Thursday, June 13, 2013

AMAZEBALLS: Rachel Maddow's Ignorance on Iran


MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has a penchant for saying smug, self-satisfied and generally stupid things about Iran. She has claimed that the Iranian Revolution in 1979 marked the establishment of a dictatorship in that country, rather than the end of one; one that just so happened to be a monarchic dynasty that was proudly supported for decades by the United States government. Just two months ago, she weirdly decided to mock Iranians for their national and religious holidays because, y'know, she's progressive like that.

Maddow was back at it this week, ending her nightly program on Monday with some juvenile comments about Friday's presidential vote, when Iranians will elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's successor. Here's how she began:
The current president of Iran has had the job for the last eight years. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he's known around the world for defending Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
It took her all of seven whole seconds to spit out that egregious falsehood.

First, Maddow's premise is wrong. Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons. Despite being the single most spied on country on the planet, U.S. intelligence consistently affirms that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and its leadership has not made any decision to start one. Iran has never breached its obligations as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The vast majority of allegations about Iranian weaponization research and testing has been provided by the United States and Israel, has never been authenticated, and refers to long-debunked claims about supposed actions that took place over a decade ago.

Iran does have, however, a highly-developed nuclear energy program and enriches uranium to levels far below weapons-grade under strict supervision and routine inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The agency has continued to verify - up to four times a year over the past ten years - that Iran has never diverted any nuclear material for military purposes and has also affirmed "it has all the means it needs to make sure that does not happen with Iran's enriched uranium, including cameras, physical inspections and seals on certain materials and components."

Furthermore, despite the constant mainstream perception that Iran's nuclear facilities are opaque and mysterious, the fact is that the IAEA has conducted more inspections in Iran than anywhere else.

Former Iranian nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian, now a lecturer at Princeton University, has noted, "Since 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has implemented the most robust inspections in its history with more than 100 unannounced and over 4000 man-day inspections in Iran."

Just last year alone, IAEA investigators spent 1,356 calendar days in Iran, conducting 215 on-site inspections of the country's 16 declared nuclear facilities, and spending more than 12% of the agency's entire $127.8 million budget on intrusively monitoring the Iranian program, which fields only a single functional nuclear reactor that doesn't even operate at full capacity.

By contrast, IAEA inspectors spent only "180 calendar days in France, Europe’s biggest nuclear power," while "Russia and the U.S., which maintain the world’s biggest atomic-weapon arsenals and aren’t required under rules to allow inspections of all facilities, received 16 and 50 calendar-day visits respectively."

But Maddow's ignorance was even more pronounced when she claimed that Ahmadinejad is known for "defending" a program that doesn't exist.

Never once, in the 34 years since the revolution, has a single government official stated Iran's intention to acquire nuclear weapons - to the contrary, such a goal has always been explicitly denied on strategic, legal, moral, humanitarian and religious grounds.

Ahmadinejad himself has never strayed from this stance. In September 2005, shortly after his first inauguration, the Iranian president stood before the United Nations General Assembly and reaffirmed the Islamic Republic's "previously and repeatedly declared position that, in accordance with our religious principles, pursuit of nuclear weapons is prohibited."

The following year, he stated clearly, "Nuclear weapons have no place in Iran's defense doctrine and Iran is not a threat to any country." Indeed, over the past eight years, Ahmadinejad has lambasted the development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons as "inhuman," "against the whole grain of humanity," "obsolete," "abhorrent," "disgusting and shameful." Ahmadinejad has said, "The nuclear bomb is the worst inhumane weapon," described it as "evil," and declared anyone who builds an atomic bomb as "crazy and insane," as well as "politically...backward."

Nevertheless, American officials and their ventriloquist media puppets like Rachel Maddow continue to claim that Iran is actively pursuing the development of nuclear arms. On June 9, the New York Times stated that one of the most pressing issues for Samantha Power, Obama's nominee to replace Susan Rice as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, will be to confront "Iran's apparent attempts to develop a nuclear weapon."

The very same day, in an interview with the American overseas propaganda outfit, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman expressed, "from a U.S. perspective," the belief that "Iran's nuclear program...is headed towards having a nuclear weapon."

Apparently, the "U.S. perspective," noted by Sherman doesn't rely on facts or evidence.

Some officials, however, choose their words more carefully than others. During testimony before Congress on June 11, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "Iran is a threat to US national security in many ways, not simply their move toward the potential to develop a nuclear weapon," adding, "I choose my words carefully, because the intelligence community has not yet come to a conclusion that they intend to build a nuclear weapon."

Yet Maddow's own declaration was even more definitive, echoing, of all things, the words of George W. Bush. In March 2008, Bush, while speaking on RFE/RL's Persian-language counterpart, Radio Farda, stated that the Iranian government have "declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people -- some in the Middle East."

This statement was so devoid of truth that even former State Department Iran specialist Suzanne Maloney was moved to speak out. Maloney, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, noted at the time, “The Iranian government is on the record across the board as saying it does not want a nuclear weapon,” adding that while, in her opinion, “there's plenty of room for skepticism about these assertions…it's troubling for the administration to indicate that Iran is explicitly embracing the program as a means of destroying another country."

Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a non-proliferation group, also chimed in to correct the record. Calling Bush's statement "uninformed," he explained, "Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It's just not true. It's a little troubling that the president and the leading Republican candidate [John McCain] are both so wrong about Iran."

It is indisputable that Iranian officials have consistently denounced the acquisition, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons.

Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski made this point in 2009, stating that Iran has been "publicly affirming for quite some time" three main points: "We don't want nuclear weapons. We're not seeking nuclear weapons. Our religion forbids us to have nuclear weapons."

Brzeneski added, "Note, incidentally, that this stands in sharp, explicit contrast with the position of the North Koreans. The North Koreans have been saying the very opposite: 'We want nuclear weapons. We're seeking nuclear weapons. And, in your face, haha!, we have nuclear weapons.'" Brzenzinski also condemned the American penchant for "oversimplification and sloganeering rather than analysis" with regards to Iran.

Early this year, Greg Thielmann, a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association, similarly affirmed that the "leadership in Tehran continues to challenge the rationale and morality of nuclear weapons. Although such policy statements are hardly determinative of actual intentions, they do stand in stark contrast to the declaratory policies of other governments of proliferation concern, such as North Korea or Pakistan."

Unsurprisingly, the rest of Maddow's segment, solely designed to make fun of Iran for some reason, was rife with worn out stereotypes and mainstream talking points. Even the minutiae of her snide derision were weird. Referring to the current heated presidential race as "amazeballs" - because, y'know, she's a professional journalist - Maddow found it ridiculous that the three presidential debates, broadcast live on Iranian television, each exceeded four hours. Four hours!, she scoffed. Of course, American debates between only two candidates last roughly two hours. Iran had eight candidates. Quadruple the contenders, double the time. How absolutely insane.

Also, towards the end of her bit, Maddow claimed that Ahmadinejad was recently in a helicopter crash, when - based on the article her own staff shows onscreen - it was an emergency landing due to unspecified technical problems. The article itself states clearly that "the pilot managed to land the aircraft safely."

Still, Maddow repeats the word "crash" four times in less than thirty seconds and speculates that the reason the helicopter landed hastily was due to foul play. Her evidence? The media put the word "accident" in between quotation marks when reporting on the story. Here's how she put it, using her most ironic voice:
"The media reports on the Ahmadinejad helicopter crash put air-quotes around the word accident, as in 'President Ahmadinejad just survived a helicopter crash. It's reported to have been an accident, nudge nudge, wink wink, yeah right'."
Ok, first, print media can't put "air-quotes" around anything, Rachel. They're actual quotes.

Second, the reason the media put the word accident in quotes is because...wait for it...the reports were quoting from the primary source of the news. And what was that primary source that called the incident an accident? Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's official website.

But, for Maddow and her inept interns, "The media apparently thinks he was set up." No, the media stated the emergency landing was due to an "accident," because that's what the president's press release said.

But when it comes to Iran, the liberal media darling Maddow is no different than the neoconservative editors of the Washington Post. Facts are irrelevant and propaganda prevails.

*****

Peter Hart of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has also posted about Maddow's promotion of misinformation.

*****

5 comments:

Nick Babcock said...

Great article. Thank you. Just lost a good deal of respect for Ms. Maddow.

Amir said...

According to Behzad Yaghmaian's book "Social Change in Iran", Rouhani said about student demonstrators in 1999, "And at dusk yesterday we received a decisive revolutionary order to crush mercilessly and monumentally any move of these opportunist elements wherever it may occur". And that is the IRI's version of a "moderate", according to elements of the gullible Western media!

Chris Voss said...

Great article Nima. I heard the FAIR report by Peter Hart on Counterspin this weekend. The scary thing is that most of my Texas progressive friends (I know seems like an oxymoron, but there are a few) treat Maddow like some kind of progressive saint. Give me Amy Goodman any day!

Clif Brown said...

Maddow is an entertainer whose material is the news. Her schtick is sarcastic delivery done at 90 miles an hour with a heavy dose of "I am soooo clever". The best bet for anyone interested in the facts is to read the news on the Internet with sober analysis like yours provided and skip the talking heads, one and all.

Scout Laverne said...

Look at how many wars Iran has started in the last 500 years, or so, like zero. Look at us. Look at all our US bases in the Middle East, on both sides of Iran. Look at all our fleets in the Gulf and the area.

Look at our history of killing for oil.

Add it all up. Shame. Just a stink of shame.

The old lady is on the political payroll. Our tax money at work. So many layers of shame!