In the past, it seemed that President Bush was much more careful about how he misled us into war than to tell blatant and easily debunked falsehoods:
US President George W. Bush charged Monday that Iran has openly declared that it seeks nuclear weapons — an inaccurate accusation at a time of sharp tensions between Washington and Tehran.
“It’s up to Iran to prove to the world that they’re a stabilizing force as opposed to a destabilizing force. After all, this is a government that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon,” he said during a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
But Iran has repeatedly said that its nuclear program, which is widely believed in the West to be cover for an effort to develop atomic weapons, is for civilian purposes.
Brian Beutler gives kudos to AFP for clearly calling bullshit on the President’s bullshit. In the previous go-around with the Bush Administration and their propaganda catapult in 2002 and 2003, this wasn’t happening. For example, take a look at this speech from October 7, 2002, which had 13 separate falsehoods (search for “October 7” to see the list), hardly any of which were ever critically reported in the media, even though most of them were already known to be false at the time. In software testing parlance, this is a bug, not a feature when it comes to how the media should function. Even worse, many people in the media today recognize this, even lament it, but have decided that it’s a Won’t Fix.
For example, Robin Wright of the Washington Post responded to ThinkProgress today for their criticisms of her column about the neocon mindset towards Iran. Wright claims that it’s not her intent to pass judgement on them, just to make us aware of what their viewpoint is. It’s true that when you have a difference of opinion, someone like Wright shouldn’t inject her personal bias into the story, but that’s not what the complaint is about. Wright wrote:
Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute recently wrote that assuming that Iran wants stability in Iraq is “as naive as it is dangerous. . . . U.S. and Iranian interests in Iraq are diametrically opposed, and will continue to be until one side wins and the other loses.” He depicted diplomacy with Iran as “a mirage, a tactical tool to divert U.S. policy attention away from the Revolutionary Guards and intelligence officials charged with implementing the Iranian leadership’s objectives.”
Rubin’s claim that U.S. and Iranian interests in Iraq are “diametrically opposed” is not an opinion, it’s a falsehood. Many of our interests in Iraq are in line. That’s why we’ve been sitting down and talking to them about how to deal with the situation there. Wright’s inability to call this out is not a noble effort to be free from bias, it’s lazy journalism. There’s a very big difference between leaving your opinions at the door and failing to identify something that’s not true as being such. When high profile people who have great influence over our foreign policy are believing in fairy tales, that’s something you need to tell people.
Hamid Karzai’s visit to Washington this week revealed even further the stunning aversion to the truth among the Bush crowd when it comes to Iran. Karzai believes very strongly that Iran is a helpful ally. Bush was not convinced:
“They’re not a force for good,” Mr Bush said of Iran, with Mr Karzai at his side. “They’re a destabilising influence wherever they are. Now, the President will have to talk to you about Afghanistan. But I would be very cautious about whether or not the Iranian influence there in Afghanistan is a positive force.”
The source of Bush’s opinion in this matter comes from where his opinions always come from, his gut. Facts, logic, history, and the opinions of knowledgeable people are mere distractions from the greater “truth” that comes from simply believing whatever he wants to believe.
When it comes to Afghanistan, Iran does have an interest in stabilizing the country. The number of Afghan refugees living in Iran has been decreasing since the overthrow of the Taliban, but that trend has slowed as refugees who have returned home are starting to complain about the Taliban resurgence. In addition, the massive drug trade originating in Afghanistan flows through Iran on its way to Europe, creating a very serious problem with heroin addiction there. The Iranian government has a strong incentive to deal with both problems there (for much the same reason that the U.S. wants to deal with the problems of immigration and drugs at our southern border). Whether or not we like or dislike the things that Iran’s pandering goofball of a President says is not as important as what they do. When it comes to dealing with the both the Taliban and the drug traffickers, there’s little difference between what we want and what they want.
But that hasn’t stopped the onslaught of accusations from the Bush Administration that Iran is supporting the Taliban in order to fight a proxy war against us. With so little attention being paid to what’s happening in Afghanistan, the effort actually managed to gain some traction, even as some high-level officials were somewhat confused on the talking points at first. It was effective enough that TPM’s Spencer Ackerman thought that it would be surprising that the Afghan Ambassador didn’t agree.
As frustrating as it was to watch our national media completely fall flat on its face in 2002 and 2003, it’s even more frustrating to see how much it’s still happening today. The idea that Iran is the destabilizing force causing both Afghanistan and Iraq to turn into such a mess is nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of those who can’t face up to the realities of their own miscalculations and blundering. The regime in Tehran may in fact have designs on nuclear weapons. It really wouldn’t surprise me. And much of the populace is certainly highly mistrustful of our intentions to the point of paranoia – even as they also take to western culture. But the most dangerous approach to Iran right now is to once again create our own fantasy world in order to justify our desire to disarm them. It would be nice if the people who get paid to keep us informed could let us know when that’s happening.