Bachmann vs. the 'Fact-Checkers': Did Iran Threaten Nuclear Attack on U.S.?
In recent weeks, Rep. Michele Bachmann has repeatedly been "corrected" for claiming that Iran has threatened to use nuclear weapons against the United States and Israel.
Her claim -- especially the part about the U.S. as a target -- first drew a negative reaction during her October 30 interview with Christiane Amanpour on ABC's This Week. Rather than ask Bachmann for specifics to support her allegation, Amanpour instead lectured her about her alleged error:
BACHMANN: Iran has also stated they would be willing to use a nuclear weapon against the United States of America. I think if there's anything that we have learned over the course of history, it is that when a madman speaks, we should listen. And I think in the case of Iran, that is certainly true.
AMANPOUR: Congresswoman, of course the United States is concerned about the nuclear program. Iran denies that it has one, so it hasn't threatened to use them.
The influential advocacy organization Think Progress eagerly reported how Bachmann had gotten caught making a claim "so discordant with the facts that ABC host Christiane Amanpour told the candidate that the claim wasn't possible[.]" The extent of their proof was simply that Amanpour had said it.
After Bachmann repeated the claim in the November 22 debate, Think Progress again responded: "Bachmann's assertion is patently false. Iran has consistently denied that it has a nuclear weapon or is seeking to build one." They took particular offense that she had the gall to persist in smearing Ahmadinejad's good name even after Amanpour had scolded her: "...Bachmann's repeated misrepresentation of Iranian positions, even after being corrected, suggests a willful strategy of attributing inaccurate and incendiary quotes to Ahmadinejad."
PolitiFact similarly concluded there was "no evidence that [Ahmadinejad] has said he would use a nuclear weapon against either country. In fact, he has maintained Iran has no interest in building one." Media Matters Action Network, following the party line, maintained that in the December 15 debate, Bachmann "reiterated her nonsensical claim that Iran has threatened to use nuclear weapons against the U.S."
In the same vein, a Huffington Post columnist admonished Bachmann to "stop lying," claiming, "Bachmann's allegation is completely devoid of truth. As CNN's Truth Squad points out, Iranian leaders never threatened to nuke Israel or the United States, and they couldn't have because they deny pursuing nuclear weapons in the first place."
But the facts prove Bachmann right. First, the mullahs' mouthpiece Ahmadinejad is unambiguous that the regime's goal is the destruction of both Israel and the U.S., having vowed at the "World Without Zionism" conference that "his eminency Imam Khomeini ... said that the occupation regime of Qods [Israel] must be wiped off from the map of the world, and with the help of the Almighty, we shall soon experience a world without America and Zionism, notwithstanding those who doubt." Second, his promise to annihilate these two nations, and to do it "soon," is coupled with a nuclear threat: "Today, the Iranian people is the owner of nuclear technology. Those who want to talk with our people should know what people they are talking to[.] ... If they have not realized this by now, they soon will, but then it will be too late[.]"
Ahmadinejad promises a second Holocaust by means that only a nuclear weapon could produce -- "[t]he Zionist regime...will be eliminated by one storm" -- followed by attacks on the West: "The rage of the Muslim peoples will not be restricted to the boundaries of our region[.] The waves of the explosion ... will reach the corrupt forces [i.e., the Western countries] which support this fake regime [Israel]."
The Iranian president's threat has been echoed by other prominent regime officials. An alert blogger who took issue with Amanpour cited a threat announced in a regime-controlled newspaper that "nuclear devices will go off in American cities" -- and noted a nuclear threat by chief nuclear envoy Ali Larjani (not to be confused with his brother Mohammed, a high-ranking official who responded to our president's outreach by calling him a well-known slur against black people).
In addition, in a speech urging the Muslim world to destroy Israel, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani issued a nuclear threat, sadistically taunting that "application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world."
PolitiFact even questioned Bachmann's statement that Ahmadinejad threatened "to wipe Israel off the face of the earth," cautioning that "several experts believe Ahmadinejad's actual comments to have been inflated." While stating that they are neutral on the outlandish "mistranslation" charge, PolitiFact gives that same charge credibility simply by bringing it up as an issue deserving examination. Revealingly, the only "expert" whose opinion they quote, from a linked New York Times article, is Juan Cole, a defender of the Iranian regime who rails against the "false charge that [Ahmadinejad] is genocidal ... being promoted by Right-Zionists in and out of Congress." (Also cited by the NYT article as an Ahmadinejad expert is The Guardian's Jonathan Steele, who has said nations "are entitled to support" Hamas' murders of Jewish civilians.)
PolitiFact neglected to provide balance by quoting any prominent opponent of Cole's fringe view (such as Christopher Hitchens). And while quoting only Cole from the NYT article, they left out what the article reported regarding the most authoritative experts of all: "... translators in Tehran who work for the president's office and the foreign ministry disagree with [Steele and Cole]. All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement ... refer to wiping Israel away[.]" (While PolitiFact generally appears to strive for evenhandedness, their fairness and accuracy are bound to vary among their team of writers, who might be no less fallible than the politicians they cover.)
If Bachmann was wrong in alleging a genocidal threat, then so was virtually the entire House of Representatives, who voted 411-2 to urge the U.N. Security Council to bring charges against Iran's president for violating the 1948 Geneva Convention by threatening to wipe Israel off the map. (Only Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul dissented -- although Kucinich later supported, while Paul opposed, a resolution condemning the regime's 2009 crackdown.
Even if Iran's leaders had not used the word "nuclear" in their death threats, their intentions are clear to anyone who observes their nuclear obsession combined with their murderous vows and actions: 32 years of "Death to America" combined with the slaughter of Americans through their Hezb'allah and al-Qaeda proxies; the enormous death toll of Israelis wiped off the map by Palestinian terrorists armed and trained by Iran; and the killing and wounding of hundreds in attacks on Jewish civilian targets as far away as Argentina. In this one-sided war, in which the victim nations have never retaliated in kind, any future strike on Iran's nuclear program cannot accurately be called pre-emptive or unprovoked.
The regime's nuclear threats cannot be dismissed as idle bravado in light of their role in exterminating black Africans. Since 1989, Iran has supplied the regime of Sudan's Omar al-Bashir with a steady stream of money, oil, and weapons to facilitate their fellow Islamists' campaign of genocide, slavery, and mass rape -- first of black Christians in southern Sudan, and then of black Muslims in Darfur. Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad, the two presidents who threatened the nuclear destruction of Israel, have both visited Khartoum to praise their puppet Bashir for helping Iran spread the Islamic revolution by massacring (at least) hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children -- a clear signal that Iran's leaders are not bluffing when they vow a religiously mandated final war to destroy Israel.
Yet none of the troubling evidence affects the stubborn see-no-evil mindset shared by the "anti-Zionist" internet-based activists courted by the Democratic Party, their strange-bedfellow allies on the far right, elements of the mainstream media, and even "fact-checkers," who reflexively take the side of the Iranian regime over those who state the facts and voice compassionate concern.
Edward Olshaker is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in History News Network, The Jewish Press, FrontPage Magazine, and other publications.