Washington Post

Tell the WaPo: Stop Getting Ahead of the Facts on Iran!

The Washington Post is at it again.

A September 15 article in the Post contained the following gem (emphasis mine): [1]

Israel’s security establishment fears that a failure to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons could encourage Tehran, Syria’s ally, to continue to enrich uranium for a bomb.

This sentence implies that Iran is currently enriching uranium for a nuclear bomb. But there is no evidence at all that this is the case. [2] In fact, both US and Israeli intelligence agree that Iran is not trying to build a nuclear weapon. [3] So the Post should correct this sentence.

We've been through all of this before with the Post's former Ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, who acknowledged that a header and subheader the Post printed back in 2011 was misleading because it implied that Iran was trying to build a nuclear weapon. [4] Asked to weigh in on the current controversy, Pexton responded on Twitter that [5]

That sentence is easy to miss but I think it should be corrected. No govt has yet said Iran is enriching for a bomb.

Unfortunately, the Post eliminated the Ombudsman position earlier this year when Pexton's contract ran out. [6] He was "replaced" by Douglas Feaver, who holds the title "Reader Representative." But Feaver has yet to respond to numerous calls over the last month to correct misleading Post passages on Iran's nuclear program. [7]

Let's flood Feaver's inbox so he can't ignore the truth any longer. It only took 1500 emails to get Pexton to issue his original correction. [8] With your help, we may be able to stop the Post from getting ahead of the facts on Iran yet again.

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/wapo-iran-facts

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy

WaPo: Back to Getting Ahead of the Facts on Iran

The Washington Post is at it again. A Sunday article entitled "Kerry tells Israel that Syria accord is no prelude to Iran deal" contained the following gem:

Israel’s security establishment fears that a failure to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons could encourage Tehran, Syria’s ally, to continue to enrich uranium for a bomb.

Saying that something could encourage Iran "to continue to enrich uranium for a bomb" implies that Iran is currently enriching uranium with the purpose of using it for a nuclear bomb. There is, of course, no evidence that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon or that it is diverting uranium from its civil program, which is under IAEA inspection. In fact, both Israeli and US intelligence agree that Iran has not made a decision to pursue nuclear weapons. Since there is no evidence that the aim of any Iranian enrichment is "for a bomb," this passage in the Post is misleading.

A Reformist Strategy to Downsize the Drone Strike Policy

This is slightly adapted from a presentation given at a Congressional briefing on drone strike policy on November 16, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

I want to talk about what Congress could do about drone strikes in the next 1-2 years.

To begin with, some political context, as I see it.

First, I don't think anyone will argue with me if I say that for the last ten years Congress has done very little.

Second, I think it would be extremely helpful if Congress would do something. I think Congress doing something is intrinsically important in itself, in addition to whatever the thing is. The reason is that the media, the public and the Administration take cues from what Congress is talking about. If Congress isn't talking about something, then it's perceived as not very controversial. More people would contact Congress if we had a vehicle for them to contact Congress about.

Third, I don't think it's as hard for Congress to do things on this as some people seem to think. There's a kind of conventional wisdom that Congress can't do anything because no-one cares because no U.S. soldiers are being killed by the policy. I think this conventional wisdom is completely wrong. No U.S. soldiers are being killed in Honduras and yet a hundred Members of Congress are willing to sign letters about human rights in Honduras, and these letters get press and pressure the Administration. No U.S. soldiers are being killed in Bahrain but Members of Congress are willing to sign letters about human rights in Bahrain and these letters get press and pressure the Administration. Conversely, plenty of U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan before 2009 and Congress didn't do much about that. So whether or not American soldiers are being killed is not as decisive as some people seem to think.

Oh SNAP! NYT Mentions Israeli Nukes in Bibi Iran Piece

When I sat down to take in the headlines yesterday on the New York Times website, I was not altogether pleased with the paper of record. Admittedly, I am in an almost constant state of perturbance when it comes to the Times; however, their particularly heinous reporting on the Bibi "red line" hullabaloo Friday got my blood up, propelling me to dash off a long letter to the new Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, from whom I have yet to receive a response. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting posted an excellent write-up of the affair, so I won't bother doing so here. Suffice it to say that my exasperation level was unusually high.

So imagine my mirth when I came upon the following excerpt in the piece "Israeli leader makes case against Iran on US TV":

Mr. Netanyahu, who also appeared on the CNN program "State of the Union" on Sunday, sought to link the violence [at US embassies in the Middle East] with Iran's nuclear ambitions, arguing that Iran's leaders were driven by the same fanaticism that enraged the protesters. Israel has its own nuclear arsenal, though it has never publicly acknowledged it.

WHAT? Did the New York Times just mention the fact that Israel has nukes!? Oh SNAP! Day-um, hear that, Bibi? Bet that BURNS!

But what could have possibly gotten into the Times to allow such a tawdry fact into their Iran reporting? It's not like a mention was called for by the information preceding it. I think that my reaction to its inclusion was so marked precisely because there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason for the Times to mention the Israeli arsenal at this particular point in the piece.

WaPo: Still Getting Ahead of the Facts on Iran

It seems that the Washington Post still requires a bit of help sticking to the facts on Iran. An article in yesterday's Post, entitled "Center for American Progress, group tied to Obama, under fire from Israel advocates," featured the following passage (emphasis mine):

At the same time, Israel’s supporters worry that Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon and greater instability in the Middle East pose existential threats to Israel.

Hm. "Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon." Sounds awfully familiar. Where have we heard that before?

Oh, yes. Recall that, way back in December, Just Foreign Policy initiated a campaign to get the Washington Post to correct a photo gallery headline, which originally read, "Iran's quest to possess nuclear weapons." The ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, agreed that the headline was "misleading," and the Post corrected it to read, "Iran's quest to possess nuclear technology." The mishap was blamed on the tricky nature of the headline creating process.

This time, however, the object of Iran's quest wasn't being mulled by an uninformed photo or copy editor--a journalist or editor, who should have known better, was responsible.

To his credit, Mr. Pexton responded to my email in a prompt fashion, and the offending passage was revised shortly thereafter--about six hours after the article was originally published. The passage now reads (emphasis mine):

WaPo: Sneaky Persians Menace Pentagon's Noble Aim to Keep U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Forever

In a front page exposé on January 4, the Washington Post revealed that sneaky Persian agitators are conspiring to thwart the Pentagon's noble aim of keeping 10,000-30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan on "non-permanent," "non-U.S." bases after "all foreign troops are supposed to be withdrawn" in 2014, just as these sneaky Persians conspired to thwart the Pentagon's noble aim of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq.

The Post story is quite instructive, even if it is not exactly "news" in the common sense of the term. It presents the world from the point of view of diehard Pentagon revanchists who want to keep US troops in Muslim countries forever against the will of the majority of Americans and against the will of the majority of people who live in these countries. It presents this diehard Pentagon revanchist view as if there were no interests in the world besides those of Pentagon revanchists and wily Persian agitators, such as the interests of the majority of people who happen to live in the United States, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Of course, in the world view of the diehard Pentagon revanchist, the concerns of these mere residents are largely irrelevant, if they have no military implications. How many divisions do these mere residents control? These mere residents are just pawns in a game of Pentagon-sneaky Persian chess.

It is a story, moreover, that is spectacularly contradicted by the Post's own previous reporting, as well as that of other major American newspapers.

The story informs us:

 

Judy Miller Alert! The New York Times is Lying About Iran's Nuclear Program

It's deja vu all over again. AIPAC is trying to trick America into another catastrophic war with a Middle Eastern country on behalf of the Likud Party's colonial ambitions, and the New York Times is lying about allegations that said country is developing "weapons of mass destruction."

In an article attributed to Steven Erlanger on January 4 ("Europe Takes Bold Step Toward a Ban on Iranian Oil "), this paragraph appeared:

 

The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran's nuclear program has a military objective, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign. [my emphasis]

The claim that there is "a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran's nuclear program has a military objective" is a lie.

As Washington Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton noted on December 9,

 

But the IAEA report does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one, only that its multiyear effort pursuing nuclear technology is sophisticated and broad enough that it could be consistent with building a bomb.

Indeed, if you try now to find the offending paragraph on the New York Times website, you can't. They took it down. But there is no note, like there is supposed to be, acknowledging that they changed the article, and that there was something wrong with it before. Sneaky, huh?

But you can still find the original here.

"Convenient" Base Is Unexamined Excuse for U.S. Silence on Bahrain Crackdown

Pressure is building on the Obama administration to delay a proposed arms sale to Bahrain, which brutally suppressed its pro-democracy movement and continues to squash dissent, the Washington Post reports.

The Pentagon wants to sell $53 million worth of armored Humvees and anti-tank missiles to Bahrain, a plan slammed by human rights groups, who want the U.S. to end its silence on the crackdown in Bahrain.

This week, five Senators - Sens. Casey, Durbin, Cardin, Menendez, and Wyden - weighed in against the arms sale in a letter to Secretary of State Clinton:

A "Pledge of Resistance" to Defend Social Security (and Defund the Empire)

For the third time in the last 20 years, establishment voices, with high-profile slots in traditional media, are trying to convince the public to accept cuts to Social Security by endlessly claiming such cuts are necessary without giving coherent evidence to justify the claim. Twice, under President Clinton and the second President Bush, these voices were defeated. But they didn't give up. And now they are in striking distance of their goal: the fact that Republicans have taken over the House, combined with the fact that the President appointed a deficit reduction commission which nearly recommended a cut in Social Security benefits, and might well have done so if Rep. Schakowsky hadn't worked to undermine the co-chairs' plan, means that one can't be complacent; some reports have suggested that the President may indicate support for cuts to Social Security in his State of the Union speech. Of the two principal Washington political actors who will shape the outcome - the Republican leadership and the President's team - one is a determined adversary of the public interest, the other a very uncertain ally. The most successful anti-poverty program in U.S. history is again in grave danger.

Twenty years ago, Social Security was called the "third rail" of U.S. politics. Touch it, you die. But it turned out that was not true. The Establishment greedheads were not, in fact, afraid to try to mess with this wildly popular program. Maybe Wall Street political power is the third rail.

In these two decades, Social Security hasn't been the third rail. Instead, it's been the Grey Goose of folk song legend. The knife couldn't cut him and the fork couldn't stick him. Try as they might, they couldn't kill him. Can the Grey Goose survive the next assault?

Did Voters Give Republicans a Mandate for More War?

Everybody knows that the recent election was all about the economy, right?


Nobody would claim that American voters just gave Republicans a mandate for more war, would they?

Here we go:

 

Republican Senator John McCain said on Tuesday in the wake of big Republican victories in Congress that he hopes President Barack Obama will take a fresh look at U.S. war policy in Afghanistan. McCain won re-election to his Arizona Senate seat by a large margin, ensuring he will retain have a strong voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee as its ranking Republican member.

In an interview, McCain told Reuters he was looking forward to a December review the Obama administration is preparing to give an update on the U.S. troop increase Obama ordered a year ago to try to repulse a strengthened Taliban.

McCain, who is expected to visit Afghanistan soon, said he would like to see a change in Obama's decision to begin withdrawing some U.S. troops from Afghanistan next August.

The world would be a better place if one could just ignore things like this. But as Reuters points out, McCain is ranking member on Senate Armed Services, in addition to being the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. Two axioms of politics in America are: 1) you can't ignore a dangerous political claim, just because it's nonsensical, and 2) you can't wait for a nonsensical and dangerous political claim to gain momentum before moving to quash it, because it's like a highly infectious disease: you have to stamp it out immediately before it takes root in the population.