Monday 29 June 2015

The Implausible Plausibility of Harry Mudd

This article from The New Yorker is a good example of comparatively good reportage gone flawed in how, even with an unsavory presentation of its host country's affairs, it implicitly frames its motives in a better light than it deserves, demonstrating the ways of the unwitting accomplice in the manufacture of plausible consent.

This is more than a fair assessment, maybe too fair. For one, calling the reportage comparatively good entirely ignores the opening sentence wherein it is claimed that there is "historic nuclear diplomacy taking place in Vienna’s elegant Coburg Palace". But for now I would like to avoid close-reading the party-line that underlies establishment media.

Suffice it to say that in spite of itself, the article does not include a number of pertinent facts that have maintained acrimony between nations, the primary amongst which would be that the United States has in bipartisan fashion referred to Iran as a belligerent terrorist state for a generation and-a-half and counting and how the journalist plans to make no attempt to dispel the thereupon formed public consensus.

Having said that, what the article does do is paint a picture of the devastating consequences a horrendously ugly conflict had on its most innocent party, the Iranians, and how it was enabled by their prime moving counterpart in the aforesaid diplomacy, the United States, without which enablement, implies the journalist, Iran may have resumed its nuclear ambition, but they might not now be quite so distrustful of the United States.

In a nutshell, it's about former foreign policy folly. What interests me most, however, is how the US policy is framed, and much more forgotten, to put it generously.
Back in the eighties, Western intelligence agencies questioned whether Iran’s eighteen-month-old revolution could survive for even a few weeks after Saddam Hussein’s surprise invasion.

Instead, the war dragged on for eight years.

Officially, the United States was neutral. But Washington did not want Iran to win, so U.S. intelligence provided satellite imagery of Iranian positions to Iraq, along with military options.

As it wont of such ancient insider begotten info, it results in a journalist's giving successive sources, and consequently US policy itself, the benefit of doubt. When you read the above passages, do you read "Western intelligence agencies claim to have questioned..." or "A source within the US administration says that they did not want Iran to win"?

Of course, you don't. A basic level of credulity is granted anyone claiming to have an insider's view. Particularly in matters of secret foreign policy, the journalist inherits default discretion on when the source is to be attributed and when something can be presented as fact.

The more the sentence meshes with conventional public wisdom, the more likely it is presented probabilis concentio and as such is taken as a given to even greater effect when it's read in print. This forms a fascinating Goebbels-Ockham confluence of misattributed axiomatic thought, where the simplest possible explanation repeated often enough rules out everything else entirely.

Like, first, by underlying omission: They were so pleased with the Iran-Iraq war dragging on as long as it did...

And, secondly, by blatant omission: ...that they were willing to forestall certain Iraqi victory and supply Iran with weapons.

Leaving out Iran-Contra tells half a story at most.

In fairness to the journalist, the inclusion of Iran-Contra would have required the additional lending of the assumption of subsequent truth to the source of the original lies. In this case, that it could be for the dual purpose of freeing hostages and funding the Contras, but never for the third perennial prong of fomenting perpetual warfare for the profit of itself.

The story instead is the retelling of the old one: Foolish foreign policy begets unintended consequences from which the fool must recover, which is true. Some fools will feel the need to redeem themselves. If you hear from them, at best they're the sources of a lesser spin.

Telling the whole truth entails explaining who among those reputed fools benefits from the self-same scenario. That could get too hairy for journalistic comfort, not to mention too muddy for comprehensive prose, when everything the person who said they had been lying says is a lie.

My best advise on how to fully fathom the imperialist is to vigilantly remind yourself that even the most colossal cock-ups are most often a feature, not a flaw.