It is safe to predict that Ron Paul will once again be the sole voice of reason on Iran, when he debates the unashamedly hawkish Santorum, Romney and Gingrich in Arizona tomorrow.
But whether this trend will continue depends on the moderator, CNN’s John King. Will he allow the debate to be framed by the dangerous propaganda that has pervaded much of the reporting on Iran, or can he force the candidates to confront surprising new intelligence on Iran that vindicates Ron Paul’s pleas for restraint?
Sadly, the former scenario is far more likely. Even as the military-industrial complex continues to point its apocalyptic priapism at Iran, many in the media are sharing in the fluffing duties.
ABC’s Diane Sawyer and Brian Ross claim to have evidence that Iran is waging “a kind of shadow war” around the world, and that “Jewish places of worship in at least 10 U.S. cities have been told they could be targets.” Not only do they neglect to mention who exactly is issuing these warnings, turns out that the “evidence” they claim to have is nothing more than the speculative accusations of Israeli officials, who have blamed three recent bombings in Georgia, Thailand and India on Iran. Sawyer and Ross also fail to mention that, according to official investigators of the India bombing, the evidence appears to implicate a Sunni group within India that is completely unconnected to Iran.
Similarly, NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski boldly proclaims that the U.S. will be “the world’s first line of defense,” now that “Iran has already threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz,” and “Iranian leaders have threatened all-out war!” To his credit, Miklaszewski at least mentions in passing that Iran has “threatened all-out war” only if Israel were to drop bombs on its nuclear facilities, and that Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz only in response to U.S. economic sanctions. What Miklaszewski doesn’t bother explaining is that these economic sanctions would involve cutting Iran off from the international banking system, through which it receives payment for its oil exports — a devastating blow to its economy.
But most importantly — he fails to mention that the U.S. military does not actually know whether Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.
That’s right — on Feb. 5, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told Congress that Iran has not yet made the decision to “go ahead with a nuclear weapon.” And this weekend, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN that “a military strike against Iran would be premature, because it is unclear that Tehran will actually use its nuclear capabilities to build an atomic bomb.”
If this news surprises you, you aren’t alone. According to a CNN poll from 2010, 71 percent of Americans mistakenly believe that Iran already has nuclear weapons. But instead of seeing this as a rallying cry to correct the dangerous misperceptions of ill-informed Americans, many in the media instead choose to push the false narrative that war with Iran is becoming ever more inevitable.
One can only hope that John King will do his best to prevent Romney, Santorum and Gingrich from perpetuating that false sense inevitability in tomorrow’s debate.
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