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Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A case study in journalistic deception

Was Iran responsible for the infamous 1994 attack on a Jewish Community Center in Argentina? That's the story we've been told for a couple of decades. That's the story recently accepted as a given in a New Yorker piece by Dexter Filkins, published on July 4 of this year.

Journalist Gareth Porter, writing for FAIR, has called into question all of our conventional ideas about that event. Not for the first or last time, our media became wedded to a narrative constructed out of lies and half-lies.

Over the years, we have been repeatedly told that the decision to bomb the center was made at the highest levels of the Iranian power structure. It is said that the Iranians became miffed at the Argentinians over a contract dispute involving nuclear technology.

But how do we know this? Did the NSA find some damning signals intelligence? Did our CIA sneak important documents out of Iran?

Nope. Supposedly, the information came from "defectors."

That's a problem right there: Defectors have a tendency to say whatever they think their new hosts want to hear. They also tend to tell hair-raising stories which help war-mongers justify their bellicose schemes. Remember "Curveball"? Remember Anatoly Golitsyn?

But in this case, the situation is even worse.

The bombing of the Jewish Center was investigated by Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Most American journalists have never read his report; if they had, they would know that key information came not from "defectors" but from members of MEK, a terrorist organization.
The MEK, an armed opposition group, had been a terrorist arm of the Saddam Hussein regime during the Iran/Iraq War, and had carried out terrorist actions against Americans and Iranians in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was taken off the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations in 2012 after a well-funded campaign to buy off prominent political and national security figures.
Let's be blunt: MEK is run by maniacs, and everyone knows it.

From an earlier Porter piece:
“The fact that the individuals are opponents of the Iranian regime does not detract in the least from the significance of their statements,” Nisman declared.
Really?
The record of MEK officials over the years, however, has been one of putting out one communiqué after another that contained information about alleged covert Iranian work on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, nearly all of which turned out to be false when they were investigated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In other words, much of the case against Iran rests on the word of terrorists with a history of hoaxing.

Perhaps the key witness was a former Iranian spook named Abolghasem Mesbahi, who defected to Germany. Not a very credible guy: The CIA pegged him as a "serial fabricator."

He has a bad habit of telling contradictory stories: At one point, Mesbahi said that corrupt Argentinian police officials were involved, while at another point he insisted that no Argentinian assets played a role. He also falsely claimed that the Iranians paid Argentine President Carlos Menem $10 million to make a public statement absolving Iran.

He also told a tale "proving" that Iran was behind the Lockerbie bombing. Whenever it's time to whip up anti-Iran hysteria, our media (and Al-Jazeera) puts Mesbahi in front of a camera and asks him to recite his tale -- or rather, his latest version thereof. The people who point cameras at Mesbahi never tell you that the CIA does not find him believable.

His 9/11 yarn was a real hoot:
Even more outrageously, he had also concocted a tale of having been tipped off by Iranian contacts, through a series of “coded messages” in the summer and early September of 2001, about plans for a coming Iranian terrorist strike in the United States that would involve crashing civilian airliners into buildings in major US cities, including Washington and New York, on September 11–and that he had frantically tried to contact someone in German or US intelligence about the information. In fact, neither the German nor US government ever got any communication from Mesbahi.
Neocons have always loved the theory that the Iranians "ran" Al Qaeda, even though the very idea is ludicrous. Al Qaeda is composed of fanatical Sunnis who consider the Shiites of Iran to be heretics. Right now, Al Qaeda forces and Iranian fighters are killing each other in Syria.

For more on Mesbahi's big 9/11 fib, see here. Long story short, this guy is the Iranian Curveball.

And that's it, folks. That's the best evidence of Iranian involvement in the Buenos Aires disaster.

That's the kind of "evidence" our media considers acceptable, as long as the finger of blame points to some entity that our government doesn't want you to like.

Before you ask: No, I do not know the real perpetrator of that bombing. As far as I know, the killers could have been Argentinians or Palestinians or Iranians or Americans or Brits or leprechauns. Maybe it was the last hurrah of a very elderly Adolf Hitler. I'm not here to sell you on an alternative theory.

My purpose here is to reiterate one simple belief: Our received truths should be based on evidence, not on political biases or Machiavellian manipulation.
Comments:
By way of deception, we shall wage war.
 
I know what you are implying, anon, but let's be fair. By way of deception, EVERYONE wages war.
 
Another scholarly article from Cannonfire.
 
Last night (11/2) I saw a very powerful demonstration of how a meme gets inserted in the public mind on, of all things, the Nightly Business Report on PBS. They were reporting on the Federal Reserve having resumed the repatriation of Iraqi funds to the Iraqi government, now that better procedures for accounting for those funds in Iraq have been implemented.

The segment more than once cited US concerns in the past that these fund might be landing in the hands of "ISIS or Iran". The repetition of the meme gave the impression that ISIS and Iran were linked though, as readers of Cannonfire know, this idea is absurd.


 
Beware Dexter Filkins. His New Yorker story on Iraq right before ISIS took Mosul trafficked in innuendo implying Obama could have kept troops in Iraq but didn't want to and let the country disintegrate. Filkins, to my eyes, is more responsible for the legitimation of that GOP talking point than any other big-name journalist. He put The New Yorker's imprimatur on it. And in the process he mutilated history and gravely misapportioned blame for one of the most important disasters in modern history, the Iraq war.

Let's be clear, the argument is ludicrous: leaving aside that we withdrew on Bush's timetable, Obama pushed for thousands of troops to remain. But the Iraqi parliament simply wouldn't ratify the standard immunity agreement protecting those troops from arrest and prosecution by Iraqi courts. Maliki's own lawyer told the White House an immunity agreement needed parliamentary approval.

Filkins let his analysts and anonymous sources (my guess: Surge architects) jabber about how Obama didn't push the parliament hard enough. But the large bloc rejecting the agreement was led by none other than Moqtada "Marine Killer" al-Sadr - the linchpin of Maliki's governing coalition. The votes absolutely weren't there, and Maliki wasn't about to dissolve his majority to pass it.

The truth, however, is so complicated and full of technical details, while the counterfactual is simple and seamless (and has the added virtue of being un-disprovable): Obama could've done more to keep our troops in Iraq. If we had kept troops in Iraq, ISIS would have never taken over. The Democrats lost Iraq.

Filkins uses his war correspondent bona fides, top-level access, and the rarefied pages of The New Yorker to launder "conventional wisdom" (ie, splitting the difference between neo-conservative mania and the truth).
 
Thank you so much for this, Anon. I'm very grateful, and I hope you contribute again.

Is it too much to ask that, next time, you use some sort of nick? You don't need to sign in or anything. Just place a nick or name of some sort at the end of your message, as you would at the end of a handwritten letter.
 
I thought Operation Mockingbird settled this. Now, we got Cass Sunstein and this?

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130715/11210223804/anti-propaganda-ban-repealed-freeing-state-dept-to-direct-its-broadcasting-arm-american-citizens.shtml
 
Sometimes conventional wisdom is, well, wisdom. For starters you might explain why Hezbollah put up a plaque honoring Ibrahim Hussein Berro for his martyrdom on July 18, 1994, the day of the bombing. And it is more difficult to acquire 600 pounds of ammonium nitrate than it is to buy a mail order rifle.
 
I always knew small "J" joseph was a Hasbara piece of shit.
 
Not true, James. I've had wide experience of the Hasbara brigade, although I rarely allows their barkings to be published. They don't put any work into it. You can tell that they don't really care and are just earning the money.
 
Wait, I can get paid for writing comments? Where do I go? Who do I talk to? By the way, Joseph says the key question is, "Cui bono?" Argentina had suspended a nuclear technology transfer contract to Iran. Iran has this funny way of doing business, cause a disaster but not taking credit as most terrorists do. I am convinced that they are responsible for the Pan Am bombing in retaliation for the accidental bombing of their airliner by the Air Force. And I am not alone in that assessment.
 
I stand by my assessment.
 
small j, in the past I've linked to articles in which it is admitted that Israeli young people get paid with scholarships is they put in X number of hours trolling the internet. Their hearts aren't into it. It's really obvious that they are just phoning it in. Frankly, I just don't see the purpose of this exercise, since snotty kids (of ALL sorts) always make a terrible impression.

I have to admit, though, that you have got me thinking. You're right: Cui bono is the best question.

You're wrong about one thing: According to what I've read, Iran and Argentina were patching up their quarrel and on the verge of renewing the nuclear tech exchange.

So. Who benefits?

Who benefitted from setting of a bomb in Argentina and then spreading the story that Iran did it?

Quite honestly, joseph, I wasn't thinking this way until you reminded me to think in terms of "cui bono." Until you said those words, I was thinking that a domestic terror group did the deed.

James, you shouldn't insult joseph. He has done us a service, and perhaps helped us to solve this mystery. Bravo!


 
If you are seriously thinking of blaming Israel, that would be, by far, the looniest thought ever to come out of this blog. First of all, I can find no evidence that Argentina was preparing to send technology to Iran. The last discussion was an article from the Wall Street Journal (!!!) saying that in 2007 Venezuela had brokered an agreement for Argentina to send technology to Iran. That again is 2007, the Argentinians denied it and I don't buy it. For Israel to be involved the very clever Mossad would have killed Jews, blown up the Jewish Center (when it could have just as easily blown up some non-Jewish building) and then convinced a Hezbollah to take credit and to have Hezbollah put up a plaque to him. Parsimony, Joseph, parsimony. Hezbollah did it, Hezbollah can't wipe its ass with Iranian approval.
 
Slight correction. There was no deal between Iran and Argentina after the original deal was cancelled in 1993 or 1994, before the bombing.
 
Wikipedia:

"According to the prosecution's claims in 2006, Argentina had been targeted by Iran after Buenos Aires' decision to suspend a nuclear technology transfer contract to Tehran.[10] This has been disputed because the contract was never terminated, and Iran and Argentina were negotiating on restoration of full cooperation on all agreements from early 1992 until 1994, when the bombing occurred."

Wikipedia's source is this piece by Gareth Porter...

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HK15Ak03.html

Allow me to quote:

"A report by Argentine prosecutors in support of the arrest warrants just issued for seven former Iranian officials for the 1994 terror bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires reveals that Argentina was continuing to provide Iran with low-grade enriched uranium and the two countries were in serious negotiations on broader nuclear cooperation when the bombing occurred.

"The new revelations on Argentine-Iranian relations in the October 25 report by prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcello Marquez Burgos undermine the official argument that Iran's top leaders were motivated to order the bombing by Argentina's decision in 1992 to cut off its supply of nuclear materials to Iran.

"The new information underlines the fact that Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and other Iranian officials still viewed Argentina as willing to cooperate with Tehran on the sensitive subject of nuclear technology, despite US pressures to end that cooperation...."

"But the prosecutors' report shows that Argentina never completely terminated its nuclear cooperation with Iran, and that the Iranian and Argentine nuclear organizations that had negotiated the original contracts were negotiating on restoration of full cooperation on all three agreements from early 1992 through 1994."

So the question of Cui Bono forces us to ask who would benefit from creating a rift between Iran and Argentina, thereby preventing Iran from gaining nuclear technology. The obvious suspect list would be the intelligence agencies of the UK, USA and Israel.

Why specifically target a Jewish Center in Buenos Aires? I can think of three reasons:

1. To help cover the tracks of the perpetrators. "They would never suspect..."

2. To bolster the storyline (which dear old Bibi recently stated in such a vulgar and obvious fashion) that Jews are not safe anywhere in the world outside of Israel.

3. Ease of access. Try to visualize a scenario in which agents of VAJA (Iranian intelligence) would gain after-hours access to that building. Now visualize Mossad agents doing the same job. Which one would have faced greater obstacles?

Although I had planned not to address this topic again, I now see that I shall have to write one more post about this incident. Once again, joseph, I owe you my thanks. When you uttered the magic words "Cui bono?" you pointed me toward a theory of the crime, where previously I had none.
 
You're thinking that the profit has to be tangible, it doesn't. Iran does wicked things because it makes them feel better. That's why they took down the Pan Am flight. Unless you think that was someone else. In fact why don't you add to your post how on the Argentinian bombing how Israel also bombed its own embassy, the Pan Am plane, the disco bombing in Germany, the Beirut barracks bombing, and caused ebola and aids. You observed that Skousin used the term "bankers" when he meant "Jews" so skip the "Israeli" euphonism and just say what you mean.
 
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