In describing his nightmarish vision of history as "eternal return," the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche averred:
"What if a demon crept after you one day or night in your loneliest solitude and said to you: ‘This life, as you live it now and have lived it, you will have to live again and again, times without number; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and all the unspeakably small and great in your life must return to you, and everything in the same series and sequence – and in the same way this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and in the same way this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence will be turned again and again – and you with it, you dust of dust!’ – Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who thus spoke?"
I’m afraid I hear that demon by my side at this very moment, whispering the awful truth in my ear as I read the "news" – reported by the Times of London – that there now exists documentary proof Iran has been pursuing a nuclear weapons program in defiance of the United Nations and directly contradicting its stated objective of generating nuclear power for purely peaceful purposes. According to this document (posted here in English and here [.pdf] in Farsi), the Iranians are intent on producing a "nuclear initiator" or "trigger," which supposedly has no possible civilian application.
There can only be one possible reaction to this from veteran observers of the War Party’s years long quest for the Holy Grail of Iraqi and then Iranian "weapons of mass destruction," and that is a distinct feeling of vertigo – and, to the more literary amongst us, the quote from The Gay Science cited above. The demon speaks!
Oh gawd, not more BS from the Times of London, the trashiest of the Murdoch media empire’s flotilla of garbage barges! In the annals of tall tales and disinformation around Iraq’s alleged WMD, the editors of the London Times have a place of honor – or, rather, dishonor. Their record is long and hilarious, a perfect example being this report published in February, 2001, written by Gwynne Roberts, which claimed that Saddam Hussein had already developed and tested nuclear weapons with some help:
"The test was carried out at 10.30 am on September 19, 1989, at an underground site 150km southwest of Baghdad,’ he said. ‘Saddam had threatened us with the death penalty if we told anybody about it. The location was a militarized zone on the far shore of Lake Rezzaza, which used to be a tourist area. There is a natural tunnel there which leads to a large cavern deep under the lake. Laborers worked on it for two years, strengthening the tunnel walls. There was a big Republican Guard camp nearby and dirt roads leading to the site. You could see the thick high-tension cables on the ground, which disappeared into a huge shaft entrance. I saw one which must have been 20km long. The command post for the test was in a castle in the desert not far away. We went to a lot of trouble to conceal the test from the outside world. The Russians supplied us with a table listing US satellite movements. They were always helping us. Every six hours, trucks near the test site changed their positions. They had carried out a lot of irrigation projects in the test area during the year before as a diversion. But these weren’t agricultural workers. They were nuclear engineers. It was a nice cheat."
The above are the words of the enigmatic "Leone," a "mysterious visitor [who] emerged from the shadows outside my hotel in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq, just as a crisis between Washington and Baghdad was reaching a climax in January 1998." "Leone," who claimed to be a former nuclear scientist, had approached the Times reporter asking "Are you a journalist?" A good question, one which I asked, and answered, at the time. Looking at this bit of tradecraft retrospectively, one can only answer in the negative.
This was pretty obviously a planted story, one with no basis in fact and indeed not very believably presented. It reads more like a cheap pulp thriller than an actual news report, and yet that may be the point. For the purpose of setting up a narrative, and setting the tone of a debate over whether to go to war, those who planted this bogus account in the Times can look back on it and say to themselves: "Mission accomplished."
A few months later, the Times editorial team came up with another whopper, this time topping their previous attempt by a country mile, claiming that half-burned papers found in the ruins of an alleged al-Qaeda "safe house" in Afghanistan were proof Osama bin Laden was about to build a nuclear bomb. What a scoop! There was just one problem: the "evidence" touted by the Times was a spoof that had originally appeared in the "Journal of Irreproducible Results," which Jason Scott, of rotten.com, readily found in a few seconds by Googling a key phrase in the document.
Oh well, back to the drawing board …
One would think, with a record like this, the Times staff would crawl into a hole somewhere, never to be seen or heard on the topic of WMD again – but, no, of course not. Now the hapless editors of the Times have done their friends another favor and planted yet another obvious fake story, this time supposedly proving that the War Party’s next target – Iran – is building nukes in defiance of the world.
The documents on which the story is based – purporting to be an internal Iranian government memo – have been posted online, and the verdict was swift: they’re fakes. Forgeries. Yet another Times of London thriller, on about the same level as the revelations of "Leone," although they might not be good enough to make it into the august pages of the Journal of Irreproducible Results.
In a story posted on Antiwar.com and written by Gareth Porter, Philip Giraldi, a former CIA and DIA official, citing his sources in the intelligence community, exposed the Times documents as forgeries – and, as it turns out, maybe even just as crude as the notorious Niger uranium forgeries [.pdf], which purported to show Saddam’s agents purchasing uranium from that African nation.
In the case of the Niger forgeries, it was the highly fanciful content as well as the references in the text to officials who hadn’t held office for years, that gave the game away. In the current case, it’s the typography itself which is obviously not something that would be used in an Iranian nuclear research facility. As George Maschke, whose specialty is Near Eastern languages and culture, points out:
"This allegedly ‘Iranian’ document was composed on a computer that evidently lacked Persian (Farsi) – the Iranian national language – resources. It is readily apparent that the document was composed using Arabic, not Persian resources. For example, the Arabic letter corresponding to the English "y" is "ي". In Persian, however, the dots are always omitted when the letter appears at the end of a word. (In fact, with a Persian input method selected, one has to press the shift key to obtain the Arabic letter "ي" with two dots underneath.)
"In addition, the Persian word-initial long ‘a’ consistently appears as a regular "a" in the document. The ‘little hat’ above the long ‘a’ is generally not considered to be optional."
Oops! Oh well, back to the drawing board …
Gee, you’d think the forgers would have bothered to get their computer act together, which is why I doubt this fake was prepared by the "Asian intelligence service" the Times claimed to have procured it from. Perhaps whoever planted this bogus story in the Times contracted the forgery job out to the same blokes who churned out the Niger uranium forgeries, in which case it’s no wonder they got caught.
This would be funny if it weren’t being taken seriously, including by the Obama administration, which is treating this fabrication as if it were real, as Times columnist Oliver Kamm gloated the other day. Kamm is that rarest of British political fauna, a neoconservative who valorizes George W. Bush, hails the invasion of Iraq, and spends a great deal of energy arguing that the inhabitants of another country – the United States – should bear the burden of executing a properly "internationalist" foreign policy. Kamm’s neoconnish credentials are impeccable: to begin with, he’s a founder of the Henry Jackson Society. Yes, it’s an actual British organization, a memorial to the Senator whose name is virtually synonymous with the military-industrial complex, an enthusiasm which rightly earned him the appellation "the Senator from Boeing." Jackson’s staff during the cold war years was a veritable neocon kindergarten, which trained such worthies as Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, and Paul Wolfowitz – the warmongers of tomorrow.
Oh, but Kamm’s got more than credentials. He walks the walk. A typical neocon method of argumentation, when cornered, is to change the subject by smearing your opponent, and that has been the reaction of the Times, in the person of Kamm, to the debunking of the phony document they "report" as "news." In a column published on the Times web site, Kamm doesn’t even bother defending what is by now an obvious hoax: instead he cites a ten year old letter Giraldi wrote to an alumni magazine questioning the use of the Holocaust in pro-Israel publicity campaigns. He also attacks Gareth Porter, whose seminal article effectively deconstructed the claims made by the Times, for stating, in the 1970s, that the Cambodian massacres carried out by the Khmer Rouge were overblown.
Kamm and the Times effectively have no response to the charge made by US intelligence officials, speaking through Giraldi, that their "scoop" is a scam. Kamm is a bit of a nut, whose notions of truth and falsehood are notoriously supple, and whose intellectual and moral standards are not the highest: here is somebody who makes a big deal out of "denialists" who dispute the numbers put out by the Bosnians and the Kosovars detailing their brutalization at the hands of the Serbs, and (rightly) abhors those who downplay the Holocaust, and yet turns around and defends the extermination of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He not only defends it but makes rather a show of doing so, glorying in the slaughter as if it were an act of purest virtue.
That the Obama administration is now citing "intelligence" gleaned by this sleazy operator Kamm, and Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid Times, as "evidence" that sanctions on Iran must be imposed is nauseating in the extreme. It ought to produce vertigo in those liberals and deluded "progressives" who still hope Obama – their Obama, the Obama of their dreams – will come through on the foreign policy front. Perhaps this will wake them up to what they’re dealing with in this White House.
As for Kamm and his fellow scamsters over at the Times: they won’t be able to get away with this for too long. After all, a known liar is a marked man: after a long career steeped in deception, with one story after another proved to have been total nonsense – and not even very finely crafted nonsense, at that – people stop listening. Worse – for the liar, that is – people start actively discounting anything that comes out of his mouth: if he says it, why, it must not be true. This is a good rule to follow in the case of the Times, and particularly when it comes to the prolific outpourings of Oliver Kamm, yet another ex-Trotskyist with a disdain for the truth and a taste for war experienced from afar.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I see that George Maschke has made a comment on the Times blog outlining his skepticism as to the authenticity of the documents, to which Kamm replies as follows:
“The whole of your comment is undermined by your mistake in assuming that the document that you read online was the document in its original form. It was in fact a retyped version of the relevant parts of that original document. The original document contained a lot of classified information. The Times did not publish the original document, because of the danger that it would alert the Iranian authorities to the source of the leak. The full version of the document is in the hands of the IAEA.”
If it isn’t the original, then why post it online – and in two languages? Posting the original would provide evidence that the document is, in fact, authentic. Barring that, there is no way to verify its authenticity – we are simply supposed to take it on faith. Aside from the smoke-and-mirrors excuse of “it contained a lot of classified information” – classified by whom? After all, we’re talking about a supposedly Iranian document here — what Kamm is essentially saying is: “Trust me.” Unfortunately for the Times, and its chief apologist, that newspaper’s record (see above) hardly inspires such trust – and neither does Kamm.