Thursday, March 19, 2009

The NYT, AP, and the 'Iranian Drone'

How many scare quotes to the next Green Zone?

We must make significant efforts to reach anyone who may be portrayed in a negative way in our stories, and we must give them a reasonable amount of time to get back to us before we move the story. What is “reasonable” may depend on the urgency and competitiveness of the story. If we don’t reach the parties involved, we must explain in the story what efforts were made to do so.
AP's "Statement of News Values and Principles," under sub "Responses" (


The New York Times and The Associated Press are licking their chops, anticipating the next huge provocation.

The Times' global edition, the International Herald Tribune, reports:

The U.S. military confirmed on Monday that it shot down an Iranian remotely piloted aircraft over Iraqi territory, in what is believed to be the first incident of its type during the war.

"Coalition aircraft shot down an Iranian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) February 25, 2009, approximately 100 kilometers, 60 miles, northeast of Baghdad," said Col. James Hutton, spokesman for the U.S. military commander in Iraq. [Link]

The word confirm, according to, means "to establish the truth, accuracy, validity, or genuineness of; corroborate; verify." For the entirety of the story, Iranian treachery is only further "confirmed" with official-U.S. monologue, in the absence of an Iranian response.

It is not until the bottom of the fifth paragraph that the IHT finally throws in a "quote" of a non-U.S., non-NYT source:

Reuters quoted Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Mohammed Jassim, operations chief at the Iraqi Defense Ministry, as saying he believed the aircraft wandered into Iraqi territory by "mistake." [Ibid.]

Yet no official Iranian response. And no crucial questions asked. But there's plenty room for editorializing based on those reportedly "confirmed" Iranian intentions:

The drone may well have been more interested in Iranian dissidents in Iraq than in American or Iraqi military operations. The location where it was shot down is not far from Camp Ashraf, where 3,500 followers of the Iranian dissident group People's Mujahedeen of Iran Organization are based. Camp Ashraf is about 100 kilometers northeast of Baghdad.

Iraqi troops have surrounded the camp in the past week and clashed with refugees there. Iran has long insisted that Iraq close the camp and expel the militants, but U.S. officials have intervened and prevented that. Since January, when the Iraqi military took over security of the area from the Americans, several Iraqi officials have vowed it would soon be closed. [Ibid.]

The idea here is that maybe Iran was seeking out the Mujahedeen, perhaps with the collaboration of Iraqi officials. That's plausible. But who would benefit? Does Iran want a devastating retaliation? Do the so-called dissidents want chaos and war in Iran?

The Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MeK, a.k.a., PMOI, MKO, People's Mujahedeen) is a U.S.-designated "terrorist" organization. The U.S. government has been harboring them and funding their propaganda and reconnaissance operations with U.S. taxpayer dollars. The MeK's proud goal, and that of their U.S. and Israeli benefactors, is regime-change in Iran. It's always nice when the hero comes to the rescue of the "dissidents." But this time, it's a fantasy.

AP's report on the same story is no better, unless by "better" you mean better at suggesting that Iran is guilty as charged:

U.S. officials have frequently accused the Iranians of supplying weapons, training and money to Shiite extremist groups opposed to the U.S. military presence and to the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

Iran has denied links to militant groups inside Iraq and says the instability in this country is a result of the U.S. "occupation." The Iranians consider the presence of about 140,000 U.S. troops in a neighboring country as a threat to their national
security. [

"Occupation? Ha! What 'occupation'?" implies an editor. (But hmm, one wonders, how would a massively expanded U.S. war bode for the brass of embedded journalism?)

Both the IHT and AP finish their reports with bits about the U.S. in Iraq and the MeK; neither agency carries an Iranian response to the official-U.S. monologue-narrative; and none of the following were considered:

— Why did U.S. officials wait 3 weeks to reveal this information?

— What was the nature of Iranian-U.S. communications during the "one hour and 10 minutes"? (IHT)

— What is the full Iranian response, then and now?

— Is that Iraqi official really off his rocker for saying it was a mistake?

Neither outlet mentioned it, but Tehran announced its first-ever unmanned aircraft less than a month ago (an AP report, no less). According to the current story, the Iranian drone was shot down three weeks ago. So, perhaps an Iranian "rookie mistake" is no less plausible than the shrewd IHT editor's suggestion of potentially self-defeating Iranian treachery.

Moreover, the MeK and its PR wing — the National Coucil of Resistance of Iran — have hyped up other such incidents in the recent past, only to have them fizzle. Their trumped-up, U.S.- and Israeli-supplemented "evidence" of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, while contrived-until-proved-factual, has been effective in getting unlawful economic sanctions (i.e., acts of war) passed against scores of millions of Iranians and Americans.

Simply put, powerful elements within and without the U.S. and Israeli governments are just itching for the right justification to commit overt aggressive war on Iran. This kind of reporting — wrought with U.S. exceptionalism, absent of antagonistic dialogue, asking no vital questions, and spiced with scare quotes — is only conducive to that evil and illicit end.

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