Now that Canada’s National Post has apologized for the disinformational article about Iran it published on its front page last Friday, one should inquire as to how this happened in the first place. The Post had reported that on May 15, the Iranian Parliament had passed a law establishing “separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public. The new codes would enable Muslims to easily recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean).” This was absurd. The one Jewish member of the 190-member Iranian Majlis, Moris Motamed, among others refuted it noting that Iranians would never put up with such a law. He added, “Our enemies seek to create tension among the religious minorities with such news and to exploit the situation to their benefit.”
The legislator must surely count Iranian-American journalist Amir Taheri, author of the nonsense, among these enemies. But what led Taheri to produce a sensationalistic piece, drawing immediate damning comment from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormick, and Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles? Taheri is after all a man of apparently impeccable journalistic credentials. He’s been Middle East editor for the London Sunday Times, has written for The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Arab Times, International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Newsday, The Washington Post, Die Welt, Der Spiegel, Der Zeit, La Repubblica, L’Express, Le Nouvel Observateur, El Mundo, and others. He regularly comments on CNN. Quite a range of editors apparently consider him competent. So I think it unlikely his piece resulted from mere journalistic sloppiness.
Taheri was also between 1972 and 1979 executive editor-in-chief of Kayhan, Iran’s main daily newspaper under the Shah’s regime. He contributes to the neocon National Review and his speaking engagements are handled by the warmongering neocon Benador Associates PR firm. He and these colleagues have repeatedly urged a U.S. attack to produce regime change in Iran. The neocons, of course, have shown themselves more than willing to employ deceit in building the case for military action; it is part of their Straussian modus operandi. However much their “intelligence” about Iraq, disseminated through Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans and media sycophants like Judith Miller, has been discredited, they’re plodding on with their strategy of vilifying yet another regime to build popular support for its overthrow.
Looking at the big picture, what they’ve done so far is to persuade much of the American public that Iran is doing something illegal in enriching uranium and insisting on its right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to do so; that Iran is definitely trying to build nuclear weapons; and that Iran has declared its intention of “wiping Israel off the map.” The first of these is untrue. The NPT expressly allows all signatory nations to master the nuclear cycle under IAEA monitoring. The second is unproven. The IAEA has stated repeatedly that there is no evidence for an Iranian nuclear weapons program. The third is a distortion. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has quoted the late Ayatollah Khomeini as having stated that the “regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from from the page of time.” But this same Ahmadinejad was of course immediately identified in the U.S. press after his election last June as one of those who seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, taking U.S. diplomats and CIA agents hostage. The deception was soon exposed, but the strategy here is to vilify and have faith that the vilification will linger after the specific charge has been dropped.
In 1990, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the “Citizens for a Free Kuwait,” a front group established by the Hill & Knowlton PR firm to promote war on Iraq, used its ties to California Democrat Tom Lantos and Illinois Republican John Porter to stage the appearance of a teenage Kuwaiti girl at a Congressional hearing on the invasion. She testified that as a volunteer at al-Addan Hospital in Kuwait City she “saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where . . . babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die.” Some of us wondered at the time whether it was likely that Iraqi boys would wantonly slaughter Arab babies in this Kuwaiti hospital. It was later revealed that the girl testifying was a daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., and that she was lying through her teeth. But the lie worked very, very well, validated by Colin Powell and others in the first Bush administration, and by reputable press organs. Many months later it was shown to be a farce, but of course then the damage had been done.
A routine, unremarkable, invasion of one Arab nation by another justified by reasons much more persuasive than the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 (an invasion that had actually met with much sympathy among the Emirate’s population, most of whom did not hold Kuwaiti citizenship) had been persuasively depicted as act of utter evil. Saddam was the “new Hitler,” a wanton premature baby-killer, to be followed by the Serbian Milosovic (architect of Nazi-style Bosnian concentration camps), and now this horrid Iranian Ahmadinejad who wants to use his nukes to annihilate the Jews.
But the Jewish rep in the Iranian parliament (who has been outspoken before) is surely on-target when he suggests that some seek to “exploit the situation to their benefit.” They do so by exploiting ignorance, prejudice, fear, and gullibility. They churn out so much disinformation one has the sinking sense that however one tries to expose it, their plans in the short term will prevail. But those paying attention have to try, and keep raising the slogan: Stop the Attack on Iran!
GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org