Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Did Robert Gates Order Iran Speedboat Provocation?

The story of the Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz that supposedly threatened U.S. warships has been pretty thoroughly debunked by now. Now Asia Times has an article that details how the disinformation was created and spread by the Pentagon, as the Pentagon planted stories with the press, starting with CBS and CNN. Even though the encounter at sea was "not that different from many others in the Gulf over more than a decade," the Pentagon timed the news about the supposed provocation to a trip by Bush to the region.

The key line in the Asia Times piece is right at the beginning (my bold emphasis):

Senior Pentagon officials, evidently reflecting a broader administration policy decision, used an off-the-record Pentagon briefing to turn the January 6 US-Iranian incident in the Strait of Hormuz into a sensational story demonstrating Iran's military aggressiveness, a reconstruction of the events following the incident shows.

Forget the small fry, like Bryan Whitman, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in charge of media operations, who initially spread the story at an "off the record" briefing for reporters. From whence did this "broader administration policy decision" derive? Who ordered it?

A little into the AT story, we get our answer (or the first inklings of it):

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ballesteros of the Pentagon's Public Affairs Office told IPS the decision on what to include in the video was "a collaborative effort of leadership here, the Central Command and navy leadership in the field".

"Leadership here", of course, refers to the secretary of defense and other top policymakers at the department. An official in the US Navy Office of Information in Washington, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that decision was made in the office of the secretary of defense.

So it was Gates. It's Secretary of Defense, and former CIA chief Gates's resignation we should be calling for. But, I find it hard Gates would have initiated this all on his own. He must have consulted with, if not received orders from either Cheney or Bush. -- Funny though how those three letters keep popping up whereever you look: C-I-A.

Where's a free and enquiring press when you need one? The whistleblowers on this one probably emanate from the Navy itself, as commanders in Iraq were not apparently too happy at this dangerous exercise in spin and provocation from Washington:

The commanding officer of the guided missile cruiser Port Royal, Captain David Adler, dismissed the Pentagon's story that he had felt threatened by the dropping of white boxes in the water.... "I saw them float by. They didn't look threatening to me."

The naval commanders seemed most determined, however, to scotch the idea that they had been close to firing on the Iranians....

Asked whether the navy's reporting of the episode was distorted by Pentagon officials, Lydia Robertson of Fifth Fleet Public Affairs would not comment directly. But she said, "There is a different perspective over there."

Coming after the startling revelations in the British press by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds that U.S. officials have been involved in a bribery scheme involving the export of nuclear secrets to countries like Pakistan (which has been suppressed in the U.S. press), the emerging truth about this latest provocation and misinformation in the Gulf, presaging war against Iran, demonstrates that the rulers of the U.S. are the most dangerous threats to the world on the planet. We can only hope, given the current political dynamic in the U.S., that Robert Wexler and Dennis Kucinich in the U.S. House of Representatives are successful in bringing impeachment charges against Bush and Cheney. Because short of that, I can't imagine what will stop them in their insane quest for war.

H/T to FishOutOfWater for this story and his excellent diary on it at Daily Kos.

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