Years ago, I always enjoyed the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour on PBS. Whether I agreed with the news analysis and commentaries or not, I always had the sense that the personal integrity of the two anchors was on the line at all times, and that there was some greater depth to the coverage than one would otherwise find on the major networks. This was the pre-CNN and Fox 24-hour news cycle era.
It was from this mental image that I watched, in horror, as the same PBS News Hour last night delivered a typical neoconservative propaganda line, under the pretext of giving news. It was a short news update on the Iran situation, centered on the announcement of new U.S. sanctions against Iran. In the course of the report, the news anchor slipped in the formulation that the United States and Israel are in full agreement that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Hold the phone! Yes, that has been the persistent mantra of every Netanyahu government mouthpiece for months and months, and it has been echoed in every American neocon propaganda front for even longer, dating back to the bad old days of Bush and Cheney.
But, the truth is: In October 2011, the National Intelligence Council, the premier agency of the U.S. intelligence community, issued an update to the November 2007 NIE on Iran's nuclear program. Both the published/declassified 2007 study, and the classified 2011 study reached the same conclusion: Whatever work Iran was doing on weaponization was halted in late 2003, and has not resumed. Iran is engaged in enrichment, and is constantly improving their ballistic missile capabilities. But the vital part of any nuclear weapon program--the actual work on converting enriched uranium into a bomb--has been suspended for almost a decade, and the best U.S. intelligence community estimate is that it remains suspended.
This is no light matter. And this is not something that is based on "leaked" information. While the content of the updated NIE has not been released in declassified form, as recently as last week, General James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, issued an annual global threat assessment, in which he summarized the NIE findings, noting that there is no evidence that Iran has resumed weaponization. Nor is there evidence that the Iranian leadership has made a decision to even pursue building a nuclear bomb.
Back to my original point: The media, including the once-respected public broadcasting network, has gone over to the dark side on an issue that is too serious to let pass. We had the experience in the year leading into the Iraq invasion of a flood of neocon propaganda, about "thermonuclear mushroom clouds" and armageddon from Saddam Hussein's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Are we going to allow ourselves to be railroaded again into a war that would have far more devastating consequences than Iraq? At least some of our taxpayer dollars go to the funding of PBS. Don't we have a right to expect some degree of accuracy and honesty on matters of war and peace?