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"Buying the War," Now it's Iran

By William Bunch

05/23/07 "Attytodd" -- -- You would think that after after all the official and unofficial lies that came out of the Washington spin machine during the 2002-03 run-up to the war in Iraq, newspapers would be a little more skeptical about similarly unsupported, high-level but anonymous and bellicose allegations about Iran (or anyone else).

And you would doubly think that about a newspaper that, day in and day out, is one of the best in the world: Britain's Guardian.

You'd think...but you would be wrong:

Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.

"Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces," a senior US official in Baghdad warned. "They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government]."

The story does have another source -- another anonymous U.S. official, but in Washington:

"Tehran is behaving like a racecourse gambler. They're betting on all the horses in the race, even on people they fundamentally don't trust," a senior administration official in Washington said. "They don't know what the outcome will be in Iraq. So they're hedging their bets."

Boo! Scared yet?

Look, I think that reporting of the Iraq crisis should be as aggressive as possible, and that obviously includes talking to American officials in Washington and in Baghdad. And, the situation in the region has become quite volatile since our decision to invade it, and no doubt Iran is a player, but...

I can also tell you as a journalist with 26 years of experience behind me that this story is the biggest load of crap -- and that's not a phrase I would use loosely -- I've ever seen in my life. Two unnamed government officials as sources, and a perfunctary denial from an Iranian officials in the last paragraph -- and that's it?

This is a stunning allegation -- so stunning because it really makes no sense. Iran's government does have close ties with some of Iraq's Shiite leaders that we also seem to be propping up these days, but it is the bitter enemy of the Sunni forces that these unnamed Bush spinmeisters now claim they are also supporting. If such a bizarre reversal had taken place, and I were to write a story about it, I would be sure to talk to outside experts on the region and to non-U.S. government sources -- and quote them by name -- to prove such an unlikely premise was in fact true.

That did not happen. And in fact, the story is so "out there" that it would be best ignored -- except that you can't ignore it. For one thing, it's highlighted on the Drudge Report, and since Matt Drudge rules the world of Beltway media, it's going to become part of the public discourse. Also, in spite of its lack of even truthiness, let alone truth, it does prove -- just like the top-selling "Christian book" calling for an American jihad against Tehran -- the lengths that some of our leaders are still willing to go in formenting Armageddon.

But the fact that one of the world's better newspapers was willing to play along -- or that my own colleagues in the mainstream media seem to never learn -- is the saddest development of all. Didn't anyone watch "Buying the War"?

William Bunch is the senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and its former political writer. Visit his blog

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