Fake but Accurate

by , May 25, 2006

The world was horrified to learn the other day, courtesy of Canada’s National Post, that a law supposedly passed by the Iranian Parliament would require non-Muslims to wear special clothing identifying their religious affiliations: Zoroastrians were assigned blue, Christians red, and Jews – in a public relations faux pas so enormous as to defy belief – were to be fixed up with a yellow stripe.

You know, like the yellow badges Jews in Nazi Germany were required to wear.

There was only one problem with this "news" story – it wasn’t true. According to Reuters:

"A copy of the bill obtained by Reuters contained no such references. Reuters correspondents who followed the dress code session in parliament as it was broadcast on state radio heard no discussion of proscriptions for religious minorities.

"Senior parliamentarian Mohsen Yahyavi described the Canadian report as ‘completely false.’ ‘The bill aims to support those designers that produce clothes that are more compatible with Islam, but there will be no ban on the wearing of other designs,’ he told Reuters.

"Iran’s Jewish MP Moris Motamed also agreed the bill made no attempt to force special garments on the minorities. ‘There is no single word in the bill about a special design or color for the religious minority groups,’ he said. ‘Our enemies seek to create tension among the religious minorities with such news and to exploit the situation to their benefit,’ he added."

Iran has a Jewish member of Parliament? Who knew? This seems highly unusual, given the portrait painted by the warmongering media – of which the National Post is one – of an Iranian state that is the closest thing to the reincarnation of Hitler’s Germany. But then again, perhaps the depiction of Iran as the new Fourth Reich has little, if anything, to do with reality – and is, instead, part of a campaign to gin up another war in the Middle East. But who, or what, is behind such a campaign?

This story percolated throughout the world via a column by one Amir Taheri, an Iranian exile whose work is distributed and promoted by Benador Associates, which specializes in disseminating neocon war propaganda. Journalist Jim Lobe painted a picture of Eleana Benador, a Peruvian-born publicist for such neocon luminaries as Richard Perle, Jim Woolsey, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney, Charles Krauthammer, Max Boot, and Victor Davis Hanson, that testifies as to how and why this story took off with such meteoric showiness:

"Aside from her success in getting her clients distributed all over the television dial at critical moments in the march to war [with Iraq], what is particularly remarkable about Benador is the speed with which she has built what is obviously a thriving business, based on 17- to 18-hour work days, the personal attention she gives to both her clients and her media contacts, and her conviction that what her clients say is true and right."

In this case, however, Taheri’s allegations were neither true, nor right, yet Benador and Taheri himself have not issued a retraction, never mind apologized. Meanwhile, blogger Jim Henley has uncovered evidence that this was not just an honest mistake, but in all likelihood something far less innocent. Henley writes:

"[A]mir Taheri’s story quotes ‘Mostafa Pourhardani, Minister of Islamic Orientation.’ Google searches on variations of ‘Iran+Pourhardani’ turn up no references that do not stem directly from Taheri’s story. That would be flying under the radar! As noted on the Just Adventure Forum, Iran has a Culture Minister named Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi. Google News finds nothing on Pourhardani (or ‘Pourharadani’) that does not stem from the National Post‘s Friday story. Go ahead and mouse over all the cabinet posts on the Iranian President’s official site. There is no ‘Pourhardani’ or variant on that name in the cabinet.

"They made it up. Taheri and The Post ran a provably false report, on their own initiative or at the behest of some publicity-shy agency of some government or other, played in as inflammatory way as possible."

This reminds me of the Niger uranium hoax, in which "intelligence" from a crudely forged packet of documents alleging that the Iraqis were trying to purchase weapons-grade uranium in order to fuel their nonexistent nuclear weapons program somehow made it into the president’s 2003 State of the Union speech. In short, this isn’t an honest error, but evidence of outright deception.

The same neocons who lied us into war with Iraq are now trying for a repeat: they hope to lure us into a conflict with Iran, on the strength of dubious war propaganda and clearly phony "intelligence" about Iran’s alleged nukes. You would think that the American people, once burned, would have learned – but what the neocons are counting on is the famous aphorism of P.T. Barnum to the effect that no one ever went broke overestimating the gullibility of the American people. All one has to do is flash the magic words "Hitler, Holocaust, nukes" across the screen in mile-high letters, and – the reasoning goes – they will react with Pavlovian regularity, no matter what. Or so the neocons hope.

This whole incident stinks to high heaven, and the stench rising from it emanates not from Washington, but from Israel. Neocon connections to the far-right wing of Israel’s Likud Party are well-documented: less noticed, however, are the traces of an Israeli footprint on the road to war with Iraq. Pentagon insider Karen Kwiatkowski, analyst Robert Dreyfuss, and, most recently, the high-powered academic team of Stephen Walt and John J. Mearsheimer have all detected the imprint of Israel’s amen corner on America’s disastrous attempt to "transform" the Middle East – of which the campaign to demonize the Iranians is the latest installment.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Washington Tuesday, presumably to issue the Bush administration its marching orders. On this sojourn, he is hitting all the right notes – Iran, which is "close to atomic bomb know-how," is "like Hitler," and poses a threat not just to Israel but "to Western civilization." This is a change in tactics from last time around, when the Israelis were careful to keep a low profile on the question of invading Iraq: emboldened by success, they have sent the Israeli prime minister himself to make the case for war. And the Amen Corner is taking up the cause with alacrity, loudly beating their tom-toms and smearing anyone who – like Professor Juan Cole – dares to expose their tactics of mass deception.

Iran is years away from acquiring nuclear weapons, and has formally stated that its intentions are peaceful. The Israelis think they have reason to doubt the Iranians’ motives, and are scared to death – or so they claim. The reality, of course, is that the campaign for regime change in Iran is just chapter two of the plan to break the Arab-Muslim siege of Israel, which has been going on since the Jewish state first came into existence, and which has been a crippling impediment to growth, both economic and demographic. The Israeli strategy – which they are now making no effort to disguise – is to use the United States military as their instrument, and it has, so far, succeeded.

The propaganda campaign on behalf of war with Iran is just beginning: and you can bet that the Amen Corner will be manufacturing new lies just as fast as they can be debunked. The idea is to get so many falsehoods into circulation that, no matter how hard the debunkers try, they will never be able to clear the air, and war will become inevitable. It doesn’t matter that one lie is exposed as a brazen fraud: what matters is that the War Party keeps throwing accusations in the hope that at least a few of them will stick. Then they can say, in the aftermath of the American invasion of Iran, that "everybody" believed the Iranians were on the verge of acquiring WMD; "everybody" thought they were about to reenact the Holocaust; everybody believed, and we didn’t know…

When anti-Bush activists put together a cache of documents that purported to "prove" that George W. Bush had essentially deserted his National Guard post during the Vietnam conflict, the original typist who composed the rebuke from his military commander characterized them as "fake but accurate" – a phrase that neatly captures the Orwellian mentality that drives the War Party to pile lies upon falsifications upon forgeries in their never ending quest to provoke a new global conflict. For those of us in what I like to call the "reality-based community," this latest canard is yet more evidence that we are living in a Bizarro World, where truth is turned on its head and reality itself is managed and massaged into submission.

Read more by Justin Raimondo