MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

When George Bush arrived in Britain last week as part of his “farewell tour”, the real reasons for the visit were buried well out of sight. The tour was not, as the Guardian suggested, a mere “continental au revoir”. The purpose was to coerce Gordon Brown into raising troop levels in Afghanistan and to support toughened sanctions on Iran. Bush said pressure on Iran was necessary to “solve this problem diplomatically”, but warned: “Iranians must understand, however, that all options are on the table.” (

The remarks raised fears in London that Bush is “determined to take action against Iran before he leaves office in January,” the Independent reported.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), warned that any attack on Iran would transform the region into a “ball of fire.” Even from the West’s point of view an attack would be disastrous:

“A military strike would spark the launch of an emergency programme to make atomic weapons, with the support of all Iranians, including those living abroad.” (AFP)

ElBaradei added that an attack would make it impossible for him to continue as head of the IAEA.

In support of Bush warmongering, French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared, on cue:

“Today, the most immediate threat is that of a terrorist attack. Thanks to the effectiveness of our security forces, France has not been attacked in recent years. But the threat is there, it is real and we know that it could tomorrow take on a new form, even more serious, by nuclear, chemical and biological means.” (

Sarkozy’s propaganda contribution was splashed all over the BBC website as “Breaking News.” The previous weekend, the Times had hinted at machinations behind the scenes, noting that “the French President has quite deliberately donned the mantle once worn by Tony Blair, defiantly – even triumphantly – talking up his love for all things American”. (Times Online)

Sarkozy had delighted Washington by saying the West must choose between “an Iranian bomb and the bombing of Iran”. “The frost is over,” according to one French government aide. “We want to show the warmth that now exists between the two countries after the frictions of the recent past.” (Ibid)

The “warmth” translates as French obedience to US power – a policy change which will make France far more, not less, likely to be targeted for terrorist attack, particularly if Iran becomes the next victim of a US-led terrorist ‘coalition‘.

Madness In Search Of War

The BBC also found space to boost Bush-Brown propaganda:

“Iran has been accused of not co-operating with the UN over its nuclear programme, amid fears it is enriching uranium to use in weapons.” (BBC News)

No mention was made of last November’s US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which summarised the work of the 16 American intelligence agencies. The report disclosed that Iran had not been pursuing a nuclear weapons development programme for the previous four years:

“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme.”

The report added:

“Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons programme suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.” (The Guardian)

It is ‘balanced’ BBC reporting to mention alleged “fears” about Iran as genuine, but not to mention an intelligence report that undermines the credibility of those fears. This, recall, even as the catastrophe in Iraq – based on identical US-UK propaganda and identical BBC servility – is ongoing.

We asked Bronwen Maddox, chief foreign commentator at the Times, why she had failed to mention the NIE report in her June 17 article on Iran. She replied on June 17:

Good morning. You don’t introduce yourself, beyond your name, so I have no sense of whether you are professionally involved in the subject, or are simply interested. I’ll answer assuming the latter.

I have written extensively on the NIE. But things move on, and the comments since November by the NIE authors that they should have phrased it differently have helped change the mood. The phrasing gave too much attention to a perceived abandonment of an attempt to design actual weapons, and too little (the authors acknowledged) to two more serious points: the fact that there had been a weapons design programme, the first time that the US had said it had evidence of this; and the rapid progress of uranium enrichment, a much more difficult technical barrier to overcome than the design of a warhead.

The NIE report unfortunately gave Iran a propaganda coup, but did not, in the opinion of IAEA inspectors, portray a lower threat than was already discerned.

Really, though, it is the IAEA’s report a few weeks ago which has injected the new urgency. So in blunt answer to your question, as I write a daily, short running commentary on current news, I didn’t mention the NIE directly as it is too out of date for the purposes of yesterday’s piece.

Very best and thanks for taking the trouble to write.

Bronwen Maddox
Chief Foreign Commentator
The Times

We replied on June 23:

Dear Bronwen

Many thanks for such a speedy response; it’s very much appreciated. I’m co-editor of Media Lens, a website that monitors media issues.

You write that the NIE report authors commented “that they should have phrased it differently”. Have you got a reference for their comments, please?

You also write that the IAEA report in May “has injected the new urgency.”

The report noted that “substantial explanations” were still lacking for documents suggesting that Iran had worked on atomic bomb-related explosives and a missile warhead design. But these are documents introduced into the process at the very last minute by Washington in early February. Given the US record of inventing evidence on Iraqi WMD, isn’t it reasonable to assume that these may prove to be baseless allegations designed to prevent the IAEA from resolving all “outstanding issues” with Iran as part of US warmongering?

You write “I didn’t mention the NIE directly as it is too out of date for the purposes of yesterday’s piece.”

But why, then, did you not mention a June 15 Reuters report that noted:

“Analysts believe that offering Iran security guarantees, an idea floated by Russia, could help end the deadlock, seeing such guarantees as Iran’s fundamental goal given the Bush administration’s ‘regime change’ policy toward it.” (Parisa Hafezi, Reuters, June 15, 2008)?

The US has refused to withdraw its threats. This is technically a criminal act (the UN Charter forbids the issuing of threats) and a sure way to prevent diplomacy. Indeed, in May 2007, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish National Security Adviser during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, called the US approach on Iran “clumsy” and “stupid”. He noted that the US had insisted that the Iranians give up their right to enrich uranium as a precondition for a serious dialogue on the subject. Brzezinski commented:

“I frankly don’t understand how anyone in his right mind would make that condition if he were serious about negotiations, unless the objective is to prevent negotiations.” (

Again, you appear never to have mentioned Brzezinski’s view. Why is that?

And why did you not mention the view of the Saudi press earlier this year in response to Washington’s efforts to line them up in an anti-Iranian crusade? Arab News commented:

“In his confrontational remarks about Iran, he offers no carrot, no inducement, no compromise—only the big U.S. stick. This is not diplomacy in search of peace. It is madness in search of war.” (

That observation is also not out of date, and has also not been mentioned by the Times.

Finally, why did you not mention the call for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East? Polls suggest that such an initiative is supported by 75% of the American people, Iran would almost certainly accept it, and the US-UK are specifically committed to it.

After all, Bush, Blair and Brown have all attempted to offer a legal cover for the Iraq invasion by appealing to UN Resolution 687, which calls on Iraq to end its production of weapons of mass destruction (which Bush and Blair of course claimed it had failed to do). Article 14 calls on parties to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region. This is an embarrassment to the United States and particularly to Israel, which has 150-200 nuclear warheads it is not about to give up.

Best wishes


We have received no further reply.

Bush – The Damage To America’s “Image”

The deep-seated tendency of the elite media to bury the crimes of the powerful will be well to the fore as Bush prepares to leave office. Thus, a Guardian editorial, ’Goodbye to all that,’ observed of the president: “the damage Mr Bush has inflicted on America’s image is impressive, especially with close allies like Turkey.” (

With Iraq and Afghanistan in ruins, with action on the rising catastrophe of climate change effectively stymied, the Guardian editors chose to focus on damage to America’s “image”. The editorial concluded:

“Rebuilding global trust will be the major task of the next US president.”

This single sentence speaks volumes about the Guardian’s conformity, about its refusal to expose the brutal priorities of power. The major task of the next US president will be the same as it has always been. If you are weak and defenceless, or in the way – watch out!


The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to Bronwen Maddox at the Times

Write to Ian Black, Middle East editor of the Guardian

Please send a copy of your emails to us

This media alert will shortly be archived here:

The Media Lens book ‘Guardians of Power: The Myth Of The Liberal Media’ by David Edwards and David Cromwell (Pluto Books, London) was published in 2006. For details, including reviews, interviews and extracts, please click here:

Please consider donating to Media Lens:

Please visit the Media Lens website:

We have a lively and informative message board:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.