The Washington Post's 2002 "reporting" on Iran

Anonymous sources. Scary war-fueling claims. One-sided accounts. Sound familiar?

By Glenn Greenwald

Published October 24, 2009 11:25AM (EDT)

Anyone who believes the establishment media in the U.S. learned even a single lesson from what happened with Iraq should immediately read this featured Washington Post article by Joby Warrick, which gravely and frighteningly warns that Iran's Qom nuclear facility "was intended explicitly for making highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons."  It's filled with one alarmist claim after the next (all anonymously provided, needless to say), such as this:  "That number is too small to furnish fuel for a civilian power plant, but just big enough to supply Iran annually with up to three bombs' worth of weapons-grade fuel, the former officials said" and "Qom could produce enough bomb-grade fuel for two to three bombs annually."

The issue isn't whether you believe Iran desires to develop nuclear weapons; it's obviously possible (even rational) that they do.  The issue is the painfully reckless, transparently irresponsible, and Iraq-replicating "journalistic" methods for disseminating these war-fueling assertions.  In perfect 2002 fashion, Warrwick does not have a single named source for these scary allegations; instead, this is who fed him these claims:  "many U.S. and European intelligence officials" and "two former senior U.S. officials" and "intelligence officials from the United States and allied nations"  and "a senior Middle East-based intelligence official" (one wonders, in vain, which "allied nation" and which "Middle-East based" country might have whispered these things?).  And while Warwick provides a cursory paragraph devoted to denials by Iranian officials of these accusations, he does not include a single expert or named source to dispute these claims.  It's a purely one-sided, unquestioning and entirely anonymous series of dubious, unverified, fear-mongering assertions that can have no purpose other than to create the most sinister picture of the "Iranian threat" possible.

In other words, it's the exact pattern used to lead the country to attack Iraq.  Beltway reporters like Warwick have learned nothing and establishment media institutions are just as devoted as ever to beating war drums on command.  What else could possibly explain a shoddy, trashy article like this making it past a team of editors?  And just imagine how much worse it would get if the U.S. government actually wanted to bomb Iran.  All of this is happening while, at least from all appearances, the White House wants to avoid that outcome.

Glenn Greenwald

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