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October 17, 2007


Saeed Uri

I am really mad that I missed this event. I did not even know about it! Sounds like it was really interesting.

Nur al-Cubicle

A big "thank-you" for briefing your readership, AA!

As a diplomat, he would always want to know the endgame, the purpose of various tactical moves - but with this administration, they seem to shift with events and make it up as they go along.

Yes indeed they do shift with events. This is "The Existential Experience" approach. And just like Viet Nam, there was no strategy. Moreover, the endgame in VN was WAR WITH CHINA! (BTW, according to an account in David Kaiser's book, American Tragedy, the military even used to imaginatively redraw map. This is when TEE collapses into The Fantasy Experience.)

With reference to a prior post, according to the L'Orient Le Jour (Beirut) reporter in Egypt, Condi made no reference to freedom of the press, as she was trying to cajole the Egyptians to go to Annapolis for the November conference. Today's Le Monde (Paris) called the conference a mere "Smoke Screen" for continuing Israeli colonization of the West Bank.

M. Carey

1. The end-game is permanent occupation, or at least permanent, large, bases.

2. Of course, they want war with Iran, and will try ANY argument that they (think/hope) will work. Truth NEVER enters their equation.

Isn't all this obvious ? Where has everybody been for the last 6 years?

Blake H.

Very sorry to have missed it. Will there be a transcript?


I was somewhat disappointed with Ms. Wright's excuse about the lead up to the Iraq war. It seemed to me that she was largely blaming the media's inaction on public opinion. It seemed to me that this glosses over the media's role in shaping opinion.

That not withstanding, I very much enjoyed the panel. Now that I live in DC, i'm looking forward to attending more events like this around town!


But did Robin Wright explain why journalists from outside the U.S. are often able to provide better coverage? For example, the BBC or AFP usually have correspondents who actually know the area, know the language, and are able to put things into context - unlike the average American reporter.

She's right about the Washington Post foreign coverage. That was my hometown newspaper, and after moving overseas, I missed it. The first time I went back to the U.S., I was looking forward to reading it every morning... but after a few days, I realized that I found it very disappointing, because I'd been getting so much more - and better - coverage in the local English-language newspaper I was reading here in the Middle East. No wonder why Americans are, on average, so un- or mis-informed.


Wright said: " She argued that the press would not likely repreat [sic] its mistakes in the face of a campaign for war on Iran"

Anybody want to bet on that? I'm giving odds. The media will/has fold/ed like a beer can.

nur al-cubicle

The larger issue here are the neocon fanboy editors and executives who forced reporters into omission or complicity with THE BIG LIE. This was most of the Anglo-Saxon press, with the exception of The Independent. The Labour Party organ, the Guardian played dead. The BBC made a few squeaks and Blair then made a few firings at the BBC and disciplined senior staff.

Don't know about Iran. Perhaps the wardrums are meant to provide a smokescreen to obscure the Palestinian issue.


This is a good and interesting post.

It's important for journalist not to be lured by either side into making assumptions. Assuming that Iran is playing a dangerous game of supplying weapons to insurgents is just as dangerous as assuming that they are not.

Iran has a track record worst that the United States when it comes to supplying weapons and training to gurrilla groups in other countries.

Nur al-Cubicle

OT: Abbas refuses to go to Annapolis!

"It is a waste of time because and serves no one's interests. We are not willing to to attend, the cost is too high...The Israelis are not serious."

Abu Zade

Found this post via Andrew Sullivan. Interesting discussion.

I recognize this is tangential, but I had to balk at your description of "the MEMRI problem" as "incendiary comments taken out of context and presented as representative of the wider public." I'm familiar with MEMRI and the arguments against it, including its funding and origins in Israeli intelligence. To be honest, MEMRI is so predictable as to be boring and I stopped reading it a while ago.

But I really question your assertion that MEMRI is not representative of the wider public. I spent five years living in Egypt. While my personal experiences there likely won't be persuasive to you (obviously you have personal experiences of your own), they are of course quite persuasive to me. In all the time I've spent in qahwas, interviews (I'm a journo), with relatives of my Egyptian wife -- I have to say, at least 50% of the political discourse I've heard from the proverbial "Arab street" has been pretty much exactly like the type of thing one reads on MEMRI.

To me, "the MEMRI problem" is much simpler. It's that Arab politicos, public intellectuals, and the average person give WAY too much grist to the Mossad-supported, anti-Arab propaganda mill. MEMRI does not have to look hard at all for this sort of thing because it is literally everywhere in the Arab World. I don't see any reason to hide our eyes from that fact.

Abu Zade

LOL @ Nur al-Cubicle -- great screen name!



"Wright surprised me by offering a chillingly persuasive argument about how the rationale for war with Iran had shifted from the nuclear program to its role in Iraq. To support this, she rattled off a series of examples of what "we know" about Iran's role in the violence, with her voice taking on a stacatto rhythm of seemingly hard facts about the Iranian role"

"Why isn't the media more critically delving into the factual basis of the administration's claims about Iran's role in Iraq?"

If the press fights this on a factual basis they will lose. The administration controls the info, and they can make out a colorable case that Iran is supplying EFPs and other aid. The better question is to ask so what? Not did Sadaam have WMD, but so what if he has some chemical and biological weapons? He is still no threat to us. The press and other critics never did this in the run-up to the war.

So what if Iran is supplying some weapons? Isn't that small potatoes and business as usual? We and Pakistan supplied the muhajadin in Afghanistan. The Soviets could have bombed Pakistan. Wisely they did not choose to widen the war. Whatever weapons Iran is supplying in Iraq constitutes only a very small part of the military challenges we face. It's not worth widening the war by bombing Iran either. However, to adopt such an analysis requires treating Iran as a state with understandable national interests and not an evil demon that executes poor poor gay people. Unfortunately that may be politically impossible in this country.


Is it the Administration that is making "claims" about Iranian activity in Iraq? I thought it was the US military on the ground there, most notably General Petraus? This is entirely different to Administration "claims" in the run up to the Iraq war which was based on intelligence from the CIA who had no-one on the ground?

I don't think the Dems and the Left will get very far trying to equate the two, unless the US public is prepared to believe Petraeus would be lying about this? I think it would be a rerun of the "General Betrayus" debacle.


nur al-cubicle,

You wrote:"Perhaps the wardrums are meant to provide a smokescreen to obscure the Palestinian issue" I don't mean to be disrespectful, but if you believe that is even possible, never mind true, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. Sadly and tragically, the vast majority of the establishment in DC does not give a damn about the Palestinian people, one way or another. And, equally sadly, and tragically, the same can be said for the vast majority of Americans. And its not that there is a great deal of hostility to Palestinians. (although there is a fair amount among some people here) Rather, there is a complete and utter indifference so long as the PLO, or one of its spin offs, refrain from high profile terrorists attacks on Americans. The issue here is most certainly Iran. Or, rather, it is control of the natural resources of a region; along with placating the vilest, and most bizarre, biblical fantasies of the Republican Base.


You wrote...."Is it the Administration that is making "claims" about Iranian activity in Iraq? I thought it was the US military on the ground there, most notably General Petraus? This is entirely different to Administration "claims" in the run up to the Iraq war which was based on intelligence from the CIA who had no-one on the ground?"

I got a bridge to sell you too if you think there is a dime's worth of difference between the two sources. They are different in the same way a cold water faucet is different from the hot water faucet right next to it. Both come out the same spout...and both are controlled by the same entity. And for the record--while one should always be cautious waving poll results at someone-- I think it is fair to say that numerous polls indicated that the majority of Americans THOUGHT that the good Gen was misleading them/us.

Here is one such poll. http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/08/22/3340/

And finally it is not accurate to say that "Dems and the Left" are attacking the admin/military credibility on Iran. So is Ron Paul. And while he is easily and often dismissed by the MSM, it is a mistake to do so. Anecdotal evidence abounds that many conservatives, old Taft style Republicans, are opposed to the war. And to expansion of it. Paul has matched McCain in funds raised. He has backing.


"I don't think the Dems and the Left will get very far trying to equate the two, unless the US public is prepared to believe Petraeus would be lying about this?"

I would agree with this. Although Petraeus can be accused of hyping and exagerating.

There is some evidence and published reports that EFPs and other Iranian weapons (mortars, plastic explosives) may have come from Iran as early as 2004, with increasing flows more recently. But the decision to publicize it now by the military command was partly a political decision.

Important factual questions for the press to ask:

Why couldn't these EFPs have been fabricated in Iraq? They are just copper discs which in principal could be made in any automobile machine shop. As early as 2005 videos were reported floating around Iraq describing how to make them.

Even if some of these EFPs come from Iran, so what? Couldn't they be easily replaced from other sources.

What's the big deal about a few Iranian mortars? Isn't there an international arms market? Indeed aren't there numerous Iranian arms sold on that market?


I wonder if the panel offered any thoughts on the how a top defence expert has looked back at four years of American Media coverage of the Iraq war. General Ricardo S. Sanchez gave his candid assessment of the military and press relationship in his address at the Military Reporters and Editors Luncheon in Washington D.C.

While Sanchez believes it to be necessary that the military and the press corps maintain a mutually enabling relationship, in his observation this continues to be problematic listing several reasons paraphrased below:

“As I assess various media entities, some are unquestionably engaged in political propaganda that is uncontrolled,” say General Sanchez. In his assessment, the profession of war reporting, “has strayed from these ethical standards and allowed external agendas to manipulate what the American public sees on TV, what they read in our newspapers and what they see on the web. For some of you, just like some of our politicians, the truth is of little to no value if it does not fit your own preconceived notions, biases and agendas.

General Ricardo Sanchez referred to the way the Iraqi conflict is handled asking point blank: “Who will demand accountability for the failure of our national political leaders involved in the management of this war?”

It is not surprising that it took a uniformed officer four years to speak up his mind in public (upon retirement). What is far more worrisome is that the US mainstream media has not risen up to secure straight, clear-cut answers.

Media outlets ought to answer why it hasn’t sufficiently probed the cakewalk crowd who promised a casual march to victory in Iraq. How many media activists pressed for accountability of the likes of Ken Adelmen who misled the American media by claiming “measured by any cost-benefit analysis, such an operation would constitute the greatest victory in America’s war on terrorism.” Had American tax payers an easy access to alternate information sources it wouldn’t have taken them four years to question the wisdom of the “cakewalk” bunch. Thus encouraging and embracing alternate sources of media has become increasingly important at a time when many US media organs tiptoe around issues in fear of overstepping their boundaries.

An Italian scholar of the Arab media, Donatella della Ratta rightly suggests that the West should seriously consider before blaming or blocking channels like Aljazeera that are in fact educating tools to inform rather than a medium providing an embedded version from a warring side. If the likes of Aljazeera English had wider access in to American homes it would not have taken this long to see the contradictions between the lofty claims made at the Capitol and actual realities faced on ground.

At a conference, "Creating Connections: New Partnerships for Understanding in the Middle East," sponsored by the Vermont Peace Academy, Vermont Council on World Affairs and Norwich University. A participant said: "It's an intellectual tragedy that the United States has cut itself out of Al Jazeera English's contribution to [informative] conversation. Everything that's happened to us in Iraq shows that's very dangerous. The lesson of Iraq is: Ignorance kills." See: http://tinyurl.com/2gwad8

Instead of making wrong choices and pursuing wrong approaches that are just goose-chasing and witch-hunting exercises US needs to befriend with the ones that capture and portray the facts professionally and far effectively. Now more than ever the USA public and its opinions makers need tools that can help them separate the wheat from the chaff not occasionally but on an on-going, round the clock basis.


Wright's response doesn't surprise me - that is the line she has been pushing in her articles in the Post for some time.

It does surprise me a little bit that there was no panel comment about the context, here. Obviously, the major supplier of arms and money and manpower to the insurgency has been the Saudis. If the Iranians are involved, they are involved as much to check the Saudis as the Americans. And yet that context - and its meaning- seems to be lost. In the Washington Post, Dana Priest was asked about the amazing pass given to Saudi Arabia, which one would think would be a major target for foreign correspondents. Reporting on the Saudi intervention in Iraq would certainly make the Iranian intervention in Iraq pale by comparison. Anyway, Priest wrote the most astonishing thing. This exchange was on her discussion on Oct. 4:

"Q: Why all the focus on Iran, with little or no mention of Saudi Arabian support for the insurgents? Sunni insurgents are responsible for the majority of American casualties in Iraq, and Sunnis are more likely to be supported by Sunni Saudi Arabia than Shiite Iran. Last December the Associated Press reported that Saudi citizens were providing financial support to Sunni insurgents in Iraq, and the insurgents were using the money to buy antiaircraft weapons. At least five U.S. helicopters were shot down in January/February 2007. Why are we ignoring the people behind most of the attacks?

Dana Priest: This answer is not going to really satisfy you because your question goes straight to the heart of U.S. foreign policy, and how hypocritical it can be/seem at times. But the fact is, we still need the support of the state of Saudi Arabia to do anything in the Middle East. That is why we don't, say, declare we will invade if they can't stop the support to Sunni insurgents."

Now, perhaps this isn't what Priest means, but she seems to be saying that the contours of what is acceptable in foreign reporting are defined by the government's notion of who are allies are. I think she probably wouldn't go that far, and the comment about invasion applies purely to the government, but the kneejerk response is, I think, symptomatic of how close the major reporters are to the government, and in particular the Bush people and the para-government of conservative think tanks. This is their default. Thus, you will find Wright's reporting customarily filled with vague accusations about the Iranians, while there simply is no parallel about what the Saudis have done and are doing. In essence, this gives the American public a very skewed notion of the war.

The Lounsbury

Hey mate, terribly late, but yes, much better on the tie front. Not ready for financial sector conferences yet, but far better. Too late to respond on substance....

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