Repeating with Iran the errors of Iraq

Media Matters for America has argued that the mainstream media are being insufficiently skeptical about United States military claims that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents. It cites Washington Post blogger Michael Froomkin’s advice to journalists:

  • Don’t assume anything administration officials tell you is true. In fact, you are probably better off assuming anything they tell you is a lie.
  • Demand proof for their every assertion. Assume the proof is a lie. Demand that they prove that their proof is accurate.
  • Just because they say it, doesn’t mean it should … make the headlines. The absence of supporting evidence for their assertion — or a preponderance of evidence that contradicts the assertion — may be more newsworthy than the assertion itself.
  • Don’t print anonymous assertions. Demand that sources make themselves accountable for what they insist is true.

A tidbit appears in the Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency story that somehow didn’t make it into the mainstream reports: “[T]he unnamed officials who briefed the media Sunday admitted that the claim is merely ‘an inference’ rather than based on a trail of evidence.” It turns out that the weapons Iran is accused of supplying are widely available on the black market.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace further underlined the weakness of the administration’s case by declaring Monday in an interview with Voice of America, “It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it’s clear that materials from Iran are involved,” he continued, “but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit.”

According to Media Matters, “Apparently bearing out Froomkin’s concerns, media outlets such as The New York Times, CBS, and NBC have continued to report Bush’s allegations about Iran’s role in Iraq in a muddled, incomplete manner — at times offering rebuttals to baseless and unsourced allegations of Iranian influence, while at other times serving as little more than stenographers.”

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