I assume a good proportion of my readers aren’t old enough to remember the beer commercial referenced in the title of this column, this one for Miller beer: “If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the beer.” Speaking of another Miller, one with the first name Judith, we might imagine an ad for the newspaper she used to work for: “If you’ve got the war, we’ve got the war propaganda!”
More intoxicating than any alcoholic beverage, war propaganda is the stuff of which human catastrophes are made: think of the resulting wars as huge auto accidents, with bodies strewn all over the road – except there’s no ambulances to tend to the wounded and not a cop in sight.
That’s what happened in the early part of this decade when our “news” media, in collaboration with the US government, poisoned the discourse with totally false stories about Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction” – which everyone was sure Saddam Hussein was readying for a strike. The target of this new Pearl Harbor varied in the telling – sometimes it was Israel, other times it was the continental United States – as did the hidden location of this mythical arsenal. They’re underneath Saddam’s palace! They’re hidden deep under a mountain range! They’re in a remote location way out in the desert! Even after the invasion and the search turned up nothing the cargo cultists of the War Party insisted Saddam had sent them into Syria.
They’re still making excuses for what the late General William E. Odom called “the greatest strategic disaster in US history”: everyone believed Saddam had WMD! They deny lying us into war and blame “faulty intelligence” for the bloody mess they’ve made of the Middle East.
But where did this “faulty intelligence” come from – and whose fault is it?
We know the Bush II administration did an end run around the intelligence agencies and set up their own parallel intelligence-gathering apparatus in order to justify the march to war. And those “rogue” ad hoc groups, mostly centered in the civilian arm of the Pentagon’s policy shop, cherry-picked “talking points” out of unverified rumors and tall stories fed to them by the Iraqi National Congress. INC leader Ahmed Chalabi, who was on the CIA payroll, was the conduit for this, feeding both the “Office of Special Plans” and Miller at the New York Times.
Miller’s key role in all this is now the subject of story and song: Chalabi and his fellow “heroes in error” would pass on their carefully calibrated lies to Miller, who would put them on the front page of the New York Times – just in time for Dick Cheney to be asked about it on “Meet the Press” or whatever administration sounding board was being utilized that Sunday morning.
The War Party is using the same strategy this time around, feeding disinformation to the media on the Iran deal to our compliant media. Just take a look at the brouhaha over this story by George Jahn of the Associated Press.
The Jahn story has caused a media uproar, with the War Party in Washington frothing at the mouth, because the way the story is written makes it appear as if the Obama administration has caved to the Iranians in a way that any lay person looking at this would find appalling. The issue involves the Parchin military facility, which has been the site of suspected past nuclear activity in the early part of the decade, i.e. some 12 years ago – and the means by which it will be inspected.
In short, we know the Iranians conducted some type of nuclear research and development at Parchin, and we also know it has long since been abandoned. But the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) protocol calls for the complete revelation of all past military applications of nuclear energy research before its gives its imprimatur to signatories of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This has nothing to do with the negotiations between Tehran and the P5+1, which were limited to what steps Iran would take now to limit its nuclear activities to purely peaceful means. It was and is a side agreement solely between the IAEA and the Iranians.
Yet the Jahn story, promoted as an AP “exclusive,” has this jarring headline: “UN to let Iran inspect alleged nuke work site” – as if the Iranians are suspected of building nukes at Parchin and the hapless toothless UN is going to let the Iranians “self-inspect.”
The casual reader is left with the general impression that Iran is being trusted to inspect itself – and that’s the idea. War propaganda is simply telling lies, and that’s what this headline represents. Beyond the headline, in the actual story we don’t get to the part about how this is about Iran’s past activities until ten or so paragraphs down.
Whatever went on at Parchin more than a decade ago has been literally washed clean, as nuclear arms expert Jeffrey Lewis points out:
"Work stopped in 2002 … so Iran has had 13 years to clean that site. And there have been reports of vehicles and washing and renovations to the building, which I think are very uncertain. But I don’t expect the IAEA to find much, although maybe they’d get lucky.
"No one should be willing to blow up this deal over access to this site … Because we know what they did there, and there’s nothing we’re going to find out that’s going to change our view. But it’s become, for lack of a better term, a bit of a pissing contest, so here we are."
Jahn’s journalistic malpractice got worse, however, as his story reverberated throughout Washington and the uproar got louder. The details of the alleged “self-inspection” regime described in the original version of the piece were edited out. That may be because the alleged “documents” that were leaked to Jahn by an unnamed “official” were of a draft IAEA-Iranian agreement, rather than the real thing.
As of this writing, the AP has not acknowledged that the Jahn story was edited: it merely took out the details of the alleged Iranian “self-inspection” and filled up the empty space with denunciations of the Iran deal by Republican members of Congress.
The IAEA was quick to reject the Jahn story’s conclusions, averring that "Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work.”
To be clear: even if the original version of the Jahn story is correct in every detail, it’s irrelevant: we know the Iranians conducted nuclear experiments at Parchin, but that site has long since been wiped cleaner than Hillary Clinton’s private server. Parchin is a vast military base that we always knew the Iranians would never allow inspectors to set foot in: it is, however, under continuous satellite monitoring, and the “self-inspection” the Iranians were supposed to perform is the very same procedure the IAEA allowed back in 2007 regarding Iran’s past procurement of advanced centrifuges. It’s also the same protocol applied to the South Africans when they gave up their nuclear program.
What’s going on with the Jahn story ought to evoke a sense of deja-vu in those of us who remember the run up to the Iraq war. Then, as now, the War Party leaked documents that supposedly proved their intended target was engaged in some perfidy: then, as now, the “respectable” media was the chosen conduit though which this war propaganda entered and shaped the discourse. Then it was Judy Miller’s fables that graced the front page of the New York Times: today it is George Jahn’s equally disingenuous tall tales that appear in the “news” sections of mainstream media outlets throughout the world. As I write this former AIPAC official Wolf Blitzer is repeating the Jahn allegations on CNN even though they’ve been debunked all over the place.
We here at Antiwar.com weren’t fooled by Judy Miller – and we take an equally skeptical stance toward George Jahn’s journalistic concoctions. Our very own Jason Ditz has been debunking Jahn’s “journalism” on this subject for years: for the long record of Ditz’s debunkings, which go back to at least 2011, just go here. And we were on the job Wednesday night after Jahn’s latest masterpiece came out, with an article by Ditz that exposed the fraud at the heart of his “exclusive” – well before anyone else.
That’s why we’re here – to keep tabs on what the War Party is up to, because they’re always up to something. And don’t think that the signing of the Iran deal is the end of it: heck, it’s just the beginning. The George Jahns of this world and their invariably anonymous “official” sources are going to be working overtime “policing” this agreement, and we’re bound to see a veritable avalanche of stories in the ostensibly “mainstream” media alleging Iranian violations.
What that means is that we’re going to have to police these would-be policemen – but we can’t do it without your help.
You may have noticed that Antiwar.com is in the midst of one of our regular quarterly fundraising campaigns; this is how we’ve managed to stay afloat since 1995 – and to grow into the biggest anti-interventionist site on the Internet.
We need your tax-deductible donation so we can keep doing what we’re doing. Yes, we were first out of the gate with a debunking of the Jahn story, but there’s plenty more where that came from – the debunking has only just begun!
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NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.