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Updated: Iran Nuclear Coverage Echoes Iraq War Media Frenzy

Are hawks in Congress and compliant media pushing US closer to assault on Iran?

- Common Dreams staff

UPDATE: (5:25 PM EST) Iran Nuclear Coverage Echoes Iraq War Media Frenzy

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., right, accompanied by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., lead a bi-partisan group of senators in supporting President Obama's sanctions against Iran for pursuing nuclear weapons, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) "Military strikes expected! Weapons inspectors called in! A murky al Qaeda connection! And Cheney says time's up for Ira...

"Wait. Haven't we seen this movie before?"

So begins Michael Calderone's piece on Huffington Post on Friday. His piece echoes much of what Glenn Greenwald (see below) and other keen observers have been saying in recent weeks and months as many mainstream US news outlets demonstrate few -- if any -- lessons learned after their disastrous pre-war reporting leading up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Calderone reports:

It's already been a decade since the media hyped bogus WMD claims prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But it sure feels like 2002 for anyone who was around then and is now scanning newspaper headlines or watching TV talking-heads discuss a possible Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities -- an act which could pull the U.S. into another thorny Middle East military conflict.

Some of the media's more overheated Iran coverage bears an eerie resemblance to Iraq coverage, but instead of former Vice President Dick Cheney we have his daughter Liz Cheney making the Sunday show rounds.

"A nuclear weapon in the hands of the world's worst sponsor of terror, one of them, is something we can't stand for," Cheney said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

And, highlighting the glaring misinformation and poor reporting of Iran's nuclear status and their ambitions (emphasis added):

The idea that Iran is currently in pursuit of -- or even already has -- a nuclear bomb has become accepted wisdom in much of Washington and amplified by the media. But the reality is much more opaque. When James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, appeared before the Senate last month, he told lawmakers that "we don't believe they've actually made the decision to go ahead with a nuclear weapon." Clapper's statement reflected the conclusions of some in the intelligence community that Iran suspended its nuclear warhead program in 2003.

Both the latest U.S. assessments, and the most recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which actively monitors the sites of Iran's nuclear energy program, buttress this viewpoint: While there is ample reason to fear Iran might acquire a nuclear weapon, and is capable of doing so, there is no definitive proof that they have yet decided to try.

The November IAEA report itself, initially touted as offering the first "credible" evidence of a nuclear weapons project, later turned out to be a far weaker document, offering allegations that The New York Times described as "not substantially new, and [which] have been discussed by experts for years." Arthur Brisbane, the Times' public editor, later took the paper to task for overstating the conclusiveness of the IAEA's findings.

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Earlier:

32 US Senators Agree: Attacking Iran Acceptable

32 US Senators on Thursday signed a resolution that urges President Obama "to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability" and affirms their opposition to "any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat." Though the resolution does not call for or recommend an attack on Iran, its tone and familiar tropes of a 'limited time-frame' on dealing with the 'Iranian threat,' speaks to the increasingly hawkish signals emanating from Washington's corridors of power.

"The lawmakers, led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)," according to a report in The Hill, "said they weren’t advocating an attack on Iran and wanted a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue. But the measure [...] said containment was not a viable strategy, continued to promote the prospect that a military conflict could be on the horizon."

The Senate resolution was officially adopted amid renewed assertions from US officials that there is no proof that Iran actually has a functioning nuclear weapons program.  The Hill reports:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said separately on Thursday that Iran has not yet made a decision to pursue nuclear weapons.

“The intelligence does not show that they’ve made the decision to proceed with developing a nuclear weapon,” Panetta said at a House hearing.

Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told senators Thursday that Iran is prepared to retaliate against the United States and its allies in the Middle East if it is attacked, but is unlikely to attack if not provoked.

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A report from Foreign Policy explains:

“The intelligence does not show that they’ve made the decision to proceed with developing a nuclear weapon.”
- US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

The resolution itself currently has 16 Democratic sponsors and 16 Republican sponsors. Behind the scenes, there were intense negotiations over the language to create a resolution that was acceptable to the broadest range of senators.

Graham admitted that an earlier version had included a clause, later removed, that would have affirmed that the United States has the power and capability to prevent the government of Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability. That clause was removed in order to build a bipartisan consensus.

"This is not an authorization for military force... if military force is the option to be chosen, that is a debate for another day, that is another discussion," he said.

At the press conference, Graham showed poster-sized photos of an Iranian missile in a parade with the words "Israel must be uprooted and erased from history" written on it. He then showed another poster-sized photo of an Iranian banner saying, "Israel should be wiped out of the face of the world."

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Members of the US Senate are not the only ones laying the groundwork for a possible attack on Iran. In some cases, as Salon's Glenn Greenwald has pointed out in numerous posts this week, the corporate media seem to have 'taken the lead' on beating the drums for a war against Iran.Diane Sawyer, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Brian Ross (Credit: AP)

Under the headline, US Media Takes the Lead on Iran, Greenwald wrote this week:

Many have compared the coordinated propaganda campaign now being disseminated about The Iranian Threat to that which preceded the Iraq War, but there is one notable difference. Whereas the American media in 2002 followed the lead of the U.S. government in beating the war drums against Saddam, they now seem even more eager for war against Iran than the U.S. government itself, which actually appears somewhat reluctant.

And continues:

It’s just remarkable to watch the American media depict Iran as the threatening, aggressive party here. Literally on a daily basis, political and media figures in both the U.S. and Israel openly threaten to attack Iran and debate how the attack should happen with a casualness that most people use to contemplate what to have for lunch. The U.S. has orchestrated devastating and always-escalating sanctions which, by design, are wrecking the Iranian economy, collapsing its currency, and generating serious hardship for its 75 million citizens. The U.S. military has that country almost completely encircled. The U.S. military behemoth, and Israel’s massive nuclear stockpile and sophisticated weaponry, make the Iranian military by comparison look almost as laughable as Saddam’s. Iran’s scientists have been serially murdered on its own soil, their facilities bombarded with sophisticated cyber attacks, and dissident groups devoted to the overthrow of their government (ones even the U.S. designates as Terrorists) have been armed, trained and funded by Israel while leading American politicians openly shill for them in exchange for substantial payments.

On Wednesday, Greenwald cited an ABC evening report by Diane Sawyer and Brian Ross, saying their reporting belongs in a "war-mongering museum."  Here's the clip:

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And Greenwald notes:

this entire story is based on pure fabrication — not just by accepting as Truth the Israeli and American accusation that Iran is behind these attacks, but far worse, continuously warning about Iranian attacks on synagogues and other targets inside the U.S. There is literally zero evidence that any of that is happening. The text on the website of ABC News displaying the Sawyer/Ross story expressly says: “Federal officials told ABC News that there is so far no specific intelligence of any threat to Israeli interests in the U.S.” (that didn’t make it into the TV broadcast). Yet here we have multiple media outlets — including ABC – issuing incredibly inflammatory “warnings” that Iran may launch Terrorist attacks on Jewish houses of worships and other targets on U.S. soil, all based on pure speculation and fabrication. To call that reckless is to understate the case: given Sawyer’s continuous 2002-like fear-mongering, it seems much more concerted than mere recklessness.

And just when he thought it couldn't get any worse, Greenwald on Friday was forced to respond to a report by CNN's Erin Burnett which he called the "worst of the worst" when it came to fear-mongering on Iran, writing:

I barely know what to say about it [...] but it really just mocks itself. It’s the sort of thing you would produce if you set out to create a mean-spirited parody of mindless, war-hungry, fear-mongering media stars, but you wouldn’t dare go this far because you’d want the parody to have a feel of realism to it, and this would be way too extreme to be believable. She really hauled it all out: WMDs! Terrorist sleeper cells in the U.S. controlled by Tehran! Iran’s long-range nuclear missiles reaching our homeland!!!! She almost made the anti-Muslim war-mongering fanatic she brought on to interview, Rep. Peter King, appear sober and reasonable by comparison.

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