By Frank Brodhead
This week’s media coverage of the Iran-Israel-US standoff helped to bring war closer. One of the ways that it did this was by excluding ideas and perspectives that questioned the rationale for war, or offered peaceful alternatives to the present course.
Tuesday’s New York Times editorial, “Iran, Israel, and the United States,” is a good example. [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/06/opinion/iran-israel-and-the-united-states.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss] One reason that the Times’ editorial is a good “case study” is that the news pages of the Times have included acres of information that simply contradict the perspective of the editorial. For example, articles in recent weeks have reiterated the findings of the United States’ 16 intelligence agencies that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, and appears to be sincere in its claims that it does not intend to build nuclear weapons. Yet the Times editorial – let alone coverage by the more sensationalist TV network news – writes about Iran’s “nuclear ambitions” as though such US intelligence assessments don’t exist.
Similarly, the Times editorial – and President Obama – refer to Iran’s isolation in the eyes of world opinion, treating as a matter of fact that Iran’s persistence in developing its nuclear program makes it a pariah in the eyes of the world. Yet most nations of the world support Iran’s right to enrich uranium. In addition to Russia and China, India, Turkey and many other nations refuse to support US-imposed sanctions against Iran. Indeed, before the intense PR-hate campaign against Iran began two years ago, most Americans agreed that Iran had the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, as stated in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968.
Yet it is the issues that are simply keep off the media’s reporting agenda that most skew analysis and discussion. Just sticking to Tuesday’s New York Times editorial, important items not been mentioned in the “newspaper of record” include:
The use of force or the threat of force is prohibited by the UN Charter, except in response to an armed attack or under the authorization of the Security Council. A "preventive" military "strike" (war) by Israel or the United States is simply illegal. Even President Bush at least went through the motions of taking his case against Iraq to the United Nations; and the UN Security Council has Iran’s nuclear program on its agenda right now. If Israel and/or the United States think that a “military strike” against Iran is justified in international law, why don’t they make their case at the Security Council, as the Bush/Cheney people did? More broadly, why are the United Nations Charter and the requirements of international law off the agenda in the media’s analysis of the US/Israel/Iran stand-off?
Israel, not Iran, is the state in the Middle East that has started a nuclear arms race. In cooperating with Israel's policy of "nuclear ambiguity" - by not bringing the fact of a nuclear-armed Israel to the discussion - the Times and President Obama undermine the possibility of realistic diplomacy and public understanding. Indeed, many Israeli military analysts think Israel’s 200-400 nuclear weapons are useless and dangerous. Israel is not even a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Pact, and its nuclear program is not under the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as is the nuclear program of Iran. Why are Israel's nuclear weapons off the agenda in the Times reporting and debate in Congress?
According to UN Security Council Resolutions supported by the United States, the UN has committed to the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. The Times has published excellent pieces in the past advocating a nuclear weapons-free zone. Such a zone is supported overwhelmingly by nations and peoples in the Middle East. Why now, when this is such an obvious solution to the threat of war, is discussion of a nuclear weapons-free zone not permissible in the Times editorials?
And finally, in terms of military history and military budget, while Iran has ten times the population of Israel, Israel’s military budget is almost twice that of Iran; and while Israel has launched five wars against her neighbors (1956, 1967, 1982, 2006, and 2008-9), Iran has not started any wars. The Times and other mainstream media may not include this record in its coverage, but everyone in the Middle East knows which country is most likely to have the “intention” of launching a war.
Particularly in crisis times, the US media rallies to the political positions of its government, which as President Obama has stated, are joined at the hip with Israel. Democratic influence, let alone control, of foreign policy – especially the decision to go to war – depend on an informed electorate. This is something we don’t have and desperately need.