.” Going further, Jefferson also warned that:

The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.

Were Jefferson alive today he would likely note that the danger the American Empire poses to the “security of all” is facilitated by a press that, while technically “free,” muddies the water by willfully genuflecting to the interests of the political and economic establishments.

For example, in a recent Times Magazine is an article by an Israeli analyst, Ronen Bergman, titled “Will Israel Attack Iran?” As usual, the New York Times acts as a parrot for the American Empire. The idea of challenging the empire on its adventures, or that of its closest allies, is unthinkable. There is a serious lack of integrity at the Times. Even the title of the article is suggestive. The question is not should Israel attack Iran, which at least questions the legitimacy, but will they. For Bergman and the Times, the matter of “should” is already answered. All that’s left is pondering whether it will happen or not.

There is no lengthy article published in the Times Magazine from the perspective and interests of the Iranian government. The bias goes one way.

In the opening paragraph Bergman writes that Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, “now faces, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and 12 other members of Israel’s inner security cabinet, the most important decision of his life — whether to launch a pre-emptive attack against Iran.” Bergman quotes Barak as telling him that, “The Iranians are, after all, a nation whose leaders have set themselves a strategic goal of wiping Israel off the map.” Referring to a commonly quoted remark by Iran’s President Ahmadinejad—though taken out of context and subject to poor translation—it passes without comment that Iran has offered Israel peace, though Israel has never offered Iran the same. It passes without comment that it is Israel who is openly considering a “pre-emptive attack,” and which is not the result of poor translation or a comment taken out of context.

That Israel is calling it a “pre-emptive attack” (sometimes called “preventive war”) says a lot. And that it is Israel, a country born out of the ashes of Auschwitz, only adds value to former World War Two veteran, five-star general of the U.S. Army, and American president Dwight Eisenhower’s comment that, “Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not ever listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing.”

According to Bergman, “Barak reacted with uncharacteristic anger” when told how former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and the former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi said “the Iranian threat” was hyped and overblown. For Barak, he sees himself as responsible for the “existence of the State of Israel — indeed, for the future of the Jewish people.”

The Times article then goes on to say that

Barak laid out three categories of questions, which he characterized as “Israel’s ability to act,” “international legitimacy” and “necessity,” all of which require affirmative responses before a decision is made to attack:

1. Does Israel have the ability to cause severe damage to Iran’s nuclear sites and bring about a major delay in the Iranian nuclear project? And can the military and the Israeli people withstand the inevitable counterattack?
2. Does Israel have overt or tacit support, particularly from America, for carrying out an attack?
3. Have all other possibilities for the containment of Iran’s nuclear threat been exhausted, bringing Israel to the point of last resort? If so, is this the last opportunity for an attack?

Notice the hierarchy. While the issue of international law is missing it is still revealing that exhausting peaceful options do not come before having the support of the American Empire or “the ability to cause severe damage.” Priorities are such that all a rogue state needs to ask before considering a serious crime is: do I have the ability to do it, and do I have the blessings of Washington? But this admission arouses no rebuke.

The last category is just absurd. There is no proof that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and in fact the U.S. Secretary of Defense has admitted there is no such program. Their nuclear energy program is under strict supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and as recently written on (see herehere, and here), Iran—like Japan and South Korea—only wants to develop the capability to quickly create a bomb in case it needs it to defend itself. The idea of containing “Iran’s nuclear threat” with the threat of war, which is widely known as what is driving to develop such a weapon, is a joke. And when considering Israel has nuclear weapons and routinely attacks its neighbors and refuses to allow the Palestinian state to be created within the pre-1967 borders, the talk of containing a threat becomes more ludicrous.

When Bergman quotes Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s vice prime minister and minister of strategic affairs, as saying that, “Our policy is that in one way or another, Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped,” there is no challenge to this. It is routinely accepted throughout the entire piece that Iran is a threat. The idea of Israel being the threat is never entertained. Nor is the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons.

The article does mention numerous plots to undermine the Iranian government like the sanctions, but also including the assassinations of nuclear scientists and other illegal acts. Bergman even quotes Dagan as saying that the function of these activities is so that “In the mind of the Iranian citizen, a link has been created between his economic difficulties and the nuclear project.” There is a word to describe the tactic of instilling fear in a population for political purposes: terrorism. Does Bergman make note of this? Nope.

Going back to his interview with Barak, Bergman quotes the defense minister as saying that, “I accept that Iran has other reasons for developing nuclear bombs, apart from its desire to destroy Israel, but we cannot ignore the risk.” Again, Iran is not talking about destroying Israel, though Israel is talking about a “pre-emptive” war where their first concern is whether or not they “have the ability to cause severe damage.” For Barak, “An Iranian bomb would ensure the survival of the current regime, which otherwise would not make it to its 40th anniversary in light of the admiration that the young generation in Iran has displayed for the West. With a bomb, it would be very hard to budge the administration.” This is pure nonsense. The “other reasons” Iran has for possibly developing such weapons is not to deter its own population, as Barak surely knows, but to deter Israel from carrying out the kind of attacks it is openly discussing!

Some honesty finally seeps in:

“From our point of view,” Barak said, “a nuclear state offers an entirely different kind of protection to its proxies. Imagine if we enter another military confrontation with Hezbollah, which has over 50,000 rockets that threaten the whole area of Israel, including several thousand that can reach Tel Aviv. A nuclear Iran announces that an attack on Hezbollah is tantamount to an attack on Iran. We would not necessarily give up on it, but it would definitely restrict our range of operations.”

What really concerns Israel is not that Iran would nuke Tel Aviv, but that, while Israel “would not necessarily give up” on using force in the region to achieve its strategic goals, they “would definitely restrict [Israel's] range of operations.” And of course Bergman does not point this out, as he doesn’t point out the hypocrisy of Barak’s next quoted comment: “And if a nuclear Iran covets and occupies some gulf state, who will liberate it?” While a nuclear Israel covets Palestine, occupies it, continues to gobble up more and more land, Bergman does not ask: who will liberate Palestine? All of this predictably passes without comment or even so much as batting an eye lash.

Again the Times provides space to misrepresentations of truths when Bergman writes that,

Over the past year, Western intelligence agencies, in particular the C.I.A., have moved closer to Israel’s assessments of the Iranian nuclear project. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed this explicitly when he said that Iran would be able to reach nuclear-weapons capabilities within a year. The International Atomic Energy Agency published a scathing report stating that Iran was in breach of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and was possibly trying to develop nuclear weapons.

As noted in previous writings by this writer (see articles hyperlinked above), U.S. intelligence agencies have been saying that Iran is moving towards having the capability to create a nuclear weapon for deterrence purposes, as we know is the case for allies like Japan and South Korea. With allies this is not a problem. Also, the IAEA report has already been discredited as propaganda since it recycles old and debunked arguments, and comes on the tail of a revelation that the new Director General Amano is a stooge for the American Empire.

The one-sided language continues relentlessly as it does throughout the more than 7,700 words that make up Bergman’s article. We read comments like “the Israelis suspect that the Obama administration has abandoned any aggressive strategy that would ensure the prevention of a nuclear Iran and is merely playing a game of words to appease them.” There is that word: aggressive. How is it that the alleged defenders of civilization are talking about being “aggressive,” while it is the state who is supporting nuclear disarmament, allowing the IAEA to inspects its program, and offering its enemies peace is the “threat”? More important still, how is this not the story the New York Times is covering? Why are they instead giving space to an Israeli analyst who feels that “Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012,” but conveniently ignores a lot of vital information that clearly exposes such a strike as criminal and immoral? Following his prediction Bergman makes a comment about “right or wrong” but I am puzzled seeing how he doesn’t provide more than a superficial investigation of Israel’s argument for war. The closest Bergman can come in speaking out against an Israeli attack is to warn that,

In the end, a successful attack would not eliminate the knowledge possessed by the project’s scientists, and it is possible that Iran, with its highly developed technological infrastructure, would be able to rebuild the damaged or wrecked sites. What is more, unlike Syria, which did not respond after the destruction of its reactor in 2007, Iran has openly declared that it would strike back ferociously if attacked. Iran has hundreds of Shahab missiles armed with warheads that can reach Israel, and it could harness Hezbollah to strike at Israeli communities with its 50,000 rockets, some of which can hit Tel Aviv. (Hamas in Gaza, which is also supported by Iran, might also fire a considerable number of rockets on Israeli cities.) According to Israeli intelligence, Iran and Hezbollah have also planted roughly 40 terrorist sleeper cells across the globe, ready to hit Israeli and Jewish targets if Iran deems it necessary to retaliate. And if Israel responded to a Hezbollah bombardment against Lebanese targets, Syria may feel compelled to begin operations against Israel, leading to a full-scale war. On top of all this, Tehran has already threatened to close off the Persian Gulf to shipping, which would generate a devastating ripple through the world economy as a consequence of the rise in the price of oil.

When the only concern is the success of a crime, or whether the costs outweight the benefits, and not peace and justice, we know that the so-called “free press” is failing to do what Thomas Jefferson thought it ought to do: “keep the waters pure.” The Times is eye-balls deep in muddy water on Iran, and of course all of this fits perfectly in Ed Herman’s and Noam Chomsky’s “propaganda model.” When you recognize that for the “dominant media”:

Its crucial structural factors derive from the fact that the dominant media are firmly imbedded in the market system. They are profit-seeking businesses, owned by very wealthy people (or other companies); and they are funded largely by advertisers who are also profit-seeking entities, and who want their ads to appear in a supportive selling environment. The media also lean heavily on government and major business firms as information sources, and both efficiency and political considerations, and, frequently, overlapping interests, cause a certain degree of solidarity to prevail among the government, major media, and other corporate businesses. Government and large nonmedia business firms are also best positioned (and sufficiently wealthy) to be able to pressure the media with threats of withdrawal of advertising or TV licenses, libel suits, and other direct and indirect modes of attack. The media are also constrained by the dominant ideology . . .

—it all makes sense. The role of the media is not to inform and guard against power and corruption, but to be the guardians of power; to regiment the minds of the masses so that they are corralled in narrow thought where they are free to do, and believe, as they are told.


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Surveillance Drones Credit: AP/Salon