2008

SELLING THE FIREBALL - GEORGE BUSH AND IRAN

We have received repeated threats of legal and police action from Alastair Brett, legal manager of News International’s Times Newspapers on June 28 and July 2. Brett claims a Times Journalist, Bronwen Maddox, has been subject to threatening emails from Media Lens readers. Brett also claims that we have breached copyright by publishing an email from Maddox without permission. We have sought legal advice and, having essentially zero resources for fighting a court case, feel we have no choice but to delete Maddox’s email from our media alert, ‘Selling The Fireball’, as demanded. You can see the amended version below:

With more than 1 million people lying dead in Iraq, it pains us greatly to see our attempt to host an honest, rational discussion on the looming threat of war with Iran butchered in this way.

It is almost exactly seven years since we started Media Lens and this is the first time we have been threatened with legal action. We will have more to say about this in due course, as will others. As ever, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone in communicating with journalists.

Best wishes
The Editors

When George Bush arrived in Britain last week as part of his "farewell tour", the real reasons for the visit were buried well out of sight. The tour was not, as the Guardian suggested, a mere "continental au revoir". The purpose was to coerce Gordon Brown into raising troop levels in Afghanistan and to support toughened sanctions on Iran. Bush said pressure on Iran was necessary to "solve this problem diplomatically", but warned: "Iranians must understand, however, that all options are on the table." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/ uk_news/politics/7456081.stm)

The remarks raised fears in London that Bush is "determined to take action against Iran before he leaves office in January," the Independent reported. (http://www.independent.co.uk/ news/world/politics/bush-threatens-iran-with-military-action-848488.html)

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), warned that any attack on Iran would transform the region into a "ball of fire." Even from the West's point of view an attack would be disastrous:

"A military strike would spark the launch of an emergency programme to make atomic weapons, with the support of all Iranians, including those living abroad." (http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hWSpmwY-Ckcf_V2Kf5RRNOgDh7Hg)

ElBaradei added that an attack would make it impossible for him to continue as head of the IAEA.

In support of Bush warmongering, French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared, on cue:

"Today, the most immediate threat is that of a terrorist attack. Thanks to the effectiveness of our security forces, France has not been attacked in recent years. But the threat is there, it is real and we know that it could tomorrow take on a new form, even more serious, by nuclear, chemical and biological means." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7458650.stm)

Sarkozy's propaganda contribution was splashed all over the BBC website as "Breaking News." The previous weekend, the Times had hinted at machinations behind the scenes, noting that "the French President has quite deliberately donned the mantle once worn by Tony Blair, defiantly - even triumphantly - talking up his love for all things American". (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/ news/world/europe/article4133574.ece)

Sarkozy had delighted Washington by saying the West must choose between "an Iranian bomb and the bombing of Iran". "The frost is over," according to one French government aide. "We want to show the warmth that now exists between the two countries after the frictions of the recent past." (Ibid)

The "warmth" translates as French obedience to US power - a policy change which will make France far more, not less, likely to be targeted for terrorist attack, particularly if Iran becomes the next victim of a US-led terrorist 'coalition'.

Madness In Search Of War

The BBC also found space to boost Bush-Brown propaganda:

"Iran has been accused of not co-operating with the UN over its nuclear programme, amid fears it is enriching uranium to use in weapons." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/ uk_news/politics/7456081.stm)

No mention was made of last November's US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which summarised the work of the 16 American intelligence agencies. The report disclosed that Iran had not been pursuing a nuclear weapons development programme for the previous four years:

"We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme."

The report added:

"Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons programme suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/ world/2007/dec/04/politics.topstories3)

It is 'balanced' BBC reporting to mention alleged "fears" about Iran as genuine, but not to mention an intelligence report that undermines the credibility of those fears. This, recall, even as the catastrophe in Iraq - based on identical US-UK propaganda and identical BBC servility - is ongoing.

We asked Bronwen Maddox, chief foreign commentator at the Times, why she had failed to mention the NIE report in her June 17 article on Iran. She replied on June 17:

WE HAVE DELETED MADDOX’S EMAIL AFTER THREATS OF LEGAL AND POLICE ACTION FROM ALASTAIR BRETT, LEGAL MANAGER OF TIMES NEWSPAPERS ON JUNE 28 AND JULY 2.

We replied on June 23:

Dear Bronwen

Many thanks for such a speedy response; it's very much appreciated. I'm co-editor of Media Lens, a website that monitors media issues.

You write that WE HAVE DELETED MADDOX’S COMMENT AFTER THREATS OF LEGAL AND POLICE ACTION FROM ALASTAIR BRETT, LEGAL MANAGER OF TIMES NEWSPAPERS ON JUNE 28 AND JULY 2.

You also write that WE HAVE DELETED MADDOX’S COMMENT AFTER THREATS OF LEGAL AND POLICE ACTION FROM ALASTAIR BRETT, LEGAL MANAGER OF TIMES NEWSPAPERS ON JUNE 28 AND JULY 2.

The report noted that "substantial explanations" were still lacking for documents suggesting that Iran had worked on atomic bomb-related explosives and a missile warhead design. But these are documents introduced into the process at the very last minute by Washington in early February. Given the US record of inventing evidence on Iraqi WMD, isn't it reasonable to assume that these may prove to be baseless allegations designed to prevent the IAEA from resolving all "outstanding issues" with Iran as part of US warmongering?

You write WE HAVE DELETED MADDOX’S COMMENT AFTER THREATS OF LEGAL AND POLICE ACTION FROM ALASTAIR BRETT, LEGAL MANAGER OF TIMES NEWSPAPERS ON JUNE 28 AND JULY 2.

But why, then, did you not mention a June 15 Reuters report that noted:

"Analysts believe that offering Iran security guarantees, an idea floated by Russia, could help end the deadlock, seeing such guarantees as Iran's fundamental goal given the Bush administration's 'regime change' policy toward it." (Parisa Hafezi, Reuters, June 15, 2008)?

The US has refused to withdraw its threats. This is technically a criminal act (the UN Charter forbids the issuing of threats) and a sure way to prevent diplomacy. Indeed, in May 2007, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish National Security Adviser during Jimmy Carter's presidency, called the US approach on Iran "clumsy" and "stupid". He noted that the US had insisted that the Iranians give up their right to enrich uranium as a precondition for a serious dialogue on the subject. Brzezinski commented:

"I frankly don't understand how anyone in his right mind would make that condition if he were serious about negotiations, unless the objective is to prevent negotiations." (http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles? article=a_conversation_with_zbigniew__brzezinski)

Again, you appear never to have mentioned Brzezinski's view. Why is that?

And why did you not mention the view of the Saudi press earlier this year in response to Washington's efforts to line them up in an anti-Iranian crusade? Arab News commented:

"In his confrontational remarks about Iran, he offers no carrot, no inducement, no compromise-only the big U.S. stick. This is not diplomacy in search of peace. It is madness in search of war." (http://www.cfr.org/publication/15352/bush_ fails_to_convince_arab_states_about_iran.html)

That observation is also not out of date, and has also not been mentioned by the Times.

Finally, why did you not mention the call for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East? Polls suggest that such an initiative is supported by 75% of the American people, Iran would almost certainly accept it, and the US-UK are specifically committed to it.

After all, Bush, Blair and Brown have all attempted to offer a legal cover for the Iraq invasion by appealing to UN Resolution 687, which calls on Iraq to end its production of weapons of mass destruction (which Bush and Blair of course claimed it had failed to do). Article 14 calls on parties to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region. This is an embarrassment to the United States and particularly to Israel, which has 150-200 nuclear warheads it is not about to give up.

Best wishes

David

We have received no further reply.

Bush - The Damage To America's "Image"

The deep-seated tendency of the elite media to bury the crimes of the powerful will be well to the fore as Bush prepares to leave office. Thus, a Guardian editorial, 'Goodbye to all that,' observed of the president:

"the damage Mr Bush has inflicted on America's image is impressive, especially with close allies like Turkey." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/ commentisfree/2008/jun/16/georgebush.eu)

With Iraq and Afghanistan in ruins, with action on the rising catastrophe of climate change effectively stymied, the Guardian editors chose to focus on damage to America's "image". The editorial concluded:

"Rebuilding global trust will be the major task of the next US president."

This single sentence speaks volumes about the Guardian's conformity, about its refusal to expose the brutal priorities of power. The major task of the next US president will be the same as it has always been. If you are weak and defenceless, or in the way - watch out!

SUGGESTED ACTION

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to Bronwen Maddox at the Times
Email: bronwen.maddox@thetimes.co.uk

Write to Ian Black, Middle East editor of the Guardian
Email: ian.black@guardian.co.uk