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‘NY Times’ disgracefully joins the propaganda campaign to push for war against Iran

Media Analysis
on 22 Comments

I’m old enough to remember the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, which the U.S. used as the pretext to massively escalate the Vietnam war. In early August that year, the American press indignantly reported that the USS Maddox, innocently patrolling in the South China Sea, had been the victim of two attacks by North Vietnamese patrol boats. The truth later emerged; the attacks were either made up, exaggerated, or a deliberate U.S. provocation. But President Lyndon Johnson used the episode to convince Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which enabled him to eventually send half a million American soldiers to Vietnam.

Today, the New York Times must have cut and pasted its 1964 coverage to create an offensive and incompetent article about the alleged sabotage of four oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, implying that Iran was behind the attacks. The paper, compounding its dishonesty, also published another bizarre anti-Iran article, with the headline: “A ‘Disinformation Assembly Line:’ Spreading Fake News to Bolster Iran.”

What’s missing in the Times is:

* Any effort to report on the Trump administration’s own “disinformation assembly line” to provoke war with Iran.

* Any effort to have its reporters in Israel report on the huge role the Netanyahu government is playing in this effort.

* Any effort at all to contact experts on Iran who have a different view, people like Trita Parsi, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, Barbara Slavin.

Let’s start with the Times article on the alleged “sabotage” in the Persian Gulf. The main sources are: Saudi Arabia, unnamed “American officials,” and “Israeli intelligence.” You have to wait until the 27th paragraph before Iran’s government is allowed to briefly deny it was responsible. But even there the Times slyly hints the Iranians are lying: “Iran seemed to brush away suggestions that it was behind the sabotage.”

The Times article on Iran’s alleged “disinformation campaign” is even more dishonest. To start with, one of the co-authors is Ronen Bergman, an Israeli who — let’s put this diplomatically — has close ties to Israel’s spy network. True to form, this “report” relies on 2 “former Israeli intelligence officials.” 

It gets worse. Your average reader may wonder why he has not already stumbled across the products of this Iranian “disinformation assembly line,” which is apparently so important it merits a fairly long exposure in the Times.

Buried is paragraph #14 is the answer. So far, this Iranian propaganda operation has created the grand total of “73 web domains,” “135 ersatz articles,” and “11 fake identities.” You breathe a sign of relief. If you missed those 135 ersatz articles, you are still safe. 

Let’s close with the truth. James Fallows is a distinguished veteran journalist, now with the Atlantic, who among his other achievements warned against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Fallows is level-headed, not prone to excitement. And he describes the rising tension in the Mideast around Iran as “depressing, and alarming, as hell.”

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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22 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson on May 14, 2019, 1:11 pm

    RE: ‘NY Times’ disgracefully joins the propaganda campaign to push for war against Iran

    MY COMMENT: The New York Times and the Council on Foreign Relations‎ are ‘joined at the hip’.

    Joined at the hip –

    • RoHa on May 14, 2019, 9:28 pm

      MW readers need to be told what “joined at the hip” means?

  2. eljay on May 14, 2019, 7:40 pm

    ‘NY Times’ disgracefully joins the propaganda campaign to push for war …


    Surprise? Not really.

  3. Sibiriak on May 15, 2019, 4:19 am

    Look harder: US rebukes British general for doubting heightened threat from Iran

    U.S. Increases Risk Of War On Iran Without A Path To De-escalation

  4. Ampro on May 15, 2019, 8:20 am

    One of those “American officials” is the same guy who came out of a briefing on Venezuela with “5000 troops to Columbia” written on a yellow note pad.

  5. arihalli on May 15, 2019, 9:25 am

    Just want to mention i think that the ‘push for war’ headline is rather over-hyped.

    I didn’t read that the article as the Times saying it was pushing for war. It did say that no blame was as yet ascribed to the incident, by Saudi Arabia, Norway or the United States.

    It goes without saying, that i believe the writer is correct, that a Gulf of Tonkin scenario may be being created. Probably is. Not sure, though, after reading the article, that the Times was contributing to that plot.

  6. James Canning on May 15, 2019, 9:53 am

    NYT indeed has helped to foster a series of catastrophic US blunders in the Middle East, serving as a propaganda organ for delusional militarists. I too remember the Gulf of Tonkin scam perpetrated by Lyndon Johnson to set up a vast expansion of the ultimately disastrous US military adventure in SE Asia.

    • genesto on May 15, 2019, 2:42 pm

      I’m also old enough – and still enraged enough – to remember the Gulf of Tonkin scam. It’s truly disgusting, and very frightening, that a crazed foreign power like Israel has so much power over our foreign policy that it can, almost singlehandedly, draw us into what might turn out to be World War III!

      • RoHa on May 15, 2019, 9:47 pm

        “I’m also old enough – and still enraged enough – to remember the Gulf of Tonkin scam. ”

        I remember it too. Worked out well for everyone, didn’t it?

      • Tuyzentfloot on May 16, 2019, 3:59 am

        The push for war is clear enough but Elijah Magnier thinks it is quite possible that Iran did plant those bombs on Saudi ships, as a warning. There is a difference between Vietnam, which could not deter, and Iran which can deter, at least a lot more than Vietnam.
        The amount of outrage over the other party’s actions tends to increase as the other party’s perceived power is smaller . There is a direct correlation between the ability to project power for predator states like the US and Israel, and the tendency to see threats.

        Still the way the mainstream media, the political class, and much of the public are aligned to push for conflict and war everywhere is alarming.

        An actual Gulf-Of-Tonkin like scam which has been proven this week is the chlorine bomb attack in Douma in april 2018. People inside the OPCW have leaked the suppressed engineering report proving that the chlorine bombs were planted, not dropped from the air. The official report said the opposite and provided justification for western bombing of Syria. It was leaked to this organisation .
        We’re in trouble if the OPCW gets completely highjacked by some countries , is used to justify attacking countries, possibly starting a major war, and the mainstream doesn’t want to know.

        We’re very far away now from the idea of the United Nations as a supranational organisation to prevent wars , especially wars of aggression.

        A few years ago I read an important article by Fyodor Lukyanov about the relative stability we had in the 19th century and how it disintegrated. I’m seeing the same thing now : .

  7. Misterioso on May 15, 2019, 10:07 am

    Re: “Today, the New York Times must have cut and pasted its 1964 coverage to create an offensive and incompetent article about the alleged sabotage of four oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, implying that Iran was behind the attacks.”

    Obviously, Saudi Arabia, i.e., MbS, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salaam, is the most likely culprit. He desperately wants the U.S. to attack Iran.

  8. RayJosephCormier on May 15, 2019, 12:06 pm

    Watching from CanaDa, increasingly I see US Mainstream Media, The Washington Post, The NYT, CNN, MSNBC and others, as Propagandists FOR the Power, having abandoned all Journalistic Integrity, not doing the only reason justifying their existence as protected by the US Constitution, for speaking Truth TO Power.

    They have been corrupted and bought off for a weekly pay cheque.

  9. genesto on May 15, 2019, 2:37 pm

    Whaddaya know – Israel has finally found its useful idiot in the White House to go to war with Iran, in all likelihood spilling the blood of American troops in an illegal and immoral war to advance the sinister, right-wing, Zionist agenda in the Middle East!

    Are you awake yet, America?? Here comes WWIII!

  10. klm90046 on May 15, 2019, 3:27 pm

    Where is Richard Perle? Where is Paul Wolfowitz? Where, o where, is Judith Miller?

  11. Mooser on May 15, 2019, 3:42 pm

    Looking at Google, there are from 8,700 to 25,000 Jews in Iran. Haven’t heard a word of concern for them.

    • DaBakr on May 17, 2019, 5:53 pm


      I’m sure you’ll find reason to doubt any figures I site but recently talking to an old friend who escaped to the US in ’80. They left Iran after one of its wealthiest and most generous Jewish philanthropists returned voluntarily to Tehran from overseas believing he did no wrong and took no side in the ousting of the shah. He contributed vast sums to Muslims and Jews alike.
      Yet, very shortly after he returned he was arrested, given a ten minute trial and public executed. (There would be dozens more executions of prominent jews soon after) by the murder of Habib Elghanian was the catalyst for the mass emigration of Iranian jews in 1979-80s.

      There were said to be upwards of 80,000 jews that by the 80s were reduced to about 25,000. Further trials and executions of remaining jews (for spying,always) during the 80s-90s reduced this population to approx 8-12,000. Nobody knows exactly. They are forbidden from speaking out publicly. Allowed one token rep in parliment. Any pro Israel statement would be met with torture or death as spy. They aren’t allowed the same freedoms as Muslims and the mullahs use them both as hostages and as propaganda by hauling out some rabbi to publicly denounce zionism and Israel (even though the majority of Iranian jews have family in Israel or the US.
      Persians don’t have the same peculiar animosity towards jews the Arab states have but they are not well liked in general. But I doubt Iran would place them specifically in harms way unless there was a direct conflict with Israel. But don’t expect to hear anything except anti Israel pr and great ‘love’ for their ayatollah should any Iranian jew be allowed to speak on the record. That is just the way it is. (But Ohhhh, those iranians still welcome lucrative trade deals with former Iranian jews who facilitate the deals through their contacts in Iran

  12. just on May 16, 2019, 10:10 am

    “Saudi Newspaper, Owned by MBS’s Brother, Urges U.S. ‘Surgical Strikes’ on Iran

    The newspaper’s publisher is the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, a company that had long been chaired by various sons of King Salman until 2014 and is regarded as reflecting official position

    A state-aligned Saudi newspaper is calling for “surgical” U.S. strikes in retaliation against alleged threats from Iran.

    The Arab News published an editorial in English on Thursday, arguing that after incidents this week against Saudi energy targets, the next logical step “should be surgical strikes.”

    The editorial says U.S. airstrikes in Syria, when the government there was suspected of using chemical weapons against civilians, “set a precedent.”

    It added that it’s “clear that (U.S.) sanctions are not sending the right message” and that “they must be hit hard,” in reference to Iran, without elaborating on what specific targets should be struck. …”

    • Kay24 on May 16, 2019, 4:24 pm

      Whatever these war mongers accuse Iran of, Saudi Arabia is equally guilty or worse. Presently, SA is sponsoring terrorism around the world, is radicalizing Muslims in Asian nations, and around the world, has killed thousands of children in Yemen by imposing harsh sanctions, and killing them with American/British weapons, practices Sharia law, stones women suspected of adultery, and discriminates women…..why is America not bombing and toppling that regime? After all the 9/11 terrorists did not come from Iran BUT SAUDI ARABIA.

      America is so selective in it’s outrage

      As for the NYT we are going through the same path again. Who can forget that Cheney and Scooter Libby sold the Iraq war to the American people through Judith Miller.

      “Miller was involved in the Plame Affair, where Valerie Plame was vengefully outed as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spy by Bush administration official Scooter Libby after her husband published a New York Times op-ed casting doubts on claims that Saddam Hussein sought to purchase uranium from Africa. Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to reveal that her source in the Plame Affair was Scooter Libby. Later, she contributed to the conservative Fox News Channel and Newsmax, and was a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute.[8][9]

  13. just on May 16, 2019, 10:56 am

    A lone voice from Congress speaks the truth and goes where nobody ever dares to go:

    “Gabbard: ‘Trump Says He Doesn’t Want War With Iran, but That’s Exactly What He Wants’

    Trump on Tuesday denied a New York Times report that U.S. officials were discussing a military plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East

    Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii tweeted Tuesday that war with Iran is “exactly what” U.S. President Donald Trump wants.

    “Trump says he doesn’t want war with Iran, but that’s exactly what he wants, because that’s exactly what Saudi Arabia, Netanyahu, al-Qaeda, Bolton, Haley, and other NeoCons/NeoLibs want. That’s what he put first–not America.” …”

  14. DaBakr on May 17, 2019, 5:39 pm

    Funny (((((north)))))) because I keep reading sources claiming trump is very reluctant to go to war and that while you might assume Bolton has the last word there is no absolutely no indication that is true. In fact, with trump, so we know is he is heavily influenced by the last words in his ear. There are a number of opposing opinions about not just the intelligence but the urgency of military hostilities with Iran at this point. I would say that everybody who is deeply involved, from the mullahs to the US Intel, NSA, etc knows very well a military confrontation with Iran would be simply the US making a point as the idea of destroying Irans military and regime would be highly possible but expensive, unpredictable and dangerous.
    That MW, who seems to hate the NYT as pro Israel except when they aren’t, which is often keeps acting as if they are some kind of barometer for what’s happening. They aren’t. They are mostly a joke except for their Sunday features. The mullahs, while hated by the majority of iranians have 1000s of years experience with intricate maneuvers, negotiations, tricks and surprises. Nobody discounts them especially their use of powerfully armed proxies.
    Still, saying the NYT backs war with the mullahs is, as usually, hysterical and meaningless. The US electorate may not be all that sophisticated but I’m sure they remember the build up and execution of the second Iraq war, it’s costs in lives and dollars and the mess it led to.
    As for Bolton as the ‘devil incarnate’? He has been steady as a rock his entire career (devoted to serving the US,BTW) He hasn’t survived as long as he has without acknowledgment of his intelligence, analysis and predictions. Yes, he is and had been a hard line anti – appeasement advocate for decades. He has no tolerance for regimes like Maduro, Khameini, Assad, Castro,etc. I am not familiar with his stance on US allied dictators life KSA, Erdogan, or serious foes like Putin and China. I would imagine he is pragmatic at least.

    But the NYT should be as obviously comprimised to someone of your political beliefs as much as it is to mine. In other words, who cares what the WP, NYT, FOX, CNN, MSNBC has to say?
    Do you actually trust ANY of their analysts on either side to be objective? Lol. At least with your acerbic analysis, one knows where one stands without the weight of the ‘paper of record’.


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