Sunday, March 11, 2012

Comments on "Lessons from Another War" (NY Times coverage of Iran's Nuclear Program)

Dear Friends,

Here are comments on the Arthur Brisbane article on Iran from this morning's New York Times <>. (FULL ARTICLE IS POSTED BELOW IN THE PREVIOUS POST). At least some of the public are on the right track. Note reference to Trita Parsi and the Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett (as well as Jon Stewart)--all very good signs that there are some people out there who have not yet been lobotomized by AEI, AIPAC and WINEP.

I will continue to post updates on my blog: "Culture and International Affairs" <>

In the meantime I suggest that as many of you as can write Mr. Brisbane <> or post a comment on the story today before they close down comments.



    • Prof. Alfonse Romero
    • Turin
    Mr. Brisbane, your role is among the most important at the paper of record, and I want to thank you for the professionalism and fairness you bring to your job. Heaven help us not repeat the folly of Iraq.
    • John Smith
    • Centerville
    Again, a column from the Public Editor that firmly states, sort of, that although some might see a problem, well gosh diddly darn it, all opinions are valid.

    Considering the enormity (I use the word in its precise sense) of Judith Miller's "now-discredited coverage," coverage that helped lead the country into two wars of folly that we will be watching come back to haunt us for decades to come, the Times -- and no one associated with the Times -- gets to tell us that this time it's different.

    No. This time, the Times has to show the readers everything. You guys not only aren't allowed to screw it up, again, you also aren't allowed to complain that the coverage criticism isn't fair. You people blew through all our good will, and until you get up off your knees and stop taking dictation from the PR wonks and special interest groups, you don't get a free ride. You no longer have our trust, you certainly don't get our respect, and you certainly will not be considered to be professionals until you actually start being journalists again.

    As an aside, congratulations on that piece about the NYPD stats scandal. I read the original piece in the Village Voice the day before the rewrite that went in under a Times byline. Still, it was impressive. Imagine, the New York Times finally stops tiptoeing past the police reporting and is (second-handedly) critical of the NYPD,

    Keep it up. You might get to sit with the cool kids at lunch.
    • JimF
    • Los Altos Hills, CA
    How about offering Trita Parsi an opportunity for an OpEd?

    His new book outlines how reportedly Iran has twice, basically offered to agree to all the U.S. terms, but was rejected.

    Hey, even Jon Stewart covered this, but then that comic-cum-meta-newsman is doing the best journalism around nowadays:

    • Usobjector
    • New York, ny
    Arthur, kudos to you for actually attempting to tackle the Times' glaring pro-war coverage of the situation with Iran. But you blame the lack of voices from inside Iran for the slanted coverage? How about the NYT Magazine devotes a full cover story to Flynt and Hilary Leveretts' perspective on war with Iran?

    Jill Abramson understands that it's crucial for the NY Times to get this right. Judith Miller destroyed the reputation of the NYT with her compromised reporting that improperly pushed the war in Iraq on the American people. Don't fall for Nigerian yellowcake, babies thrown from incubators, or troops doped up with Viagra to rape Nigerian women. It's all disinformation.
    • Guido Baccaglini
    • La Jolla
    II agree. It could be extremely beneficial for all of us to understand who is really in power in Iran and what it is Iranian policy toward Israel and toward Iran nuclear development. To diffuse the present crisis, it would suffice for Iran to recognize the right to exist of the State of Israel (it is not going away) and demand for a Middle East nuclear free area in exchange for renouncing to its nuclear ambitions.
    It is an open secret that Israel has between 60 to 80 atomic bombs (see Google) and that does not allow international inspectors in its nuclear facilities since it has not signed the Non Proliferation Treaty. It seems reasonable to me that, if Iran recognize the State of Israel and renounce to its nuclear ambitions, Israel should also be doing the same including dismantling, under international supervision, its entire nuclear arsenal and its facilities to enrich uranium.
    • Charles Gerard Larkin
    • Estero, FL
    Was editor Jill Abramson out to lunch when this past week's 'Room for Debate' on whether Israel Should Adopt a Nuclear Ban was restricted to seven participants who all happened to apologists for a nuclear Israel? (See 3/8/12)

    What kind of a 'debate' is it when all parties spout the same line?

    As another reader wrote in response to THAT bit of journalistic bias:

    ' is telling that in a topic on the Middle East, yet again the only voice the NY Times publishes is an Israeli or Jewish one. What of the Iranians? The Iraqis? The Egyptians? Is it really so hard to find one of them for your articles?'

    And how about the Europeans, the Chinese, the Indians, and the rest of us who may be incinerated in a global inferno should the nuclear Middle East go apocalyptic?
    • Thomas Lee, M.D.
    • Torrance, CA
    Absolutely. Can we stop fighting Israel's wars? The loose talk of attacking Iran from these Republican warriors - Santorum, Romney, Newt - who have never served is the height of hypocrisy. Neither have any of their numerous children ever served. It is too easy to ask some one else's children to die or be crippled. Where is the discussion of how the theft of Palestinian lands for Jewish settlements is the festering sore feeding this hatred of Israel and America in the Mideast? One can believe in a homeland for the Jewish people without accepting that God gave them a right to expropriate Palestinian land.
    • gedel0
    • NYC
    With all due respect, the Times is not (or is no longer) the only credible source of international news that is widely available. So it needn’t castigate itself if some find its coverage slanted in one direction or another. Other highly reliable sources are available for those who might like a second opinion in English: the BBC, the Guardian, Al Jazeera and France 24, for example. The Times might even keep an eye on them.
    • Marc Kagan
    • New York
    Let me comment on the Times' coverage of the IAEA demand to access Parchin. In the last month, my high school class met with members of the Iranian mission to the UN, State Department officials on the Iranian desk and IAEA staff.
    The Iranians said - and this should not be surprising to anyone who knows the history - they felt bullied. The State Department said, the US and Iran are not equals at the negotiating table. Hmmm; maybe true, but also, to the Iranians, confirming their perception.
    The IAEA told us that because Parchin is not a nuclear site, their demand to access is based on reports from other nations that the Iranians are working on triggering technology there. Parchin is also where the Iranians do their military research. So an IAEA team investigating Parchin sees far more than whether there are nuclear fingerprints. When it says, "what's behind that door?" it gets to look at the whole R&D program of the Iranians. The Iranians can reject certain inspectors by not issuing visas, but it's hard to imagine that word on what's behind those doors doesn't get back to the CIA and Mossad.
    None of this comes out in the Times reporting, which strongly suggests that in failing to give access to Parchin the Iranians are just being unreasonable, or have something to hide. Maybe. But the Iranians, who feel bullied, now have also been put in a box - damned if they do, damned if they don't, albeit in different ways. It's incumbent on the "newspaper of record" to make this clear.
    • Bernice
    • St Paul, MN
    Thank you for this critical look at coverage of the real danger that, in my opinion, Iran faces from the current Israeli government. The Christian Science Monitor has published the results of a couple of recent polls of the Israeli people, who are far from supportive of the neocon Netanyahu. The results printed March 1 showed only 22% favoring an attack with or without US help, 43% favored an attack if the US would support it, and 32% were opposed to an invasion of Iran under any circumstances.

    Israel and the US share a healthy peace movement that we don't hear a lot about, but perhaps should.

    I'd like to see coverage, too, of the still-clinging-to-life neoconservative movement in the United States, where the Senate troika of McCain, Lieberman and Graham beat the drums loudly for military action against Iran before it is "too late." Like Iraq, Iran is part of the Axis of Evil that was to be invaded one by one.

    And perhaps a reminder of the fact that, as reported in the January Journal of the American Academy of Sciences, Iran has not drilled new oil wells to replace those not too far from exhaustion and has not maintained its refining capacity. As a result, it has to export oil and import expensive refined gasoline, which it sells to its population at a loss. This is why Iran really does need to develop new sources of energy and why we shouldn't assume that its nuclear program is anything but what Iran says it is. Inspections yes; unwarranted paranoia no.
    • Rebecca Lesses
    • Ithaca, NY
    This strikes me as a remarkable naive column. You're faulting the Times for its coverage of Iran when the Times can't get reporters in there. You're also ignoring the many calls made quite recently for the destruction of Israel by the Iranian leadership. Juan Cole is not the last word on translations from Persian to English - the Iranian leadership has been consistently anti-Israel for decades.

    The Times is also explicitly calling for negotiations, not for war, and has examined its own coverage of the Iranian crisis quite critically.

    A question is - what does it mean to "get it right this time"? Simply to do the opposite of what the Times did before the Iraq War, which could mean missing aggressive moves by the Iranians - bending over backward? This is not the same situation as Iraq, and it would be good if you could recognize that.
    • Charles E. Frankel
    • Honolulu, Hawaii
    I wish the Times would report on whether the Vienna-based nuclear agency inspects Israel's nuclear weapon program.
    • Christian Haesemeyer
    • Los Angeles
    So if I understand the public editor correctly then all is fine because the two points of view are presented: that we should bomb Iran in an illegal war of aggression now; or that this would be ineffective and we should give starving the Iranian people more time. This is COMPLETELY missing the point of the criticism discussed. while various Israeli spooks and generals are given space to expound their racist views, not a SINGLE op-ed piece has been published of late supporting the opinion of the vast majority of the peoples of the world - that neither sanctions nor bombing or invasion are justified, that Iran is no threat to anyone but has very good reason to prepare to defend itself, that the nuclear weapons that do exist in the Middle East - in Israel, and on US warships - are indeed a huge problem that needs to be addressed. Neither is any of this reported in the news section; again, the opinions of the vast majority of the global population is utterly ignored. So yes, this is EXACTLY like the run-up to the Iraq war.
    • Michael Wolfe
    • Henderson, Texas
    The 'official' Iranian government view in English is available on:

    The Times should at least watch it.

    There's also the right-wing

    which monitors Iranian TV and posts the most incendiary clips with subtitles.
    • jackcb
    • nj
    What are the consequences of attacking Iran? The only gain anybody claims is a delayed nuclear program for a few years, whether building a bomb. It won't stop them, only slow them. Then what?

    No denying the attack is an act of war. But safe, since Iran can't retaliate militarily. If the Mullahs have nukes already, they know using them is national suicide. So out come the best weapons they have: Oil and Money. We'd better be ready for the assault.

    Oil prices will shoot up as Iran closes it's pipelines and sabotages oil production & shipping by blowing up wells, processing plants and shipping facilities. Kuwait, Iraq and the Saudis are easy targets. Tankers are vulnerable to artillery throughout the Gulf. Don't forget the Strait of Hormuz blockade, either.

    Money gives the attacks Global Scope. Cash, weapons and recruits for sea-going pirates, terrorist groups and lone bombers. Stoking bushfire wars in Africa. Internet attacks. It gets really ugly, fast.

    But if we start it, we can't end it unless Iran negotiates a deal. Forget invading. We know how that turns out. No rose strewn victory parade and for sure no Nobel Peace prizes.

    Leave the military out of it. As leader of the pack we have far less control than we think. See Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, etc. Let's be a Sleeping Dog instead. Ready to go all out if awakened, but meantime asleep, dreaming of rabbits while in our carrier atop a station wagon, heading for a Canadian vacation...
    • Stoys
    • Los Angeles
    Epic fail. This introspection comes only after the administration made it clear there would be no war for Israel. The NYT was all too happy to beat the drums of war for the past several months. Lame.
    • Len Charlap
    • Princeton, N.J.
    1. It is very difficult to get at the truth from either a closed government like Iran's or a diverse and even chaotic one like ours.

    2. More important than trying to read minds are the technical problems Iran faces. I have read in the foreign press of Iran's difficulties with the metallic state of its refined uranium, of computer problems, etc. Most of thes receive little coverage in the Times.

    3. The Times also gives short shrift to what our intelligence really says. What is the situation? Does our best intelligence say Iran gave up its weapons program in 2003?

    While I understand that the Times believes that personal comments are more important than real data, the best data we have, I think this topic is too important for man-in-the-street journalism.
    • Imre Farkas
    • West Windsor, NJ
    It is not a questionable assertion that Iran’s leaders seek the eradication of Israel, It is their often stated intention.
    • Daniel Pfeiffer
    • Kingston, NY
    NYT Pick
    Good on you for your caution on Iran, and I was willing to give you the benefit of doubt on this as I read through this column (and your recent articles of late on Iran). But then you let loose in the end that the Times has an 'opportunity' to get it right this time. This phrasing seems to suggest that the Times hasn't learned a thing from its irresponsible reporting on Iraq. 'Opportunity?'

    You're still my go-to home page for the day's news, but I often find myself seeking out the stories behind your headlines elsewhere due to pronouncements like these - places where unbiased, informative and compelling story telling is held as a core obligation to an informed citizenry rather than an 'opportunity'.
    • Muralita
    • Mumbai, India
    Israeli leadership has framed the debate as Iran or Israel. Netanyahu's argument concerning the "dangers of not attacking", is disingenuous and dishonest.
    Two questions must be answered:
    1. Can Iran really afford to attack a nuclear armed and militarily highly capable Israel even if it acquires a nuke?
    2. Is Iran the end of an "Islamic bomb" or are there other sources which will take the place of Iran once the latter's capacity is destroyed?

    The answer to 1above is a clear and resounding NO. Iran cannot even hope to match Israel's war making capabilities notwithstanding what its mullahs claim There is no reason to doubt that the mullahs understand the extent of Israel's capabilities or its readiness and willingness to defend itself.

    In answer to question 2, an attack on Iran will completely turn the muslim world against the non-muslim one and hand over the leadership of the former to Iran. The resulting vacuum could be filled by Pakistan if only to distract its populace from its own internal issues. Pakistan has over 100 nukes and its control over them is suspect.

    Netanyahu is unfortunately relying on Israel's unquestionable military abilities and is not even attempting to practice statesmanship.

    In India we say that Crocodiles and an 'irate men" have only one thing on their minds. Till now I always thought that the mad Mullahs of Iran were the angry men. I am not so sure any more.
    • Christian Miller
    • Saratoga, California
    I would suggest that the NYT could provide a great service by doing an in depth analysis of the likely result of Iran having a nuclear weapon and the likely result of a US bombing attack on Iran.
    • William O. Beeman
    • Minneapolis
    NYT Pick
    Thanks to Mr. Brisbane for a much-needed review of the Times coverage of the Iranian nuclear program. Press coverage on Iran for many years has often been driven not by facts, but by political and ideological bias, especially since 2000. The absence of diplomatic relations with Iran has made it difficult to understand Iranian culture, politics and thought--but not impossible. There is a great deal of deep expertise on Iran for those who want to find it--but it does not reside in Washington think-tanks, whose partisan views have now become dominant in press coverage on Iran.

    Iran is a richly fascinating and frequently frustrating society. Short exposure is not likely to yield an accurate reading of Iranian actions. If the United States wants to make progress with Iran, first we must find a way to talk to Iranians. Modest diplomatic relations and talks on areas of mutual interest are the key. A "breakthrough" to Iran would change the world in a dramatic way, and is the best guarantor for peace in the future--and also the best guarantor for the safety and security of all in the region--including Iranians, Israelis and their neighbors..

    William O. Beeman
    "Culture and International Affairs"
    • CBJ
    • Cascades, Oregon
    "plus one saying that American intelligence analysts continued to believe there was no hard evidence that Iran had decided to build a nuclear bomb."

    How many articles playing to misinformed hysterical coward war mongers including John McCain who sang Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran four years ago to the tune of the Beachboys Barbara Ann? Twenty, maybe since January 1. I have not kept count, though the ratio of sane to insane is high. The Times never fails to focus on conflict and provocative rhetoric over an honest presentation of factual information. That Iran would launch a nuclear attach on Israel is so unlikely as to be unworthy of serious consideration. Incessant yammering about "wipe Israel off the map" is infantile. As has happened so often in human history the coward alarmist are leading us down the path to disaster. To ascribe the mass hysteria required to turn Iran into a suicide bomber on a national scale is plainly not in the realm of the possible. Is it not universally agreed that the West would obliterate all Iran's political leaders and national institutions in short order? Basically sending the country back fifty to one hundred years and in the process wiping out the economy? People on the intelligent rational side of the discussion are sick of the dog being wagged while little consideration is given to consequences of a preemptive attach. The recent New York Review of Books piece on Hebron is instructive and contrast strongly with the Times narrative.


Anonymous said...

When you don't have quality (of blogs) you have to settle for quantity, eh?

The ignoramus who called John McCain a coward obviously lacks in the brains department, as do many of the other "irate" citizens venting here.

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