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

Nursery Assistant Plymouth

£10000 - £20000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
No supporters react to results in the Scottish independence referendum at The Marriott Hotel in Glasgow as ballet papers are counted through the night.  

Scottish referendum results: Thank you, thank you, thank you to the No voters – the Union is saved

Andy McSmith
Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a visit to Scottish Widows offices in Edinburgh, where he made an impassioned plea to keep Scotland part of the union, saying he would be  

Scottish referendum results: David Cameron did the right thing, so why does Scotland’s vote feel like a defeat?

John Rentoul
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week