If you were listening to NPR's All Things Considered this past August 27 you would have heard a typical corporate media discussion about the pros and pros of bombing Syria. The conversation was largely framed by two options. Should the US hit the Assad regime hard or hit it even harder? All things considered, it was hardly a consideration of all the things the US might possibly do to stop the bloodshed in the war torn Middle Eastern nation. The idea of seeking some kind of peaceful negotiated settlement between the fighting factions was nowhere to be found on the news desk. That's not to say NPR's coverage lacked a broader vision. In fact correspondent Mara Liasson went so far as to describe impending US military action in Syria as a "proxy war" with Iran, who she noted "is developing its own weapons of mass destruction."
While you could interpret a potential US military strike on Syria as a proxy war with Iran, the actual existence of Iranian nuclear or chemical weapons programs shouldn't be open to interpretation. It either has them or it doesn't. Liasson offered nothing to refute the latest IAEA findings that point to the absence of any Iranian program on the brink of building nuclear weapons nor did she give us even a whiff of evidence that Iran is producing chemical warfare agents. After digging deep down into her reporter's bag to get to the bottom of the story, the only thing she had to offer listeners was an unsubstantiated claim. I remember hearing one of those somewhere before. It was about ten years ago, when that exact same claim was the driving force behind the invasion of Iraq. In the run-up to the war in Iraq weapons of mass destruction was the hot news topic that quickly cooled off as hopes of actually finding any vanished into the thin air from which the reports came from in the first place.
NPR is not alone in reporting all the news that fits some narrative of its own making. In addition to highlighting Liasson's so far unregretted error, the media watchdog organization known as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has also seen the same mistake crop up elsewhere on the media landscape. FAIR cites an August 23 USA Today editorial making what the advocacy group says are "unsubstantiated assertions about Iran having a nuclear weapons program to advocate the bombing of Syria, arguing that a failure to attack would send a message to Tehran." The USA Today editorial says that holding back on bombing Syria "would demolish U.S. credibility, not just in Syria but also in Iran, which continues to pursue nuclear weapons despite repeated U.S. warnings." It ' s a bold statement to make, especially when USA Today hasn't presented a shred of proof to back up the claim about nuclear weapons in the hands of Tehran.
Unverified claims about weapons of mass destruction should sound vaguely familiar to most Americans. It's the drum beat that led us marching into the war in Iraq, where we never did find any weapons of mass destruction but instead much more than we ever bargained for. It's time for NPR's All Things Considered, USA Today, and perhaps other news outlets to consider changing their tune and start basing their reporting of this story and others on solid facts we can stand by instead of the shifting sands of speculation we have been given so far.