Propaganda in Action: The Iranian Hostage Crisis

It is now a more or less uncontested fact that U.S. élites manipulated the events surrounding the first Iranian hostage crises in 1980 to their advantage.  During the first Iranian hostage crisis, the then-campaigning Ronald Reagan negotiated with Iran to wait until after the 1980 U.S. Presidential election to release the American hostages so that he could use their continuing captivity to hammer Jimmy Carter and his ‘inability’ to get things done.

Nevertheless, the plot the media ran with for the first hostage crises was simple: 

Iran = bad for holding hostages. 

U.S. = innocent victim hopelessly caught up in an Iranian revolution (against a U.S.-sponsored brutal dictator, but that was never mentioned in the media) who merely wants for everyone to live in harmony.

Looking at the way the media treated the recent Iranian ‘hostage’ crisis, it seems as though history has a way of repeating itself.

First, the set-up:  According to the Canadian, British and American governments, the official line is that the British sailors were in Iraqi waters operating under the aegis of UN Security Council Resolution 1723, when Iranians seized them.

The Canadian government’s official position, as articulated here in Peter MacKay’s official press release, goes so far even as to say that there exists “clear evidence” that the sailors were in Iraqi waters.

This “clear evidence” apparently does not take account of or address the erroneousness of the British GPS equipment released by Iran showing otherwise, nor does it take account of the apparent ‘confessions’ made by the British sailors.  However, despite the fact that the sailors appear to have been treated better than America treats their hostages, it seems like there’s strong arguments on both sides which would, by definition, negate MacKay’s “clear evidence” claim.

Second:  Who’s to blame?

This is the part that’s been totally left out of North America’s mainstream media.

Watch this exchange between Bill O’Reilly and Colonel (Ret.) Ann Wright who taught international law and the Geneva Conventions for 29 years.

tof-wright-mic.jpg

Click here for WMV and MOV/Quicktime videos of exchange

So, Bill O’Reilly argues that it’s completely beyond the realm of decency to even bring the U.S. into the debate.

However the very next day after Bill O’Reilly ordered Ms. Wright’s mic to be ‘cut off’, The Independent reported that, oops, actually after further investigation, the U.S. is not free of blame after all.

The Independent article states that:

“A failed American attempt to abduct two senior Iranian security officers on an official visit to northern Iraq was the starting pistol for a crisis that 10 weeks later led to Iranians seizing 15 British sailors and Marines.”

The article goes on to note that the U.S.’s attempted seizure/assassination of the two senior Iranian officials — Mohammed Jafari, the head of the Iranian National Security Council and Minojahar Frouzanda, the head of the intelligence division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard — failed, but that they did succeed in unlawfully capturing and detaining incommunicado “several” more junior Iranian officials on a sanctioned diplomatic mission.

Nowhere was it reported that this would have been the equivalent of Iran ordering a hit on America’s National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley (or his predecessor Condoleezza Rice) and the head of the CIA General Michael Hayden

As an aside, just as an interesting intellectual exercise, can you guess what would have happened had Iran attempted to kill either Hadley, Condoleezza Rice or General Hayden the last time they visited Iraq on a sanctioned diplomatic mission? 

Do you think maps would still even bother to have a section labelled “Iran”?

Moreover, The Guardian, also based in the U.K., reported today that either the Iraqi forces or the American forces or both, over and above the previous aforementioned abductions, have also abducted Iranian embassy official Jalal Sharafi.

Again, as an interesting intellectual exercise, does anybody want to guess what would have happened had the Iran or some proxy agency of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, kidnapped a U.S. embassy official in Iraq?

There is not a single North American (or even British) news agency that I am aware of which, after these significant findings have been made public, has even acknowledged the U.S.’s role in the second hostage crisis let alone praise Iran for its downright remarkable restraint.

So to go back to the question at hand: 

Who’s to Blame?

Iran:   Yes, there is ‘clear evidence’ that Iran did break the Geneva Conventions.  However, contrary to Peter MacKay’s assertion, this clear evidence is not the seizure of them since it seems at least possible that they were in Iranian waters.  Rather, Iran broke the Geneva Conventions by broadcasting the images of the hostages.

And yes, for that, they do deserve some blame.

America:  The U.S. has also patently broken the Geneva Conventions.  However, instead of publishing the pictures of hostages, the U.S. broke the Geneva Conventions by attempting to assassinate foreign officials of a recognized governmental entity on a sanctioned diplomatic mission.

So, our media in the West has portrayed this crisis in predominantly the same light as the first one:

Americans/British = innocent victims

Iran = evil

But, even assuming that our media had portrayed the Americans and the British in an equally positive light as the Iranians, one ought to as whether even this would still be propagandistic.

After all, what’s worse:  broadcasting apparently unharmed hostages; or seizing/attempted assassinations of foreign officials on a diplomatic mission?

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether you’ve gotten “fair and balanced” news coverage on this issue.

But it seems like none of this matters anyway, because CBS News has comissioned a poll showing that regardless of what happened, Americans are now increasingly frightened by Iran, with only 18% feeling that Iran is not a threat to the U.S..

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This is the third installment in the Propaganda in Action series.

The second installment is here.

The first installment is here.

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