SINCE 1759

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Bush Junta Locks and Loads
Iranian Gulf of Tonkin

On Sunday, every national newspaper in the United States—the Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today— not only bought into the Bush junta’s latest PR offensive linking Iran to weapons-peddling in Iraq, but led with it at the top of their web pages. After so many years of manipulative mendacity on the part of the Bush White House, it’s still that easy to lead the press where the junta will, and blind the press to matters the Bushies don’t want us to see. Or remember. This isn’t to dispute the fact that Iran may well be flooding Iraq with weaponry. But the more pertinent questions are this: so what? And why is the Bush junta making such a big stink out of the obvious? Administration flackers spent Sunday distributing “damning” pictures of Iranian weaponry circulating in Baghdad—rocket-propelled grenades, mortar tails “believed to be from Iran and assembled in Baghdad,” as the Los Angeles Times wrote in one of its captions, anti-tank grenades, and so on. The startling thing about all that “evidence” is how pitiful it is, how run-of-the-mill, small-arms-fire it is, and, despite all, how possibly doubtful its origins may well turn out to be. The markings on the weaponry, in suspiciously clear and distinct English and without a single hint of Farsi, look more like those of an arms plant in Texas than in Teheran. But even if the weaponry’s origin is the basement of the mullah’s whorehouse in Teheran, the question remains: so what? More pertinent questions remain as well: And would the junta care to make an equally vigilant analysis of where the Sunni insurgency—and indeed much of Iraq’s Shiite militias—is getting its weaponry? Wasn’t it just last week that we discovered that under U.S. viceroy Paul Bremer, “nearly $12 billion in cash shipped to Iraq between May 2003 and June 2004,” shipments that “weighed 363 tons and had to been flown in on wooden pallets aboard giant C-130 military cargo planes,” and that Bremer purposefully kept no accounts of, “might have ended up with the insurgent groups now battling American troops”? Wasn’t it late last year that the Saudi government brazenly and publicly announced that it would be first in line to support insurgents, in cash (which means in weaponry, and the Saudi arsenal is almost exclusively American) should the Americans begin to withdraw? Wasn’t it in October that the U.S. government’s own auditors, looking into the training and arming of the Iraqi army, discovered that hundreds of thousands of military weapons sent to Iraq for use by Iraqi Security Forces went missing and were presumed to be in the hands of insurgents? Isn’t it every other week that we discover that Pakistani intelligence is helping, and perhaps arming, Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives long the Afghan border and, quite possibly, ensuring that Osama bin Laden (remember him?) remains uncaptured? And with all this the press is still capable of immediately biting on the most obviously irrelevant bit of news to come out of the Iraq war since the latest attempt by Centcom’s public information officers to remind us that yes, a school here and there is still getting a fresh coat of paint and the sun did rise yesterday in Baghdad. The fact that Iranians are arming insurgents in Iraq is, both strategically and politically, no more alarming, to Iraqis (and in fact may be less so) than the continuing fact of the American occupation and its variously harebrained strategies to “secure” Baghdad. It is also much less alarming than the Bush junta’s strategy ratcheting up the rhetoric against Iran to justify an eventual attack. Patrick Cockburn in the Independent:

The United States is moving closer to war with Iran by accusing the "highest levels" of the Iranian government of supplying sophisticated roadside bombs that have killed 170 US troops and wounded 620. The allegations against Iran are similar in tone and credibility to those made four years ago by the US government about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the invasion of 2003. Senior US defence officials in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they believed the bombs were manufactured in Iran and smuggled across the border to Shia militants in Iraq. The weapons, identified as "explosively formed penetrators" (EFPs) are said to be capable of destroying an Abrams tank. The officials speaking in Baghdad used aggressive rhetoric suggesting that Washington wants to ratchet up its confrontation with Tehran. It has not ruled out using armed force and has sent a second carrier task force to the Gulf.

That is what Sunday’s weapons bazaar by the Bush junta really adds up to. It’s one more step in the march toward war with Iran, which we’ve now come to expect to the point of taking it for granted. But not to belabor the point: what’s astounding is the press’ virtual acceptance, uncritically and complicitly, of the White House’s saber-rattling despite having vowed to be less gullible and more critical this time. Not even close.

The latest weapons of mass delusion brought to you by the Pentagon

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