Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Bush vs. Ahmadinejad: A TV Debate We'll Never See

Bush vs. Ahmadinejad: A TV Debate We'll Never See

By Norman Solomon
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 01 September 2006

When Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, invited President Bush to engage in a "direct television debate" a few days ago, the White House predictably responded by calling the offer "a diversion." But even though this debate will never happen, it's worth contemplating.

Both presidents are propaganda junkies - or, more precisely, propaganda pushers - so any such debate would overdose the audience with self-righteous arrogance. The two presidents are too much alike.

Each man, in his own way, is a fundamentalist: so sure of his own moral superiority that he's willing to push his country into a military confrontation. This assessment may be a bit unfair to Ahmadinejad, who hasn't yet lied his nation into war; the American president is far more experienced in that department.

By saying that it's an open question whether Nazi Germany really perpetrated a Holocaust, the Iranian president has left no doubt that he is dangerously ignorant of history. Bush's ignorance of history is decidedly more subtle - though, judging from his five and a half years in the Oval Office, hardly less dangerous.

Ahmadinejad questions whether a huge historical event actually occurred. Bush doesn't bother to question key historical facts. He just ignores them - on the apparently safe assumption that few in the US news media will object very strenuously.

Overall, American journalists pay only selective attention to history. Often they're too busy helping to lay groundwork for the USA's next war effort.

So, we hear little about the direct CIA role in organizing the coup that toppled Iran's democratically elected president, Mohammed Mossadegh, in 1953. Or about the torture and murder inflicted on Iranian dissenters by the secret police of the US-installed Shah for the next quarter of a century, until his overthrow in 1979.

When I was in Tehran last year, during the presidential election campaign that ended with Ahmadinejad's victory, the ghosts of the coup that destroyed Iranian democracy were everywhere. The nightmare of the Shah has been replaced by the nightmare of the Islamic Republic - both made possible by the coup that Washington hatched.

But the US president copes with such unpleasant history by simply - and simplemindedly - refusing to acknowledge it. And American news media routinely go along for the detour. The avoidance makes Iranian hostility toward the US government seem totally irrational.

Meanwhile, the commentaries from major media keep echoing unsubstantiated claims from Washington as if they were facts. Even mainstream outlets inclined to urge restraint give enormous ground to the war planners.

On August 25, while ostensibly sounding a note of sobriety about Capitol Hill bombast, a New York Times editorial flatly declared: "Iran's fundamentalist regime and its nuclear ambitions pose a strategic threat to the United States." The newspaper added: "It's obvious that Iran wants nuclear weapons, has lied about its program and views America as an enemy." But it should be no less obvious that the United States and its ally Israel - both with a record of lying about their own military intentions - have nuclear arsenals and view Iran as an enemy.

More hawkish than the Times, the Washington Post printed an editorial on August 24 warning Russia and China that they "should not undercut Western efforts to defuse the Iran crisis by peaceful means." With an oddly menacing twist, the editorial proclaimed: "No responsible power has anything to gain from further tension in the Middle East, still less an eventual war over Iran's nuclear ambitions."

We should remember how the same newspaper wielded its editorial cudgel the last time the White House was laying groundwork for a military attack. On February 6, 2003, the Post - under the headline "Irrefutable" - told readers in no uncertain terms: "After Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council yesterday, it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."

Such limited imagination continues to infuse the Post's editorial outlook - and, for that matter, the world views of most US media outlets. The fantasy of a debate between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and George W. Bush might be strange, but the reality of American journalism is grotesque as Washington escalates its extremely dangerous confrontation with Tehran.


The paperback edition of Norman Solomon's latest book, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, was published this summer. For information, go to:

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: In A New York Groove

Right now, there’s a thing about downtown Manhattan in the 1970s and ‘80s, a lot of talk about an era that still resonates powerfully. Plenty of people in this city, still walking around and breathing in and out, were very involved in the world below 14th Street. More>>


Keith Ng On Public Address: Why The Police And The PM Are Wrong About Rawshark

On 2 October 2014, the Police raided Nicky Hager’s home... During the search, they found a piece of paper... “We considered [the document] was of interest to the investigation because of information we had already obtained”. That piece of paper was seized and designated NH025... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Being Accountable, And Holding The Powerful To Account

Don’t know how you feel about it, but the selective unavailability of Ministers and senior public servants to media scrutiny seems to be a growing concern... Yet often and tellingly, they’re not so beyond-radio-contact that they can’t find time to authorise and email a statement unilaterally stating their position. Which indicates that it is the questioning of the party line that they’re choosing to avoid. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Islam And The Paris Attacks

Presidential contender Ben Carson for instance, wants it to be made illegal for a Muslim to be elected as President of the USA. For the Republican Party at least, freedom of religion in America extends only to tolerating many ways of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal saviour. In reality of course, treating Islamic State as the essence of Islam makes about as much sense as treating the Ku Klux Klan as the essence of Christianity... More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news