I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Powerline: The Iran "yellow star" sham is true

(updated below)

The war-mongers who are pining for the next phase of their Glorious War of Civilizations -- regime change in Iran -- thought they hit the jackpot last week when the pro-War, Israel-centric National Post of Canada published a column by neoconservative Amir Teheri which claimed that the Iranian parliament had passed a new law mandating "separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public." The warmonger pundits immediately began screeching how they found definitive proof that Iran is the New Nazi Germany -- a new law requiring that Jews wear yellow identifying strips on their clothing.

But the story was a complete scam, total fiction, and everyone -- including the National Post and the pro-Israeli groups which were promoting the story --now acknowledge that the story was false. Everyone, that is, except for the fact-proof fanatics at Powerline, who continue to insist that it's true.

As CNN reports, National Post has now categorically retracted the story and admitted that it's false:

A Canadian newspaper apologized Wednesday for an article that said Iran planned to force Jews and other religious minorities to wear distinctive clothing to distinguish themselves from Muslims. . . .

But the National Post, a longtime supporter of Israel and critic of Tehran, admitted Wednesday it had not checked the piece thoroughly enough before running it.

"It is now clear the story is not true," Douglas Kelly, the National Post's editor in chief, wrote in a long editorial on Page 2. "We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story."

This article from Jewish Week -- headlined: "Anatomy of a Hoax: False story alleging special yellow insignia for Iranian Jews spurred by Wiesenthal Center's flawed confirmation" -- details how many pro-Israeli organizations (including AIPAC and the Simon Wiesenthal Center) pushed the story as hard as possible, while some exercised more caution. But the publication of the story by National Post, combined with the mindless and reflexive support of scores of neoconservative organizations and pundits intensely yearning for removal of the anti-Israeli regime in Iran, caused the false story to explode into the public dialogue. The Jewish Week article details the predictable fallout:

The ensuing media blaze was like a match thrown onto a tinderbox, starting with the National Post page one banner, headlined: "IRAN EYES BADGES FOR JEWS?" - followed within hours by blogs, wire services, radio reports, Rush Limbaugh and outraged press statements issued by Jewish groups carrying the news to millions.

And any doubt about the circles that spat up this false story are dispelled by this paragraph in that article:

Benador Associates, the public relations agency that placed the story with The National Post, is a boutique firm specializing in promoting neoconservative figures such as Taheri, Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer and others who supported the Iraq war and "regime change" in Iran now.

The same people who conjured up the cakewalks, Saddam's chemical stockpiles and mushroom clouds that led us into the Iraq disaster are now trying the same fraudulent tactics to induce Americans to get rid of the regime in Iran. But as the article details, all of those groups now recognize that the story was false. Indeed, the original newspaper publishing the story has not just retracted it, but said expressly that it is false.

But just as they continue to insist that Iraq had WMDs and elaborate contacts with Al Qaeda, Powerline is not going to abandon this claim just because every fact makes indisputably clear that it is false. No - they have a war to deceive people into, and nothing will take precedence over that. In an amazing post to which both Scott "Big Trunk" Johnson and John "Rocket" Hinderaker contribute, they insist that the crux of the story is true, and they even trot out their standard line by excoriating the "MSM" for covering up the story. Scott, for instance, says:

I am struck, however, by the lack of interest in the undisputed component of the law on which Taheri focused. Taheri reported that the the (sic) Iranian Majlis had adopted legislation that prescribed the clothing to be worn by Muslims . . .

Taheri also reported that the law "envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians." It is the latter element of the law that generated the furor, but I have not seen any report taking issue with Taheri's account of the pending imposition of an Islamic dress code. If such a dress code were to become effective, religiously based noncompliance (assuming it is permitted) would identify the offenders as non-Muslims or infidels. Along with Reuters and the Daily News, the mainstream media have overlooked this apparently troubling consideration.

Displaying his only talent, Rocket then takes the deceit one dishonest step further and adds this:

As Scott notes, it is hard to see how Iran can regulate the clothing worn by Muslims without also regulating the clothing worn by non-Muslims, either explicitly or implicitly.

There simply is no law in Iran that has anything to do with mandating what non-Muslims should wear. It does not exist. And it never did. And everyone acknowledges that except for Powerline. From Jewish Week:

[Israeli expert on Iran, Meir] Javedanfar told The Jewish Week he spent "about 40 minutes" talking to sources in and outside of Iran and, more importantly, getting the text of the legislation off the Internet. His review of the extensive parliamentary debate of the bill, also available online, showed that such a proposal was not even part of the discussion.

Indeed, the law's text and parliamentary debate, available in English from the BBC Service, discloses no provision mandating that any Iranians will have to wear any kind of prescribed dress. It instead focuses on promoting "traditional clothing designs" using Iranian and Islamic patterns by Iran's domestic fashion industry and preventing "the import of clothes incompatible with cultural Islamic and national values." The law is meant to develop and protect Iran's clothing industry, Javedanfar said.

At this point, the only way to claim that Iran has passed a law regulating the clothing which non-Muslims must wear is by lying. But that's exactly what Powerline is claiming. And four months from now, and six months from now, when the debate intensifies over whether the American military should forcibly change Iran's government, Big Trunk and Rocket will be writing posts insisting that Iran has a law requiring Jews and Christians to wear identifying clothing, and they will link to the post they wrote today setting forth the "rationale" which proves that, and scores of other warmonger pundits and bloggers will link to that post when arguing, with increasing urgency, that Iran is the new Nazi Germany and that those who oppose an attack on it are a bunch of appeasers who never learned the mistake of Neville Chamberlain and who don't care if another Holocaust occurs.

Even the extremists who peddled this story now admit that it's false. Only Powerline continues to claim that it's true. Isn't that fairly definitively proof of the complete lack of credibility, integrity and honesty of TIME's Blog of the Year? There is no limit on what they are willing to fabricate in order to justify their defense of the administration and to push the country to war with Iran. But if this patently dishonest insistence on clinging to a plainly false story isn't enough to compel their removal from mainstream respectability, what would be?

UPDATE: Taylor Marsh, who has done some substantial original reporting on this story from her blog, has a detailed and very interesting post today exploring the question of who bears original and ultimate responsibility for the manufacture and distribution of this false story. Be sure to follow the links to Taylor's other posts where you can see the chronology of her impressive journalistic involvement in this story.

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