Saturday, May 17, 2008

MSM Fumbles Iran Narrative Again

The story that most likely would have knocked the bottom out of the Bush administration’s case for war with Iran occurred more than a week ago, and the mainstream media still haven't reported it.

While flipping through channels on the evening of May 12, I accidentally heard Keith Olberman referencing a story from the LA Times that told how the U.S. military was all ready to show the American press enclave in Iraq the big cache of Iranian arms that Iraqi security forces had captured from Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army during the recent fighting in the Iraqi cities of Basra and Karbala.

The arms, in theory, would have proven once and for all the administration’s assertions that Iran is arming Sadr’s Shiite militiamen. There was just one glitch; when U.S. inspectors went in to inspect the captured arms, they said that none of the weapons or ammunition could be reliably traced to Iran.

Olberman ended the segment with “You do realize they are making this up about Iran?” Yes, I do, Keith, I thought. I realized it two years and change ago.

But hooray, I thought, it looks like the mainstream media has finally caught up, and I ran over to the computer to see what other major news outlets were covering the story. All Google came up with was the LA Times story Olberman had referred to. It wasn’t even an LA Times story, exactly. It was an item in the paper’s blog section, posted by Tina Susman in Baghdad on May 8, four days before Olberman talked about it. The paper itself did not run the article.

I went to the New York Times web site and searched for stories in the prior 30 days containing “iran iraq weapons basra karbala.” Zip. I did the same search at the Washington Post site. Squat. I tried again at the Boston Herald. Nada, and I also got jack at the Chicago Tribune.

I discussed the issue briefly with policy analyst Gareth Porter on the evening of the 12th. I mentioned Susman’s story in a May 13 column about the Pentagon’s Office of Strategic Influence and its progeny. On May 14, Porter put the Iranian-weapons-that-weren’t-from-Iran story in context.

“Top Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus had plotted a sequence of events that would build domestic U.S. political support for a possible strike against Iran,” Porter wrote. Admiral Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, told the press on April 25 that Petraeus was preparing a briefing that would provide detailed evidence of how far Iran was provoking events in Iraq. The core of Petraeus’s briefing would be the claim that arms captured in Basra bore 2008 manufacturing dates. The briefing document was to surface after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government endorsed it and used it to accuse the Iranians.

U.S. officials planned to show the captured weapons to reporters. Petraeus' staff alerted U.S. media to a major news event in which the captured Iranian arms in Karbala would be displayed and then destroyed. “That sequence of media events would fill the airwaves with spectacular news framing Iran as the culprit in Iraq for several days,” Porter noted, “aimed at breaking down Congressional and public resistance to the idea that Iranian bases supporting the meddling would have to be attacked.”

But things went awry.

Mice and Men and David Petraeus

Two wrenches intruded the cogs of Petraeus’s propaganda machinery. After an Iraqi delegation returned from meetings in Iran with evidence Iran had not armed Iraqi militias, al-Maliki formed his own committee to investigate U.S. claims about Iran.

On top of that, when American arms inspectors took a look at the “Iranian” arms captured in Karbala, they determined than none of them had come from Iran. The U.S. military told reporters there had been a “misunderstanding” and cancelled the demonstration.

Porter noted that among the arms determined not to be from Iran were explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) designed to penetrate vehicle armor that the U.S. command once claimed could only have come from Iran because facilities required to manufacture them did not exist in Iraq.

It was back in January 2007, about the time the administration unveiled its surge strategy, that then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad promised America would provide evidence of Iran’s “meddling” in Iran. (Khalilzad, keep in mind, was one of the Project for the New American Century neocons who called for an Iraq invasion in 1998.) The February 2007 briefing given to reporters in Baghdad in which the “proof” was presented was largely discredited. Throughout his tenure as U.S. commander in Iraq, David Petraeus has accused Iran of arming Iraqi militias, though the largest known supplier of arms to Iraqi militias is David Petraeus himself.

This recent “misunderstanding” about the Iranian weapons that weren’t from Iran and the refusal of the administration’s lap dog Maliki to go along with the administration’s grim fairy tale should have shut the trash talk on Iran down for good, and it might well have if Big Media (other than Keith Olberman, whose program many people mistakenly equate with John Stewart’s Daily Show) had reported it.

But Big Media said nothing. On March 17 searched Googled “iran iraq weapons basra karbala” again. Porter’s story had made it into the Asia Times and AlterNet, and was referenced in countless progressive blogs. Tina Susman’s original blog post had migrated to That’s something, I guess, but the search string still fetched 0 relevant results at the New York Times and Washington Post web sites. You can bet your sweet bippy that if American inspectors had found so much as a slingshot with Farsi markings on it, you would have heard more about it overnight than you’ve heard about Britney Spears in the last six months.

I don’t know if everyone in the mainstream media is in the tank for Bush now or if they all just suck or what, but something smells to high heaven like a big honking pile of fresh laid, pure unadulterated monkey business.


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"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

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View the trailer here.


  1. Anonymous7:11 PM

    Too bad that EFP factories have been found in Iraq.

    So much for the myth that EFPs are too complicated to be made there...

  2. Yep. I always loved how the "only in Iran" theory completely ignored that Iraq had its own military for a long old time, and its own weapons experts, and if they could put WMD together making an EFP wouldn't be all that hard.

    Much like the notion that anyone really needed to sneak weapons into Iraq at all, as if the place wasn't already a border to border armory.


  3. Montag3:07 AM

    Of course one funny aspect of this is IF they could prove that arms were being supplied by Iran they'd be in the position of the car-chasing dog which finally caught a car--what did they propose to do about it? If they did nothing they'd look impotent, while if they tried to do something about it they'd just make the Iranians angry and wind up being humiliated and frustrated. But if they can't prove that the Iranians are supplying arms then they're not rubbing their own noses in it and don't have to choose from the above options from Hell.

    It's like when President Carter raised the matter of there being a Soviet Army brigade in Cuba and demanded that it be sent home. Well, no dice. And since the U.S. was already treating Cuba like a leper there was damn all Carter could do to punish them. He just made himself look weak by making a mountain out of a molehill and then dropping it in frustration.

  4. Yes, it's a "careful what you wish for" kind of thing.

    I still suspect, though, that all this signal sending is more about destroying the possibility of diplomacy for the next administration than an actual desire to start another war.


  5. Anonymous8:46 AM


    So, was "plan B" to kill Iranian diplomats? Must have been.

    The "smell to high heaven" stink has been there for about 7-1/2 years now, and maybe more.

    It may, or may not be relevant. I think I read on this morning that the PNAC website has been taken off the web. Something about "non-payment" of the bill.

    That Mr. Bush will continue to make mischief from now to January 20, 2009, is to be expected. He and Cheney, (you call him Penguin -- for the hoax he perpetrated upon the American people -- I call him Joker)have nothing to lose.

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record -- I say everybody take part of their "tax rebate" or "tax refund" or "stimulus payment" and support independent news sources --- like this one.

    My tv is tuned to "Democracy Now!" in the A.M., and sports otherwise.

    Speaking of -- again -- this is Texas. Baseball is into "interleague play." The Astros played the Texas Rangers yesterday, in "the ballpark the taxpayers built for Bush" at Arlington.

    Prior to the game, we had (I don't listen -- I turn the sound all the way down) but there was a huge American flag like 50ft.x 60ft. on display in centerfield. Every branch of the military was represented by a "color guard." Army, Navy, Marines, and I think Coast Guard. Some Army Captain spoke by satellite from Iraq. A bunch of Navy "brass" -- (instruments not people)olayed the Star Spangled Banner. We saw lots of faces of guys in the Green Berets. Then some poor guy, in Iraq, (in tears) was featured to sing "Happy Birthday" (along with the crowd) to either his crying wife, or his two crying kids. The two crying kids then went on the field with Nolan Ryan, and threw out the first pitch.

    At the end of which FOX Sports Net proudly told us all "This program is being broadcast by Armed Services Network -- to men and women in the U.S. Military -- in 177 countries around the world."

    Pre-game took about 20 minutes.

    So, my question is this: How the hell do we have military in 177 countries around the world, and better yet --- WHY???

    You can't even watch a baseball game any more, without being subjected to the war propaganda.

  6. "You can't even watch a baseball game any more, without being subjected to the war propaganda."

    Lamentably true, Anon. Why do we have troops in 177 countries? Because U.S. corporations make profit supplying and equipping them in 177 countries.


  7. Anonymous12:27 PM

    from the watchman- "troubled Britney back in court..."

  8. ROFL! Well, at least the press has priorities, even if they're screwed up ones.


  9. Anonymous3:45 PM

    1.) We must attack Iraq, because they have massive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and their sophisticated and powerful weapons production capabilities threaten American cities!

    2.) Those fucking Iraqis are so backward they can't even machine a slug of copper for an EFP -- so this stuff must all be coming from Iran!

    And Barack Obama is a Muslim Manchurian candidate whose Baptist minister says offensive things.

    Apparently propaganda doesn't need to make even minimal sense on its face.

    Would love to have seen how much pressure those "U.S. inspectors" were under to certify the weapons as Iranian. I wonder if saying "no" will be a CLE for them...

  10. Yep, I'm afraid some careers could be over, A. But I'd love to hear Dick squeal when his Penguin gang run into pwople with integrity.


  11. wkmaier11:32 AM

    Not to niggle on a small point, but the 177 countries, might that be US Military personnel assigned to security at US embassies?

  12. MK,

    I don't know, but would guess we have more than 177 embassies around the world. I'll look that up in the next few days if I think of it.


  13. G Hazeltine10:30 PM

    Col. Lang's comments on David Brooks are to the point.

    And for much of what the msm won't discuss, and indeed couldn't I think, not knowing how, this site is always extremely interesting.

  14. I'd say Lang's assessment of Brooks is spot on. I'll have some words on Brooks's colleague Tommy in a couple days.


  15. For some time, Paul Craig Roberts has been pointing out that if Iran really wanted to "destabilize" the U.S. position in Iraq, they would be supplying insurgents with the same weapons we gave O.B. Laden in Afghanistan, i.e. shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles. Jet fighters and smart bombs are useless in counterinsurgency warfare, Roberts points out, but helicopters certainly aren't. In fact, they are the only things that allow the U.S. to maintain its edge over the insurgency (Robert's contention).

    Iran could easily procure such weapons from Russia, if they are not in fact already producing them themselves (Iran has a domestic arms industry, though how sophisticated their arms are relative to those produced by the West is not something I have seen any analysis of).

    So, until I see some evidence that Iranian Rambos are popping up out of the water with Stingers aimed at U.S. Blackhawks and Apaches, I think I'll take the whole "Iran behaving badly" meme with a grain or two of salt.

  16. JP,

    Good stuff. I also reflect that Hussein had enough weapons to quell a dozen uprisings. Running weapons into Iraq is like sneaking coals into Newcastle.


  17. Former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, has written an open letter to Admiral Fallon.

    Worth the read at:

    (Something to do with his oath not having expired.)

  18. Thanks for the link, EL. I'll be real disappointed if he just sits on his hands now.


  19. C. Fountain6:05 PM

    Thanks for your good work. I don't want to get in the business of making excuses, because this IS their Constitutionally protected job. But sadly it comes down to a cost/benefit analsis for much of the media. If a newspaper parrots the line that Iran was a threat, and nothing happens, (sadly) not too many will care much. As we saw in Iraq, there has been very little price to pay for the chicken-hawks that pushed us into an unjustified war.
    If, on the other hand, they say (as I believe) that Iran is NOT the existential threat we are told it is, and then somehow they engineer a US disaster, they would be despised to the point of banktruptcy. Sad, but I believe true.
    Peace be with you.

  20. Sorry, C., they don't get off that easy with me. They're like everybody else with power. If we just shrug and say "oh, well," we're going to get what we asked for.


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