Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Unfortunately"? That's not what's unfortunate!

So, a lot of sites and papers are running an AP story similar to this one from the Kuwait Times - which, by the way, is a much fuller story. They also quote Gallegos, but the AP quote starts with "unfortunately". I, of course, won't be excerpting the AP story (just search on "shirazi gallegos regev" or follow the link above), but here's the context from the Kuwait Times:
TEHRAN: Iran will hit Tel Aviv, US shipping in the Gulf and American interests around the world if it is attacked over its disputed nuclear activities, an aide to Iran's Supreme Leader was quoted as saying yesterday. "The first bullet fired by America at Iran will be followed by Iran burning down its vital interests around the globe," the students news agency ISNA quoted Ali Shirazi as saying in a speech to Revolutionary Guards.


Shirazi's comments intensified a war of words that has raised fears of military confrontation and helped boost world oil prices to record highs in recent weeks. "The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack Iran. If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and US shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran's first targets and they will be burned," Shirazi was quoted as saying. Shirazi, a mid-level cleric, is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the Revolutionary Guards.
Note: in the New York Times, Shirazi's quote is translated differently: "In case that they commit such foolishness, Tel Aviv and the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf would be the first targets to burst into flames receiving Iran’s crushing response." There's a world of difference in the stylistics of those two sentences, isn't there? More importantly, between "foolishness" and "stupidity" there's not much choice, but between "shipping" and "fleet" there could well be. On that head, the AP story says "naval fleet", which is a bit different from "shipping." I don't speak Farsi, so I don't know which is more accurate - but let's not forget that Iranians have been mistranslated in American media before.

Anyway, back to the Kuwait Times:
Washington shrugged off the threat. "Comments like that are not out of the norm and not unusual," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said, adding: "We continue to stress our desire to resolve this issue diplomatically... continue with the process." Ahmadinejad said it would be "political suicide" for US President George W Bush - whose term of office ends in January. "Any finger that will trigger the bullet, the Iranian people will cut it," he told a press conference at a summit of developing nations in Kuala Lumpur.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, declined to comment on the threat to hit Tel Aviv, saying only: "Shirazi's words speak for themselves." Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed power, has vowed to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb. The United States says it wants to resolve the dispute by diplomacy but has not ruled out military action. (my note: the word "believed" here goes, of course, with the word "only".)
So, to recap, in the AP story, which is all over the Net, Gallegos's quote is introduced by a paraphrase, and then "unfortunately ... not" (whew, only four words!) before joining the quote as in the KT article, "out of the norm and not unusual." Meaning the AP chooses to reproduce Gallegos's characterization of Shirazi's words as "unfortunate".

Which - WTF?

What is with the AP - and Washington - and their insistence on a position which holds that Iran is not entitled to defend itself? And sure, the AP can claim that they're just quoting, but they deliberately chose to include the word unfortunately - even to the point of an ellipsis to get it in. This is hardly the first time the AP has configured a statement of self-defense as a threat - turning 'plans to bomb Israel if the Jewish state attacks' into 'plans to bomb Israel' full stop.

Apparently the AP has bought into the administration and its allies' assertion that Iran is The Enemy™ (I mean, it's all that's left of The Axis Of Evil™, after all) and that war with it is inevitable because they are The Enemy™ and Evil and all that. And we're allowed to say that "all options are on the table" in a so-called coded message (as in Reuters story:
"Both the chancellor and my first choice of course is to solve this diplomatically," Bush told a joint news conference with Merkel.

But he added: "All options are on the table," a reference to the threat of military action to stop Iran's nuclear program, which the West fears is aimed at making atomic bombs. "The message to the Iranian government is very clear," Bush said.
Yes, it is clear. And theirs is just as clear: You attack us, we'll retaliate. It's just that the administration has chosen to characterize Iranian self-defense as hostile and threatening, and our, um, hostile and threatening language as just a "message". (And since "all options" which allegedly includes diplomacy, doesn't include actually talking to the Iranians - "talk directly to Iran over its nuclear program, a move the Bush administration has rejected" - it's the only message they'll get from us...)

And the AP has quite clearly bought into the whole program. You know, it doesn't help to characterize statements of self-defense as threats. Iran really is entitled to defend itself. Just because we don't like them doesn't mean they have to let us invade, not in the Real World, anyway.

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