Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Pentagon Broadcasting Corporation

Remember when it was reported that the Pentagon was seeking to engage bloggers to give voice to Pentagon "news"? This was an outreach effort designed to "correct" information that was circulating the web:
U.S. Central Command officials here took notice and created a team to engage these writers and their electronic information forums.

...the team contacts bloggers to inform the writers about any given topic that may have been posted on their site. This outreach effort enables the team to offer complete information to bloggers by inviting them to visit CENTCOM's Web site for news releases, data or imagery.

The team engages bloggers who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information. They extend a friendly invitation to all bloggers to visit the command's Web site.

It has, for sometime, appeared that much of the mainstream media had already been similarly engaged and the latest report by ABC News on IEDs coming out of Iran seems to follow from this effort.

A bit of a ruckus is being stirred up by ABC news and it's latest Pentagon feed regarding IEDs being shipped into Iraq from Iran. Cernig is on the case. ABC, which is adding a new dimension to their name American Broadcasting Corporation, is claiming their latest report is "exclusive."

Hardly. Reuters actually had mentioned this a month ago:
US intelligence officials say the most potent of these new weapons have been designed in Iran and shipped to Iraq.

The report came as a senior Iraqi security officer said the Iraqi Government had been receiving information that insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may have moved to neighbouring Iran after being pursued by US and Iraqi forces in western Iraq.
The implication here is clear: terrorists like Zarqawi fled to Iran and began producing these weapons, something that is not at all surprising. But ABC's Brian Ross will tell you, via the Pentagon, that it is now the Iranian government that is responsible, which is, I'm guessing what the "new" aspect of the story really is. In the span of a month, the production of the deadly IEDs is now in the hands of the Iranian government:
U.S. intelligence officials say Iran is using the bombs as a way to drive up U.S. casualties in Iraq but without provoking a direct confrontation.
Perhaps more remarkable than the so-called evidence presented here is the overwhelming lack of it. The claims are that simliar production markers necessarily imply direct Iranian government manufacture. ABC seems to want news consumers to believe that this is all new but the story is hardly new or exclusive. We have had reports of the increasing deadliness of IEDs for months now. Global Security in October:
In recent months, insurgents have increasingly been using shaped charges, which penetrate armor by focusing explosive power in a single direction and firing a metal projectile into the target at high speed.

Shaped charges are "effective against all types of armored vehicles. Nearly all of the IEDs we'll see from now on will be of this pattern."
However, the fact that shaped charges are hardly new is not the big story. The big story is that we have heard this all before. Except, that it first came from the Brits and the Pentagon now appears to be recycling a previous allegation that had originally been made by Tony Blair after an IED attack had killed eight British soldiers in October of 2005. Blair instantly laid the blame on the Iranian government:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has issued a warning to Iran, saying "information" linked it to recent bomb attacks on British troops in Iraq.
Even the Iraqis doubted this was the case. Of course, no one knew what this "information" was, exactly, nor would the British government say. But Blair pushed the accusation further, claiming that the "new" IED design had to be Iranian:
there have been new explosive devices used - not just against British troops but elsewhere in Iraq.

The particular nature of those devices lead us either to Iranian elements or to Hezbollah...
Well, before too long it was revealed that, in fact, the IED design had come from ... the British government. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot, a metaphor that seems applicable on several levels.

Indeed, the IED designs that were then appearing in Iraq had first been handed over to the IRA by British intelligence:

The soldiers, who were targeted by insurgents as they travelled through the country, died after being attacked with bombs triggered by infra-red beams.

The bombs were developed by the IRA using technology passed on by the security services in a botched "sting" operation more than a decade ago.
It was known that the IRA had distributed the bomb technology to a number of terrorist groups. In other words, British bomb technology was now likely in the hands of many or most terrorist organisations. Oops. The Brits were hardly in a position to be accusing any other government of handing out explosives technology to terrorists.

When that little blurb came out, the Brits suddenly dropped the accusations and the story disappeared. Until now, that is. Until the White House and the Pentagon developed a need to drum up more Iranian paranoia. And ABC "News" was more than happy to comply, with little in the way of verification. In fact, the article appears to be little more than a Pentagon press release. Of note is the inclusion of the opinion of Richard Clarke, a severe critic of the Bush adminstration, but who can hardly be considered "in the loop" these days. His presence in the story appears to be there for no reason other than to add an air of credibility to Pentagon claims. This is always a nifty media spin trick: reveal the opinion of a critic, whether he would or could know anything about the evidence or not.

Now, when stories like this come out, it is always amusing to observe how uncritically the right wingers jump on it. Of course, these are the same people who are constantly yowling about the "liberal media," yet will jump all over an article that appears to reaffirm their overwhelming need to blow up more Muslims. The usual and moribund palette of warmongers are up in arms (when aren't they?) and just as a sample we see that the ironically named Astute Blogger, who seems to be anything but, gobbles up the "news" and calls for, what else? more war:
The story has served its purpose, at least as far as these guys are concerned. Since other White House trope about Iran's nuclear program has been met with resistive evidence, this story has all the appearances of yet more Pentagon disinformation, spun out and dried on the rack of the US mainstream media.


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