We've Been Here Before
CJ Werleman sees a familiar pattern in the stoked-up tensions between the US and Iran, and once again the media is failing to check the march to war.
On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush stood aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln dressed in the uniform of a US naval aviator, and shadowed by a banner with the words “Mission Accomplished” to declare military operations in Iraq to be finished.
If a single moment could capture the Bush administration’s hubris, disregard and denial of national security intelligence, along with the mainstream media’s dereliction of duty, then this moment was most definitely it.
The peoples of the Middle East are still reeling from the US invasion of Iraq, which unleashed a devastating sectarian war in that country and the birth of ISIS
Not only do US supported military operations continue in Iraq today, but also no evidence of Saddam’s supposed WMD program ever materialized, whatsoever.
Almost 16 years to the exact day, and without a sense of irony, President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, announced the US is sending the USS Abraham Lincoln and a bomber taskforce to the Middle East in response to what he called “a credible threat” by Iranian regime forces.
This supposed “credible threat,” however, is based on intelligence that is even far less than credible than that given by then US Secretary of State Colin Powell when he claimed to the United Nations General Assembly that photographs of “aluminum tubes” were evidence of Iraq’s WMD program.
In fact, what the Trump administration is claiming as “credible evidence” is intelligence gathered and distributed by Israel. Yes, the very same Netanyahu-Likud led government that has spent the past decade lobbying three successive US administrations, from Bush to Obama to Trump, to invade and bomb Iran.
“The intelligence about a possible Iranian plot is not very specific at this stage,” an Israeli delegation headed by national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat told Israel’s Channel 13 News.
So, there you have it, an unspecific threat identified exclusively by the state of Israel, but you wouldn’t know that if you existed mostly on a diet of US mainstream media news.
What the Trump administration is claiming as “credible evidence” is intelligence gathered and distributed by Israel.
For instance, on the day of Bolton’s announcement, the headline to The New York Times read,” Pentagon Builds Deterrent Force Against Possible Attack from Iran.”
Even more alarming is the fact that nowhere in the article is the fact this “possible attack from Iran” is based only on Israeli intelligence sources, referring only to “American allied spy services.”
It’s doubly concerning the media isn’t reminding the public of the disastrous consequences that followed from the 2003 invasion of Iraq…
A more accurate headline, one that would convey the truth to the American public, would read, “U.S. Escalates Its Already Massive Military Presence Surrounding Iran, Intending to Provoke an Iranian Attack,” according to James North, a journalist with Mondoweiss.
US Media Falling in Line
When the US mainstream isn’t ignoring Trump’s march to war in the Middle East, it provides only scant coverage of escalating tensions, even as the US deploys an array of military assets to the Gulf, including Patriot missiles, B-52 bomber force, USS Arlington, USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a fleet of F-35s, and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, then it is only parroting administration officials or taking dictation from the Pentagon.
Worse – the media is guilty of parroting Bolton, who recently told a “cult-like” Iranian exile group that the US military “will celebrate in Tehran” before the end of 2019, and who as far back as 2008 urged Bush to “bomb Iran now.”
The media is guilty of parroting Bolton, who recently told a “cult-like” Iranian exile group that the US military “will celebrate in Tehran” before the end of 2019.
Not only is there a total absence of skepticism in the media regarding Trump’s brinkmanship, but also the US public is being denied an analysis of the individuals who are shaping the President’s move towards another US war in the Middle East, and the consequences that might follow from such action.
Clearly, the US news media has failed to learn a single lesson from the way in which it effectively performed the role of cheerleader-in-chief as the Bush administration sold its bogus case for war in Iraq.
“How mainstream journalists suspended skepticism and scrutiny remains an issue of significance that the media has not satisfactorily explored,” observes Bill Moyers, journalist and former White House Press Secretary in the Lyndon administration. “How the administration marketed the [Iraq] war to the American people has been well covered, but critical questions remain: How and why did the press buy it, and what does it say about the role of journalists in helping the public sort out fact from propaganda?”
Shaping the Battlefield of Public Opinion
While polls show a majority of Americans oppose a war against Iran, public sentiment can change quickly if the administration’s pro-war propaganda isn’t challenged by large segments of the television and print media.
Thus why it’s doubly concerning the media isn’t reminding the public of the disastrous consequences that followed from the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the very real consequences that are likely to follow from escalating tensions against Iran.
In short, the consequences will be hideous and catastrophic, with tens of thousands of innocent civilians likely to die, alongside new intra-state conflicts and civil wars unleashed across the Middle East, as too the birth of even more violent extremist groups.
A war with Iran also promises to cost the lives of thousands of US military personnel, a ballooning of the national debt, while igniting a new regional and global nuclear arms race.
“Iran is not going to go down without harming others,” Imad Harb, director of research and analysis at Arab Center Washington DC, told Middle East Eye. “In fact, the same countries that have pushed the US to adopt a more confrontational approach to Iran – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – may be the ones to pay the price if violence breaks out.”
A war with Iran also promises to cost the lives of thousands of US military personnel, a ballooning of the national debt, while igniting a new regional and global nuclear arms race. It’s also important to note that the US finds itself here because Trump walked away from the Iran denuclearization deal, one that UN inspectors confirmed Iran was complying with.
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The peoples of the Middle East are still reeling from the US invasion of Iraq, which unleashed a devastating sectarian war in that country and the birth of ISIS, and the wars that continue to ravage Yemen and Syria.
These hapless souls will suffer more violence and post-war misery if the US news media abdicates its duty to speak truth to power by holding the US administration accountable for its frivolous claims and rhetoric, in the same way it performed journalistic malpractice in the lead up to the Iraq invasion nearly two decades ago.