Friday, January 11, 2008

Glenn Greenwald: Iranian Speedboats: More Bush Disinformation

After seeing the evening before some of the evidence below about WH disinformation regarding the Iranian speedboat (Gulf of Tonkin they apparently hoped)incident posted by less distinguished bloggers, I wondered to myself how quickly if ever this particular bit of Bush Cheney disinformation would be exposed for what it is. I should say that perhaps like most people I was prepared to believe the WH version if no contrary evidence appeared. But once such evidence appeared the only question was how high a level would it reach? Would it be completely exposed everywhere as in the Pat Tillman/Jessica Lynch cases which Greenfield mentions or would it stop at the marginalized posters I saw the evening of the 9th.

That it has gone to the level of Glenn Greenfield is a very good sign and I'd predict that it may even make it to the NYT, and WP -- but perhaps not to Fox TV for awhile. No matter, we'll soon see President Bush saying: I don't care. The Iranians are still provocative. They're still a threat.
Reminds me: the symbolic imagery of the more or less fake video the Pentagon presented was clear: a huge US armada right on top of the Iranian border vs. a couple of speedboats. Very provocative.


Update: 1.11.08
The Washington Post picked up the story. See below. Now let's see if the NYT is also forced to do the same. --R

Glenn Greenwald
Thursday January 10, 2008 14:49 EST
The U.S. military inflicts more damage on its own credibility

It seems increasingly clear that the U.S. military's initial claims about its interaction with those five Iranian speed boats in the Strait of Hormuz was exaggerated in significant ways, approaching Jessica Lynch/Pat Tillman/Iraq-is-going-great territory. It's impossible to resolve all of the conflicting details of each side's self-serving version, but the most inflammatory facts which the Navy originally asserted, and which the American news media uncritically regurgitated, are quite dubious, if not demonstrably false.

Here, for instance, was the first paragraph of Tuesday's Washington Post story by Robin Wright and Ann Scott Tyson, highlighting the most dramatic and scariest part of the U.S. military's narrative:
We're coming at you, the Iranian radio transmission warned. Your ships will explode in a couple of minutes.
The next paragraph summarized the Navy's version that "five Iranian patrol boats sped toward the USS Port Royal and two accompanying ships as they crossed the Strait of Hormuz" and then "'maneuvered aggressively' on both sides of the U.S. ships." The next paragraph recounted:
After the radio transmission, two of the Iranian boats dropped "white box-like objects" into the water, [Vice Adm. Kevin J.] Cosgriff said.
Those are the two "facts" that infused the story with such a sinister tone -- explicit threats from the Iranian boats to destroy the American ships, followed by their dropping of unidentifiable boxes, which, one was supposed to infer, could easily have been explosive devices.

But the first "fact" seems almost certainly false, and the second one is highly questionable. Iranian Hooman Majd at The Huffington Post noted that the voices on the tapes issuing the melodramatic threats were unquestionably not Persian. As he put it: "the person speaking doesn't have an Iranian accent and moreover, sounds more like Boris Karloff in a horror movie than a sailor in the elite branch of Iran's military." A regular Iranian commenter at Cernig's blog made the same point. Listen for yourself to the audio and see how credible the threats sound.

Since then, additional facts have emerged strongly negating the claim that that message came from those Iranian boats. The audio of the threats is crystal clear in sound quality, with no ambient noise -- something highly unlikely to be the case if delivered from a small, speeding boat. Moreover, as the New York Times' Mike Nizza reports today, quoting a reader claiming to be a former Naval officer, the channel that was used to convey the transmission is easily accessible to all sorts of private parties and is often the venue for hoaxes, pranks, and false messages.

Even the Pentagon itself is now acknowledging the lack of proof for the initial version, "saying that the voice on the tape could have come from the shore or from another ship." As Nizza put it: "The list of those who are less than fully confident in the Pentagon's video/audio mashup of aggressive maneuvers by Iranian boats near American warships in the Strait of Hormuz now includes the Pentagon itself."

Read more:

Iranian Boats May Not Have Made Radio Threat, Pentagon Says

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 11, 2008; A13

The Pentagon said yesterday that the apparent radio threat to bomb U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf last weekend may not have come from the five Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats that approached them -- and may not even have been intended against U.S. targets.

The communication Sunday was made on radio channel 16, a common marine frequency used by ships and others in the region. "It could have been a threat aimed at some other nation or a myriad of other things," said Rear Adm. Frank Thorp IV, a spokesman for the Navy.

In the radio message recorded by the Navy, a heavily accented voice said: "I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes." But Farsi speakers and Iranians told The Washington Post that the accent did not sound Iranian.

In part because of the threatening language, the United States has elevated the encounter into an international incident. Twice this week, President Bush criticized Iran's behavior as provocative and warned of "serious consequences" if it happens again. He is due to head today to the Gulf area, where containing Iran is expected to be a major theme of his talks in five oil-rich sheikdoms.

Pentagon officials insist that they never claimed Iran made the threat. "No one in the military has said that the transmission emanated from those boats. But when they hear it simultaneously to the behavior of those boats, it only adds to the tension," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. "If this verbal threat emanated from something or someone unrelated to the five boats, it would not lessen the threat from those boats."

Read more:

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