Thursday, January 17, 2008
Journalist: Pentagon Fabricated "Non Event" Iranian "Provocation"
Echoes of faked Gulf of Tonkin incident as Pentagon distortions exposed
January 16, 2008
A respected American Journalist has accused a Pentagon spokesman of falsifying events surrounding the recent encounter between Iranian patrol boats and a US navy vessel in the Strait of Hormuz, which was eventually labeled a "provocation" by the White House.
Gareth Porter, a journalist who previously broke a story regarding a secret Iranian peace overture to the Bush Administration in 2006, writing for the Asia Times states that the event was hyped up into a major incident after the original press release described the event as somewhat routine and did not refer to any threat to "explode" US ships or any similar confrontation.
The release reported that the Iranian "small boats" had "maneuvered aggressively in close proximity of [sic] the Hopper [the lead ship of the three-ship convoy]. But it did not suggest that the Iranian boats had threatened the boats or that it had nearly resulted in firing on the Iranian boats.
On the contrary, the release made the US warships handling of the incident sound almost routine," Porter adds. "'Following standard procedures,' the release said, "Hopper issued warnings, attempted to establish communications with the small boats and conducted evasive maneuvering.'
The release did not refer to a US ship being close to firing on the Iranian boats, or to a call threatening that US ships would "explode in a few minutes", as later stories would report, or to the dropping of objects into the path of a US ship as a potential danger.
That press release was ignored by the news media, however, because later that Monday morning, the Pentagon provided correspondents with a very different account of the episode.
The fact that several mainstream reports then emerged at the same time all carrying almost identical accounts of the incident, including the details of threats to explode vessels and dropping white boxes, can be traced back to a press briefing by a top Pentagon official in charge of media relations, Porter divulges.
He identifies Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman's off the record comments to journalists as the catalyst for the ensuing pandemonium. Porter states that Whitman hadn't wished to be identified as the source:
In an apparent slip-up, however, an Associated Press story that morning cited Whitman as the source for the statement that US ships were about to fire when the Iranian boats turned and moved away - a part of the story that other correspondents had attributed to an unnamed Pentagon official.
Three days later, at the height of the hype, the Pentagon released a video of the incident into which had been inserted audio of a strange voice threatening to "explode" the US vessel.
Porter reveals that according to Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ballesteros of the Pentagon's Public Affairs Office the decision on what to include in the video was "a collaborative effort of leadership here, the Central Command and navy leadership in the field". Porter also reveals that according to an official in the US Navy Office of Information in Washington, who asked not to be identified, the decision was made in the office of the Secretary of Defense.
Shortly after Iranian officials had denounced the video as a fake and had released alternative footage of their boats in contact with the US warship, it became apparent that the audio spliced into the video had not originated from the boats themselves but must have instead come from hecklers, often referred to as the "Filipino Monkey", who cut in on VHF ship-to-ship radios and make rude comments or threats.
The Pentagon then backed away from claims that it knew the source of the audio or had ever known the source.
By January 11, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was already disavowing the story that Whitman had been instrumental in creating only four days earlier. "No one in the military has said that the transmission emanated from those boats," said Morrell.
No one said it but that doesn't excuse the fact that they spliced the audio into the video of an unrelated incident!
The story then essentially fell apart altogether and dropped off the radar as Navy officials began to discredit the rest of the distortions perpetuated by the Pentagon.
Porter also spoke to a Pentagon consultant who asked not to be identified who told him that many officers have experienced similar encounters with small Iranian boats throughout the 1990s, and that such incidents are "just not a major threat to the US Navy by any stretch of the imagination".
These revelations show just how easy it is for a non event to be hyped to serve an agenda and how the mainstream media is eager to swallow whole whatever the government feeds them.
The event mirrors that of the August 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, where an attack on US warships by North Vietnamese PT Boats, was cited by President Johnson as a legitimate provocation mandating U.S. escalation in Vietnam. However Tonkin was revealed as a staged charade that never took place. Declassified LBJ presidential tapes featured discussions on how to spin the non-event to escalate it as justification for air strikes. In addition, the NSA faked intelligence data to make it appear as if two US ships had been lost. This information was again reiterated in a report released last week.
On Monday’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Keith also acknowledged that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was fake
Watch the clip: