Robert Fisk: They're trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge again

Share
Related Topics

Refusing to buy The Wall Street Journal, I sometimes sneak a look at copies that are left behind by other people.

So it was last month when a friendly couple dumped their paper on the train seat opposite me. And bingo, it was as bad as ever. "Defence Officials Predict Slow Afghan Progress." And the sourcing for this hardly unexpected headline? "Senior US military officials", "military officials", "a senior US military official", "Obama administration officials", "defence officials", "the senior military official", "military leaders", "the official", "military officials", "the officials", "many in the military", "military officials" (again), "officials" (again), "military officials" (yet again) and "officials" (yet again).

Why do our scribes write this horseshit? My old mate Alexander Cockburn calls it "selling the Brooklyn Bridge" and claims that Michael Gordon, chief military correspondent of The New York Times, is always ready to buy it. True. In 2002, Mike was banging the gong about aluminium tubes in Iraq being part of Saddam's nuclear programme. Then in 2007, "American officials" – of course – briefed Mike on how Iran was providing Iraqi insurgents with "explosive formed penetrators" for use against American troops in Iraq; the fact that most of the insurgents killing US forces there were Sunni and wouldn't have anything to do with Iran failed to make it into Mike's story. Oh yes, and the Iranians were also supplying their Hizbollah allies in Lebanon with the weapon to use against the Israelis. Well at least the Hizbollah, who are Shia, are armed by Iran, though we'll have to wait for the next Lebanon war to see if these mysterious "penetrators" make their appearance.

The real problem, of course, is that we are sold the Brooklyn Bridge over and over again. Now here's a good quote. "Iran is the centre of terrorism, fundamentalism and subversion and is in my view more dangerous than Nazism, because Hitler did not possess a nuclear bomb, where the Iranians are trying to perfect a nuclear option." This prediction was not made by Benjamin Netanyahu but – and thank God for Roger Cohen who spotted this particular Brooklyn Bridge – by then prime minister Shimon Peres, now president of Israel, in 1996. And four years earlier, the very same Peres predicted that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999.

In other words, Iran – if Peres's preposterous statement was true – acquired a nuclear bomb 11 years ago. By 2007, "American officials" said it would be another six years before Iran acquired a bomb, and last year Israel said it could take less than two years. So let's remember 2013. Or 2011. Or 1999 for all I care. It was, indeed, the very same Peres, who bleated out this year that Hizbollah had acquired Scud missiles from Syria – presumably fitted with a few of Mike's explosive formed penetrators – to use against Israel. Now I rather think Hizbollah has a lot more sophisticated weapons than these antiquated old Russian rockets that Saddam used against Israel in the 1991 Gulf War; Hizbollah has been playing around with pilotless drone aircraft and even sent one on a trial flight over Israel – it returned safely to Lebanon. But Scuds?

Well, of course, that was the story that caught fire. The Americans stepped in with an oblique warning to Syria, even though there was not a grain of evidence that the lumbering old Scuds had been trucked into Lebanon. The Brooklyn Bridge was bought again. Then this very week, it was Netanyahu's turn. "The security problem," quoth he, "is not just the new (sic) rockets that will (sic) enter the area and will threaten city centres. I don't know if you know this, but today we are struggling to fly near Gaza because they have anti-aircraft missiles there." Now Hamas is so inefficient and corrupt that I doubt if it's found a way of bringing such a weapon through the tunnels from Egypt, unless it's got hold of some of the shoulder-fired rockets that proved so militarily lamentable when the Palestinians tried to use them in 1982 over Beirut.

But the Brooklyn Bridge was quickly bought again. The Associated Press wrote from its Jerusalem bureau that Netanyahu's claim was "a potentially game-changing development that could threaten the Israeli air force's ability to strike at the Islamic militant group". Funny, that. So why didn't Hamas use these wonder weapons in January of last year when the Israelis were bashing the hell out of Gaza? Or why didn't the Israelis find them when they occupied Gaza? But then again, why didn't they find their missing soldier, Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas more than four years ago, when they smashed their way into Gaza?

But, of course, it's not just the Americans and Israelis who sell us the Brooklyn Bridge. When the outrageous Iranian president, visiting southern Lebanon last week, told the Israelis their country was doomed – Yasser Arafat used to sell this old bridge at almost the same spot in southern Lebanon 33 years ago – the world's headlines trumpeted this latest threat to Israel as if he had arrived in Beirut with one of his famous nukes in his baggage. And bingo, Israel denounced Lebanon as "a new centre of regional terror". Then that went round the world too. Having lived in Lebanon for 34 years, I remember the Israelis used exactly the same phrase in 1978, 1981, 1982, 1993, 1996 and 2006. I guess those danged Lebanese just go on rebuilding new centres of regional terror every time Israel's enormously successful elite army rampages over their land.

Any more Brooklyn Bridges on the way? You bet there are. It is, after all, only a few months since that great bridge-seller Daniel Pipes was advising the US government in the Jerusalem Post under the headline: "How to save the Obama presidency: Bomb Iran." I suppose, given such widespread domestic opposition inside Iran, that some of the top man's retinue there might switch it round: "How to save the Ahmadinejad presidency: Bomb Israel." And our scribes would buy that bridge as well.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: We are currently looking for a Geog...

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee