July 9, 2007
The New York Times and IranBy Ed Lasky
The New York Times has been criticized for helping terrorists in the past by disclosing investigatory methods and rendition policies and practices, supporting them in its editorial pages and allowing terror suspects to spin their stories in the news section, disclosing methods our nation has used to prevent funds from reaching terrorists, condemned the existence of prisons holding terrorists, criticizing the laws brought to bear to prevent terrorism, and whitewashing or apologizing for terror when it occurs.
In fact, they have done far worse. The paper has exposed us and our allies to an even more perilous and growing danger.
The New York Times, famous for revealing the cover-ups of others, has engaged in its own cover-up: the paper has consistently mislead its readers (including a large percentage of the policy-making elites) regarding the goals and nature of the Iranian nuclear program and the lethal malevolency that fuels its development. The people of our nation, and those of our allies, have become vulnerable to a regime that not only is rapidly developing the capability to build nuclear weapons but is also driven by a passionate and irrational messianic ideology that welcomes nuclear war as a means to bring about the advent of a more spiritual and Shiite Muslim world. The Times is fulfilling a role that it once did so show shamefully in the 1930s: an enabler of genocide.
The paper's power is hard to overestimate. The Times creates the newscape of America: the issues it chooses to highlight and the perspective it brings to these issues are the genesis behind the news coverage of the mainstream media. What it chooses to be "fit to print" becomes, through its sway and news syndicate, the stories that fill America's daily news. Arthur ("Pinch") Sulzberger has alluded that it has been his desire to drive public policy since his Vietnam-war era college days. He has accomplished his mission. The paper's potency reaches the halls of Congress; the agenda that drives the paper often becomes the agenda in Washington. Herein lies the peril: by presenting a Pollyannaish view of Iran's intentions and abilities, the paper has served to spin the news in a way that has demonstrably minimized the threat from Iran, has eroded our ability to thwart Iran's nuclear program, and has ridiculed and dismissed the concerns of people who take a more wary and realistic view regarding the Iranian regime.
The paper's portrayal of the Iranian regime and its nuclear program is a mirage: its intentions are far more lethal than the paper depicts, its nuclear program is far more advanced than the paper conveys and the consequences of living (or dying) with such a regime is far more dire than the paper would have its readers believe. The paper's advocacy for the regime defies belief: the paper calls for an end to American "bullying" of the dictatorial regime, endless rounds of diplomacy, dismisses sanctions and the promotion of reform from within, and, finally and most disgracefully, acquiescence to a nuclear-armed regime that advocates genocide
The intentions of the regime can be discerned through its words and actions. Iran has long boasted of its plans to wreak nuclear destruction upon Israel, even before the world heard the rantings of its current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In 2001, its former President Rafsanjani (still a power broker in Iran) boasted that one day the Islamic world would have a nuclear weapon and that its use against Israel would destroy that state, while the any retaliation against the Arab world would only inflict relatively minor damages because of the vastness of the Arab world.
This was not ambitious enough for the current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who boasts of his plans to destroy America and Israel. In widely reported remarks, he called for Israel to be wiped "off the face of the earth". Even media outlets distinctly unfavorable to Israel reported this boast. Less frequently quoted remarks from the same speech called for the destruction of America. However, alone among major and minor media outlets, the Times displayed an unseemly alacrity in ignoring the clear meaning of his remarks and has been promoting the view that this destruction was not what Ahamdinejad advocated.
The paper, in an article that ran in its influential Sunday edition, presented an almost delusional benign view of Ahamdinejad's words that virtually no one accepts (even groups with a history of animosity towards Israel): Ahmadinejad is merely calling for "regime change" in Israel. Somehow, the image of Ahamdinejad espousing the ouster of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not ring true. Who did the Times find to validate its absurd view? Juan Cole. Professor Cole teaches at the University of Michigan, and is widely known for his anti-Israel activism and for his blog that consistently takes harshly anti-Israel view. He has been widely criticized for his scholarly failings.
Cole has apparently been trying to land a more prestigious post in academia, but his record seems to have prevented his rise, as he has been rejected by others. (He is employed by the University of Michigan; Michigan has a large Arab-American population; has this served to ensure his sinecure?) Nevertheless, he seems qualified to be an "expert" for one of the most prestigious papers in America. This checkered past has not prevented the paper from relying on his "expertise" to whitewash Iranian intentions.
Even such anti-Israel organizations as the United Nations have condemned Ahamdinejad for his comments regarding Israel. The normally fractious House of Representatives has called for, by an overwhelming margin (411-2), the United Nations to charge Ahmadinejad with violating laws pertaining to genocide for "calling for the destruction of Israel." If one had doubted his genocidal intentions, one can look at a panoply of statements he has made and actions he has taken to reveal his views.
Most notoriously, Ahmadinejad has denied that the Holocaust happened, has sponsored an anti-Jewish cartoon festival replete with anti-Jewish imagery last seen in such abundance in Nazi Germany, and a Holocaust denial conference. The Iranian regime clearly has an "Obsession with Jews". Ahmadinejad's regime sponsors Hezbollah -- responsible for the deaths of many Lebanese, Israelis, Argentineans (murderous attacks on the Jews of Argentina have been traced to Iran) and Americans. It sponsors Hamas -- dedicated to the destruction of Israel. And it funds Syria -- whose leader called for a grand alliance against Jews.
Iran provides the weapons and explosives that are killing Iraqis, Americans, and Englishmen in Iraq. It is promoting civil and sectarian strife that is tearing that nation (and its people) apart. Furthermore, a man who abuses his own people (Iran has dozens of children on death row and executes them regularly, stages public humiliation and stoning for Iranians who display pro-Western dress or mores, that imprisons or executes any one it perceives to be an opponent-including elderly women) would certainly have no compunction about meting out greater violence on those he believes blight the land of the Muslims, and for that matter, the world. Yet, the Times has consistently tried to "rationalize" this irrationality and dismisses any concerns regarding his goals.
Ahmadinejad has a religiously motivated desire to seek death and destruction: he believes that such a nuclear Gotterdammerung would bring the advent of a messianic age. He believes that such a conflagration would bring forth the return of Shiite Islam's Twelfth Imam who will bring about a more spiritual world. In the words of Pulitzer-prize winning columnist Charles Krauthammer, a
The panjandrums at the paper are resolutely secular and perhaps do not appreciate the passions that drive Shiites. A despised minority in the Muslim world that believes its version of Islam should be supreme, a religion that is inspired by the destruction wrought by martyrs and not the healing miracles of saints, a religion whose practitioners routinely imitate acts of suffering in their religious holidays, is also a religion that is on its ascendancy and is feeling triumphant. This is perilous: the power behind the rise of this Shiite crescent has become extremely radicalized by the Iran-Iraq war. America's elites are those of the Vietnam-era who abhor war (even just wars) and preach appeasement (Pinch Sulzberger proudly admitted this in a commencement address). The Iranian regime is just the opposite: controlled by a powerful group of people who were brutalized and radicalized by the Iran-Iraq War and took the contrary view, worshipping sacrifice and war (see Ahmadinejad's Demons: A Child of the Revolution Takes Over for a chilling portrait of the group that empowers Ahmadinejad and who he, in turn, is empowering).
Yet the Times, which hyperventilates about the Christian Right and its purported influence on our nation, has a quite nonchalant attitude about a passionately religious bigot and dictator who openly broadcasts his desire to wreak havoc and destruction.
These are not the words or actions of a man who advocates regime change, they are the acts of a man paving the way for another Holocaust. His intentions are clear. What are the intentions of the New York Times?
The Iranian nuclear program is clearly designed to develop nuclear weapons and is far closer to achieving this goal than the New York Times conveys. For the past few years, the Times has been the most Pollyannaish of publishers. While many media outlets highlight the rapid progress that Iran has been making regarding its capacity to develop nuclear weapons, the Times has trumpeted claim after claim that Iran is seven to ten years away from having the ability to build nuclear weapons. (see the April 13, 2006 article: "Analysts Say a Nuclear Iran is Years Away"; the article even speculates that this ability might come as late as 2020) . The paper has allowed Iranian interlocutors to spin the story that the nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, despite Iran's vast oil and natural gas reserves (natural gas is a very clean and efficient way to generate electricity).
The Times has written glowingly of Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations and has given him scare editorial space in its wholly-owned and influential International Herald Tribune to spin the story of Iran's innocence and peaceful desires. The Times has published numerous op-eds penned by Iranian representatives that spin the line that their nuclear program is for energy production, that Iran is following international rules an agreements (belied by the fact that that even the normally complacent UN has imposed sanctions), ,and that portray Iran as an innocent victim of machinations designed to thwart its rights . The Times publishes this propaganda and gives it the imprimatur of being credible.
Has the Times ever pondered why an energy-rich nation would bear the brunt of international sanctions and ignore its people's increasingly desperate economic plight to spend billions to build a vast archipelago of atomic laboratories and centrifuge installations (along with an arsenal of long-range ballistic missiles) if not for a goal of building a nuclear arsenal? Has the Times thought to consider that the international community has offered to provide enriched fuel to power nuclear reactors and therefore there is no need at all for Iran to spend billions to develop the infrastructure to enrich its own uranium (to nuclear-weapon grade)? In the ultimate expression of Iran's nonchalance towards the prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons, the company's International Herald Tribune carried an ad from Iran seeking bids from companies to execute its plan to build two nuclear reactors. (see "I Got My Nuclear Reactor Through The New York Times").
Even the relatively placid and nonchalant head of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned a few months ago that the Iranians are only months away from a bomb . While this may be a bit alarmist, a string of announcements highlighting new milestones (number of centrifuges successfully operating in the type of cascade necessary to enrich uranium) has led to a flurry of experts sounding the alarm that Iran is making great strides in developing the ability to make nuclear weapons (see also "Iran moves closer to making a nuclear bomb"). These types of headlines and stories are noticeably absent at the New York Times.
A sober and logical analysis would consider the options available to deal with the Iranian threat. The Times has had one editorial and op-ed after another calling for diplomacy; has trumpeted the wisdom of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group that called for... yes... more diplomacy; carried op-eds by Brent Scowcroft and a range of others calling for more diplomacy. The United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the European Union, and even America have all engaged in years of diplomacy and negotiation that has been very beneficial for Iran because it has provided it the time and space to perfect its nuclear weapons technology. We are no closer to reaching agreement with them through diplomacy than we ever were; in fact, since Iran is closer to achieving its goal, we would have an even more difficult time coming to an agreement through negotiations, since at some point Iran will have nuclear weapons and present it as a fait accompli. What will happen then?
The new book Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England is a superb history of how endless appeals for diplomacy only fueled the rise of another genocidal dictator and led to the deaths of many millions of people. It just might be a good book for diplomats to read between tete-a-tetes with the Iranians.
How would the New York Times have America respond to Iran's threats, provocations, support for terror, acts of violence, and violations of a series of agreements it has agreed to when it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement and in more recent negotiations with the IAEA and the European Union? Supinely-as flat as one of its pages. Sanctions are a generally accepted way of trying to persuade regimes to end internationally-frowned upon behaviors. The Times looks askance at event his mild form of rebuke.
While the paper has lately come around to mildly endorsing very limited financial sanctions, these types of sanctions are considered by some experts to be "too little and too late". Furthermore, the paper has published many columns that argue sanctions are worthless anyway. For example, guest columnist Ted Koppel wrote a column arguing that sanctions will be ineffective:
(Note: Iran is now being rent with violent protests among its young. Earlier this month, some 60 Iranian economists wrote to Ahmadinejad blaming rising prices and increasingly dire economic conditions on his policies. Many experts blame the worsening economy on two sets of U.N. sanctions imposed on Iran since December over Tehran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment.)
Max Hastings argued that:
(Note: These sanctions have already bitten to some extent, as even the Iranians admit, since their energy-based economy needs huge sums of outside investment. Economic problems are rife in Iran and have led to anger towards the regime and spreading protests against it)
Any number of Times' columnists and editorial columns have argued that pre-existing sanctions be removed to facilitate... yet more diplomacy.
The most effective sanction would focus on Iran's energy industry. The country is crucially dependent on its exports of oil and gas. Efforts are underway in Congress to tighten pre-existing sanctions concentrating on the energy sector and to extend them so as to make them more effective. Congressmen Mark Kirk and Robert Andrews set up a congressional working group on Iran two years ago, and have developed a host of creative ideas to try to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program (most recently an effort to restrict import of gasoline into Iran. Despite its vast oil reserves, Iran cannot refine enough oil to meet the gasoline needs of its people). Has the Times commented on these types of effective sanctions? Yes. The paper has actually condemned them! The paper has never had a soft spot for energy companies; it has virtually never supported them in the past and usually targets them for opprobrium in its editorial pages. But when it comes to Iran, the paper actually opposes any restrictions on their doing business with Iran. To quote,
The Times argues that sanctions on energy companies are ineffective. Yet, who disagrees with the paper? Well, the Iranian oil minister for one. He recently stated that sanctions against Iran for failing to halt its nuclear program were harming its oil industry. These are denying the regime the profits that fuel terrorism and the development of nuclear weapons .
Iran's vulnerabilities in the oil sector may be growing. Iran needs to invest about $10 billion annually in its energy sector to maintain current output from its fields. Currently, the regime can only fund one-third of that internally. Output is declining precipitously without this investment-exports may shrink to zero by 2015 if sanctions on energy investment are enacted (see Halting Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program: Iranian Vulnerabilities and Western Policy Options). These are the exports that provide the funds for Iran's nuclear program.
The Times puts aside its universal disdain and opposition towards oil companies and argues that these companies should be allowed to help fund Iran's nuclear program. As noted by Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto, "Apparently the Times can abide Big Oil making money as long as it benefits the mad mullahs who rule Iran"
One would think that the Times would encourage regime change in Iran. The nation oppresses women, fervently does not believe in the separation of church and state and embraces the conjoining of the two, restricts press freedoms, is the number one state supporter of terrorism in the world, executes children, abuses its minorities, imprisons and beats gays, stones adulterers-well, the list of human rights violations is endless. All causes that the Times would normally support. However, the paper adamantly opposes any moves that may serve to promote regime change from within.
The Soviet Union and the dictatorships in Eastern Europe fell in large measure due to support of their dissidents from America and our allies. Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America were vital instruments in eroding the power of the regimes. Dissidents who were freed have expressed how important even verbal support from outside was as an inspiration for them in their efforts. Yet when America has brought forth these very same methods to try to free the Iranians, the paper has resolutely and consistently condemned these measures. The paper's editorial "Bullying Iran" was a classic in the genre of appeasement.
The Iranians are responsible for the deaths of many Americans, and openly boast of their desire to see America vanish (in a nuclear cloud). Iran sends weapons and explosives to kill our soldiers in Iraq. Yet America is the bully in the eyes of the Times.
When America created and funded the broadcast network Al-Hurra, it was viewed as a way to expose Iranians and others to actual news as opposed to the propaganda spewed forth from Iranian outlets. Investigators, especially the fine journalist Joel Mowbray, brought out the fact that Al-Hurra under the leadership of Larry Register had grossly failed its mission and, in fact, had become another propaganda outlet that served the terrorists and dictators of the region -- particularly Iran and its sponsored terror ally, Hezbollah.
The Wall Street Journal, influential blogs (primarily Powerline), and many Congressmen denounced Al-Hurra. Among other outrages, Al-Hurra had allowed Hezbollah leader Nasrallah to engage in one of his marathon speeches attacking Israel and America and had provided somewhat favorable coverage of the Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran by, in essence, not providing any criticism that may have indicated that a Holocaust did indeed occur. However, the Times stood alone in allowing a defense of Al-Hurra to be published, titled "The Air of Truth". (Did anyone at the Times consider the very title to be offensive, considering the network had in effect endorsed Holocaust-denial?).
Many millions of dollars have been allocated by Congress to aid reformers in Iran ($75 million this year alone). This type of effort was vital in securing the freedone of millions of Russians and Europeans from the yoke of dictatorship, as many of the dissidents have attested. Yet the Times has been adamant in casting aspersions on these efforts, most recently this past Sunday in "Hard Realities of Soft Power" a long discourse by a student at Harvard that basically ridiculed the idea that these efforts would be beneficial and actually came to the conclusion that they would backfire and harm the people of Iran.
The article, in the words of Jacob Luskin, "flirts with an endorsement of Iranian hardliners' claim that American support for dissidents, rather than suppression by the government, is the real threat to political reform in Iran". The article has now become a rallying cry for those opposing sanctions on Iran and efforts to support reform from within.
Finally, the Times would have us believe that should Iran develop nuclear weapons we should learn to accept their nuclear arsenal. In the words of their guest columnist, Ted Koppel,
The paper issued a glowing review of a new book, The Atomic Bazaar, by William Langewiesche, in its influential Sunday book review that offers an analysis of nuclear disarmament and the risks of nuclear proliferation. The author believes the genie is out of the bottle and that efforts to prevent nations from developing nuclear weapons are futile. The book could be subtitled with some hyperbole, "How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb". In his concluding paragraphs, Langwiesche writes:
This book was just recently published. The author never mentions the apocalyptic dreams of Ahmadinejad or the prior statements by one of his predecessors as President of Iran that called for a nuclear attack upon Israel since one single bomb could destroy that nation; whereas the vastness of the Muslim world would easily absorb a counterattack (just some "damage"). Langewiesche would presumably countenance such "local devastation" as a fact of life (or death) that would be futile to try to prevent. That could very well be the philosophy that guides the New York Times.
The New York Times has a shameful history regarding its coverage of genocidal dictators. Laurel Leff recently wrote a revelatory book, Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper, that was a masterful and meticulously constructed expose of how the paper throughout the1930s and 1940s averted its eyes (and the eyes of its readers) from the outrages committed by Nazi Germany. The Times all but ignored the depredations being visited upon the Jews of Europe, and refused to report in any forthright manner the existence of mass murder. In minimizing the extremism of Hitler and ignoring the violence he was committing against the Jews (and others), the paper played a role in our nation's feeble response to the rise of Hitler. The rising dangers to America and to the world were systematically ignored or belittled by the paper, which deliberately and willfully "deep-sixed" the developments that led to the deaths of 6 million Jews and many millions of non-Jews. The record of the "paper of record" is clear.*
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, later as farce. The New York Times has unparalled abilty to create the news agenda that the rest of American media follows. Many of our decision-makers rely on the Times for its views of the world and for the opinions it promotes. The Times has portrayed Iran and its nuclear program in the most benign way possible: explaining away its apocalyptic ideology through abusrd translation gymnastics that rely on a marginal professor, apologizing or ignoring its role in promoting terror and the deaths of Americans and other peoples, minimizing at all turns the risks of its nuclear program, and depicting an Iran that is being bullied by America and one that should be allowed to develop not only its nuclear technology but also a nuclear arsenal. In the Times view, America should come to accept this "reality".
The Iranian dictator boasts of his desire to remove Israel from the "pages of time"; if he succeeds, the pages of the Times will again play a role in yet another Holocaust.
* The double-standards of the New York Times are scandalous. The paper has (to its credit) has been resolute in its coverage of the genocide occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan (perpetrated by Muslims against other Muslims). Columnist Nicholas Kristof won a Pulitzer Prize for his many columns portraying the violence and murder in Darfur. However, when it comes to the Jews of Israel, the paper follows a resolutely different policy. As for Nicholas Kristof, he has devoted one column to Israel and that was to unleash a scathing torrent of criticism towards the nation's supporters in America.
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.