Today’s Washington Post article on a new intelligence report that Iran is ten years away from nuclear weapons is almost a burlesque of the mainstream media reliance on unnamed sources – there at least three, possibly as many as five (hard to tell) in the fifteen-hundred word story. But amongst the miasma of phrases like “Top policymakers are scrutinizing the review, several administration officials said…” (same people? different? who knows?) my absolute favorite for comedy value is:
“It’s a full look at what we know, what we don’t know and what assumptions we have,” a U.S. source said.
A U. S. source!? They actually printed that with a straight face. (I assume they did anyway.) What, pray tell, is a “U. S. source”? I guess they mean someone in the government, but it could just as well be your Aunt Fanny in Nome, Alaska. And they say bloggers don’t have editors!
But even more disturbing than this obfuscation is the subject of this story itself – the leak of tidbits from an intelligence report which the public, of course, is not trusted to see. Leaving aside the atrocious record of our intelligence agencies over recent decades (something it is hard to do since I suspect the current housecleaning at said agencies is motivating this leak), let’s look at the substance of what little of this report we know.
These intelligence agencies are asking us to believe – in, naturally, “carefully hedged assessments” (Post’s words) – that Iran is ten years away from nuclear weapons. Now I make no claim even to the slightest expertise in this area, but I know what we all do – that our country had such weapons over sixty years ago, that the Russians, British, French, and maybe others had them only slightly thereafter, that the Indians and the Pakistanis have had them for over a decade and that Saddam was about to build one himself when he as so rudely interrupted by the Israelis in 1981. We also know Dr. A. Q. Khan was running around passing nuclear information to the North Koreans, the Libyans and who knows who else throughout the 1990s.
But not – we would have to assume from this report – his next door neighbors the Iranians. Or perhaps these intelligence agencies are implying the Mullahs and their scientists are too dim-witted to comprehend what is now, relatively speaking, ancient technology (a highly racist assumption, if you think about it). Or perhaps, the report is actually implying (or someone is implying – again hard to tell from the article) the Mullahs have simply decided not to build nuclear weapons. According to one of the Post’s myriad sources, all those clandestine nuclear installations were distributed throughout Iran because the Mullahs feared the U. S. and the Israelis would attack them even though the reactors were for peaceful purposes only. Does that make sense? Not to me, but, well, I’m not an intelligence analyst, so what do I know?
Of course I am being disingenuous. To be clear – and I know you already know this – I find journalism of this sort to be repellent and dangerously close to pure disinformation. When I see a quote atttributed to something like a “U. S. source,” I would trust my Aunt Fanny in Nome, Alaska over the speaker or the writer of the article – even though I don’t have an Aunt Fanny in Nome or anywhere else. It’s time for the Washington Post and the rest of the Mainstream Media establishment to put an end to this nonsense.