Between Naivete and Sadism: The New York Times, Common Dreams and Think Progress on Hagel and Iran

Yesterday I wrote, “What has happened to Chuck Hagel this week [as he awaits Senate confirmation for defense secretary] has kind of put me on edge about [accusations of anti-Semitism] […] The Weekly Standard and Hagel “friend” [Senator] John McCain [(R-AZ)] have been gloating that the defense secretary nominee has set Iranian leaders into a tizzy of joy. The Internet Chronicle will discuss that a bit more tomorrow.” And so we are, but not in the context of supposed shills claiming they feel guilty for blind deference to Israeli defense policies. This week consideration of Chuck Hagel culminated in a lot of blind furor at the Iranian regime — not for the tyranny that it visits upon domestic females but for the utterly paranoid claptrap continuously circulating in the West about how the supreme leader is chomping at the bit to see Jerusalem turned into a sea of Semitic glass.

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New York Times Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof

Take, for example, New York Times Columnist Nick Kristof’s column on the Thursday pages of the Op-ed section. Due to anti-Semitism’s sober reality, reasons Mr. Kristof, the accusations against Chuck Hagel — particularly by the right-wing Israeli Likud Party and its American devotees — have been particularly disgusting to the columnist. Baffingly, Mr. Kristof nearly concludes his column with this worrying line:

“As for Iran, Hagel will need to sound more hawkish in public to mesh with the administration, and it is useful for Iran to worry about a military strike.”

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From ‘In Defense Of Hagel For Defense’ – The New York Times – Thursday, January 10, 2013

In those initial 30 words, readers may extract a thousand. While Robert Spencer and his homicidal accolytes in the West claim to bemoan the Iranian human rights record, they — along with Mr. Kristof, albeit in minced words — sadisticly continue to seek to hold over the heads of the Iranian populace a fear of annihilation. The popular Beltway perception that this fear would discourage the Iranian regime from heightening their nuclear aspirations from those of energy development to weapons of mass destruction is — to borrow a turn of phrase suited to the Middle East — a mirage.

Equally along the lines of invisible things perceived in the deserts of Southwest Asia is the view that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon. Now, the American intelligence community has been rubbing its collective hands together for 15 years about the prospect of the Twelvers getting their hands on the big one. For whatever reasons — probably including the tight financial blockage on the Iranian government (they can pretty much only bank out of Qatar now) — Iran, like Israel, has never announced having acquired a nuclear weapon. Many commentaters from the left — and we’ll visit now the opinion of sometime Internet Chronicle pen pal Noam Chomsky — espouse correctly that, “”No one in their right mind wants Iran to develop nuclear weapons.”

However Mr. Chomsky is himself emblematic of a wide culture of denial of terrible developments in Iran — developments that have led to the assassination of a handful of nuclear scientists by the Israeli and U.S. militaries, and the development of the most sophisticated cyberweapon ever, Stuxnet, which infected most of the face of the earth before sabotaging uranian enrichment centrifuges deep in the country. The famed linguist wrote on Common Dreams in September of last year, “If Iran is indeed moving toward nuclear-weapons capability – this is still unknown to U.S. intelligence [emphasis mine] – that may be because it is ‘inspired to do so’ by the U.S.-Israeli threats, regularly issued in explicit violation of the U.N. Charter.”

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Well-Meaning Weapons Development Denialist Noam Chomsky

The anti-Vietnam war activist and self-described anarcho-syndicalist simply could not be more in denial about the dire state of development the Iranian government has reached at this point. An International Atomic Energy Agency report from 2011 makes it quite clear the agency’s concern about “a multipoint initiation system [being] used in a nuclear explosive device. However, Iran has not been willing to engage in discussion of this topic with the Agency.” Check out Sections C.5 and C.6 of that report for the real skinny on this.

With respect to Mr. Chomsky’s assessment of the U.S. intelligence community’s body of knowledge, we suspect that someone down at the Central Intelligence Agency might have skimmed that open-source report. To be sure, these are not high-enrichment activities, which international law does prohibit Iran from engaging in, but it is certainly an indicator that Iran is moving towards a nuclear weapon. In the Republican debates of early 2012 Representative and Islamic infiltration detector Michele Bachmann (MN) was trying to point out this report’s result to Representative Ron Paul (R-TX). But he declined to acknowledge it, and Mr. Chomsky and Rep. Paul declining to do so will do nothing to keep Israelis, Americans and Iranians safe — daresay make Iranians free.

Similarly unconcerned with these individuals’ safety is the National Security editor of, a Mr. Ben Armbruster, who in his zeal to defend the administration’s SECDEF nominee, wildly accused the Iranian foreign ministry of engaging in “anti-American propaganda.”

This week, answering a question about Hagel, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, “We hope there will be practical changes in American foreign policy and that Washington becomes respectful of the rights of nations.”

Thursday, in discussing a supposedly confessing shill, we referenced the public doubts of Israel’s Likud Party, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and The Weekly Standard, all of whom scoffed at Foreign Minister Mehmanparast’s statement above. In attempting to disparage these Hagel critics — and to wit, to distance himself from any moderate statements made by the Iranian government — Mr. Armbruster himself wrote, “[T]he neocons have become so desperate in their anti-Hagel smear campaign that they’re now promoting anti-American propaganda from Iran’s foreign ministry to make their case.”

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Anti-Iranian Think Progress National Security Editor Ben Armbruster

Mr. Armbruster seems to take Mr. Mehmanparast’s call for practical foreign policy changes and respect for national sovereignty to be hate speech against Americans. This is reputedly a liberal website intended to counteract neoconservative propaganda, but Think Progress is apparently saying that Iran is fanning flames by insisting that nations have rights. No good, daresay none of the “Progress” with a capital P espoused by this organization, can come to pass if even supposedly leftist foreign policy commentaters are this defensive and show this much disdain for Iranian diplomats.

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