New York Times Accuses Jewish Billionaires of Dragging US Into War With Iran
The New York Times op-ed page carries an article by Lawrence Wilkerson headlined “A Familiar Road to War.” It warns, with zero factual basis, that the Trump administration is about to invade Iran the same way the George W. Bush administration invaded Iraq.
It’s a mystery what the Times is doing running a piece from this guy in the first place. As has been noted by both Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute and Dexter Van Zile of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Wilkerson went on television to speculate, groundlessly, that a poison gas attack on Syrian civilians “could have been an Israeli false flag operation.” (Thanks to online watchdog Mark Jacobs for tipping me off to this on Twitter.)
Second, once the Times piece went up online, it became clear pretty rapidly that there were some accuracy problems.
The website Newsdiffs tracks the changes — at least four different versions of the article. The piece originally said, “Today, the analysts claiming close ties between Al Qaeda and Iran come from the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, which vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear deal and unabashedly calls for regime change in Iran, while taking money from hawks like Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer, who have made clear what their goals are with Iran.” About six hours after publishing the original piece, the Times stealth-edited it by correcting the name of the research and advocacy group to “the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.” If the Times is going, falsely, to accuse a think tank of dragging America into war with Iran on false pretenses, the least you can ask is that the Times would spell the organization’s name correctly. Alas, the Times couldn’t even initially manage that bare-bones level of accuracy.
Then, nearly ten hours after the original piece was published online, the Times deleted entirely the references to Messrs. Singer and Adelson, and appended a correction:
Correction: February 5, 2018
An earlier version of this article included outdated information about the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Sheldon Adelson is no longer a donor to the organization.
Finally, in the print edition of the Times, the correction disappeared, along with both references to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
That leaves readers wondering just who Wilkerson is talking about when he suggestively asks, “With China, Russia and North Korea all presenting vastly more formidable challenges to America and its allies than Iran does, one has to wonder where the Trump team gets its ideas.”
Before the antisemitism was sanitized out of the Wilkerson article, his answer was clear — the ideas were coming from rich Jews like Adelson and Singer. (This is probably the right spot to disclose that Singer was one of my partners in The New York Sun and that I wrote a weekly column for about a year for a Las Vegas newspaper that is owned by the Adelson family.)
If there are problems with the sections that the Times eventually edited out of at least some versions of the Wilkerson article, there are problems, too, with what was left in. To start with, the notion that, as the article puts it, “Trump and his team” are trying to “sell the American people on the case for war” with Iran is nonsense. During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump faulted Hillary Clinton for supporting the Iraq war. “I was opposed to the war from the beginning,” Trump said, faulting Clinton and some of his Republican primary opponents for squandering billions of dollars on Middle Eastern wars. Trump is actually quite war-averse. And so, by the way, are many of the regime-change advocates that Wilkerson seems to be obsessed with. Michael Ledeen of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, for example, one of the most effective, shrewd, and stalwart such figures, has proposed not wide-scale bombing of Iran, but rather airlifting food to the revolutionaries, talking to them, and supporting them with communications.
An entire Times op-ed piece fretting about the danger that President Trump and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley are going to deceive the American people into a war also neglects the important truth that America and Iran are already in a war. It’s a war that Iran started by seizing our embassy and holding our diplomats hostage there, and then by waging a violent global campaign against American targets including a Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, a US-based Saudi diplomat, and a college student from New Jersey who was studying in Israel. The question is whether we’ll realize it and try to win it, or whether we’re going to keep taking casualties while deluding ourselves that the war doesn’t already exist.
A final oddity worth mentioning about the Times article is that amid the global cultural phenomenon of the #MeToo movement, which the Times helped start with its investigative journalism, the women of Iran are bravely protesting against the requirement to wear veils. Rather than an article from an Iranian woman urging support for these protesters, or an article urging the prompt release of the dozens of such protesters that have been arrested by the fundamentalist Islamist regime, the Times chooses to showcase instead an article from an American man dismissing the Iranian threat. Wilkerson’s only mention of the protests is not to express support for the Iranian women, but rather to express concern that the Trump administration might use them to concoct a narrative to support war with Iran. It’s hard to find the precisely right historical analogy for this. Imagine a Times op-ed during the 1850s greeting news of a slave rebellion with a warning that the abolitionists are planning to use it to deceive the American people into a war with the South. It misses the slavery issue entirely and skips right to the peace or war issue. That’s how Wilkerson deals with the Iran protests.
When the political prisons of Iran eventually empty and the protesters emerge in freedom to thank those who stood up for them, let them skip the office of whatever Times editor made the bad decision to publish Wilkerson, and let them instead visit the Washington offices of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.