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And, yes, I DO take it personally: How the Pentagon planted a false story and a true hero thwarted it
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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How the Pentagon planted a false story and a true hero thwarted it

more goodies you won't see in u.s. news outlets...

How the Pentagon planted a false story
By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - Senior Pentagon officials, evidently reflecting a broader administration policy decision, used an off-the-record Pentagon briefing to turn the January 6 US-Iranian incident in the Strait of Hormuz into a sensational story demonstrating Iran's military aggressiveness, a reconstruction of the events following the incident shows.

The initial press stories on the incident, all of which can be traced to a briefing by deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in charge of media operations, Bryan Whitman, contained similar information that has since been repudiated by the navy itself.


Just two weeks earlier, on December 19, the USS Whidbey Island, an amphibious warship, had fired warning shots after a small Iranian boat allegedly approached it at high speed. That incident had gone without public notice.

With the reports from Fifth Fleet commander Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff in hand early that morning, top Pentagon officials had all day Sunday, January 6, to discuss what to do about the encounter in the Strait of Hormuz. The result was a decision to play it up as a major incident.

The decision came just as President George W Bush was about to leave on a Middle East trip aimed in part at rallying Arab states to join the United States in an anti-Iran coalition.

That decision in Washington was followed by a news release by the commander of the Fifth Fleet on the incident at about 4am Washington time on January 7. It was the first time the Fifth Fleet had issued a news release on an incident with small Iranian boats.

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. "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.

At 9am, Barbara Starr of CNN reported that "military officials" had told her that the Iranian boats had not only carried out "threatening maneuvers", but had transmitted a message by radio that "I am coming at you" and "you will explode". She reported the dramatic news that the commander of one boat was "in the process of giving the order to shoot when they moved away".

CBS News broadcast a similar story, adding the detail that the Iranian boats "dropped boxes that could have been filled with explosives into the water". Other news outlets carried almost identical accounts of the incident.

The source of this spate of stories can now be identified as Bryan Whitman, the top Pentagon official in charge of media relations, who gave a press briefing for Pentagon correspondents that morning. Although Whitman did offer a few remarks on the record, most of the Whitman briefing was off the record, meaning that he could not be cited as the source.

a similar routine mid-december encounter passes without notice... the decision to "play up" the 6 january incident was made on a sunday in washington to coincide with the start of bush's middle east trip... on monday morning, the fifth fleet commander issues an unprecedented press release, calling attention to the routine nature of the encounter... do you suppose fifth fleet commander, vice admiral kevin cosgriff, chose to be the spoiler, deliberately stepping in to avoid wwIII, scotching the rest of his military career, but showing us all what heroes are really made of...? methinks the vice admiral knew exactly what he was doing and, per the previous post, i would firmly place him at that white house conference table...

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