The story that most likely would have knocked the bottom out of the Bush administration’s case for war with Iran occurred over a week ago, and the mainstream media hasn’t reported it.  

While flipping through channels on the evening of May 12, I accidentally heard Keith Olberman referencing a story from the LA Times that told how the U.S. military was all ready to show the American press enclave in Iraq the big cache of Iranian arms that Iraqi security forces had captured from Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army during the recent fighting in the Iraqi cities of Basra and Karbala.  

The arms, in theory, would have proven once and for all the administration’s assertions that Iran is arming Sadr’s Shiite militiamen.  There was just one glitch; when U.S. inspectors went in to inspect the captured arms, they said that none of the weapons or ammunition could be reliably traced to Iran.  

Olberman ended the segment with “You do realize they are making this up about Iran?”  Yes, I do, Keith, I thought.  I realized it two years and change ago.  

But hooray, I thought, it looks like the mainstream media has finally caught up, and I ran over to the computer to see what other major news outlets were covering the story.  All Google came up with was the LA Times story Olberman had referred to.  It wasn’t even an LA Times story, exactly.  It was an item in the paper’s blog section, posted by Tina Susman in Baghdad on May 8, four days before Olberman talked about it.  The paper itself did not run the article.  

I went to the New York Times web site and searched for stories in the prior 30 days containing “iran iraq weapons basra karbala.”  Zip.  I did the same search at the Washington Post site.  Squat.  I tried again at the Boston Herald.  Nada, and I also got jack at the Chicago Tribune.  

I discussed the issue briefly with policy analyst Gareth Porter on the evening of the 12th.  I mentioned Susman’s story in a May 13 column about the Pentagon’s Office of Strategic Influence and its progeny.  On May 14, Porter put the Iranian-weapons-that-weren’t-from-Iran story in context.

“Top Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus had plotted a sequence of events that would build domestic U.S. political support for a possible strike against Iran,” Porter wrote. Admiral Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, told the press on April 25 that Petraeus was preparing a briefing that would provide detailed evidence of how far Iran was provoking events in Iraq.  The core of Petraeus’s briefing would be the claim that arms captured in Basra bore 2008 manufacturing dates.  The briefing document was to surface after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government endorsed it and used it to accuse the Iranians.  

U.S. officials planned to show the captured weapons to reporters. Petraeus’ staff alerted U.S. media to a major news event in which the captured Iranian arms in Karbala would be displayed and then destroyed. “That sequence of media events would fill the airwaves with spectacular news framing Iran as the culprit in Iraq for several days,” Porter noted, “aimed at breaking down Congressional and public resistance to the idea that Iranian bases supporting the meddling would have to be attacked.”

But things went awry.

Mice and Men and David Petraeus

Two wrenches intruded the cogs of Petraeus’s propaganda machinery.  After an Iraqi delegation returned from meetings in Iran with evidence Iran had not armed Iraqi militias, al-Maliki formed his own committee to investigate U.S. claims about Iran.  

On top of that, when American arms inspectors took a look at the “Iranian” arms captured in Karbala, they determined than none of them had come from Iran.  The U.S. military told reporters there had been a “misunderstanding” and cancelled the demonstration.  

Porter noted that among the arms determined not to be from Iran were explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) designed to penetrate vehicle armor that the U.S. command once claimed could only have come from Iran because facilities required to manufacture them did not exist in Iraq.

It was back in January 2007, about the time the administration unveiled its surge strategy,  that then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad promised America would provide evidence of Iran’s “meddling” in Iran.  (Khalilzad, keep in mind, was one of the Project for the New American Century neocons who called for an Iraq invasion in 1998.)  The February 2007 briefing given to reporters in Baghdad in which the “proof” was presented was largely discredited.  Throughout his tenure as U.S. commander in Iraq, David Petraeus has accused Iran of arming Iraqi militias, though the largest known supplier of arms to Iraqi militias is David Petraeus himself.

This recent “misunderstanding” about the Iranian weapons that weren’t from Iran and the refusal of the administration’s lap dog Maliki to go along with the administration’s grim fairy tale should have shut the trash talk on Iran down for good, and it might well have if Big Media (other than Keith Olberman, whose program many people mistakenly equate with John Stewart’s Daily Show) had reported it.  

But Big Media said nothing.  On March 17 searched Googled “iran iraq weapons basra karbala” again.  Porter’s story had made it into the Asia Times and AlterNet, and was referenced in countless progressive blogs.  Tina Susman’s original blog post had migrated to  That’s something, I guess, but the search string still fetched 0 relevant results at the New York Times and Washington Post web sites.  You can bet your sweet bipi that if American inspectors had found so much as a slingshot with Farsi markings on it, you would have heard more about it overnight than you’ve heard about Britney Spears in the last six months.

I don’t know if everyone in the mainstream media is in the tank for Bush now or if they all just suck or what, but something smells to high heaven like a big honking pile of fresh laid, pure unadulterated monkey business.  


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff’s novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) is on sale now.

“Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served.” — Publishers Weekly

“A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight.” — Booklist

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