In her column yesterday, Janet
Albrechtsen
brought good news about what was
happening in Iraq, urging readers to believe that Amir Taheri is the final word
on what is happening there. It’s a free country, so go right ahead, but
there are a few things you might like to know about Taheri before you take his
word on anything. (The article Albrechtsen quotes from so lovingly, available
here
.)

Taheri is a member of Benador
Associates
, which was prominent in calling for the
invasion of Iraq in the first place, and also includes Richard Perle, Woolsey,
Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney and a dozen other prominent
neoconservatives.

More to the point, Taheri was in the news just a few
weeks ago, as the source of a story that Iran was going to force Jews and
Christians to “wear colour-coded
badges
to identify them as non-Muslims”. The
story first appeared in the National Post in Canda and The Jerusalem Post (both
owned by Conrad Black), and was picked up around the world with various leaders
and the US State Department deploring the move. John Howard described it as
“akin
to Nazi Germany”
.

It was also complete
bunkum, and there has been considerable debate as to whether Taheri got it wrong
because he badly wanted it to be true, or whether it was a deliberate move to
demonise Iran – the story appeared at one of the many times when international
tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme were high.

In either case, Taheri
emerged from the exercise with whatever mainstream credibility he then had
seriously dented. This Christian Science Monitorarticle, sub-headed “False story’s publication in Canadian paper is ‘real sign
of a disinformation operation'”, is worth a look because it provides so many
links; and Jim Lobe in the
Asia Times
follows what happened.

Perhaps
Albrechtsen missed all the kerfuffle. What she doesn’t explain is why she
recommends Taheri for knowledge on Iraq, ahead of, say, the non-partisan Brookings
Institution’s
Iraq Index (the last one was
pessimistic); or reports by Nir Rosen of the New America Foundation (here and here) who has lived in Iraq for three years.

Whomever you chose to
read, it always pays to bear in mind the advice: “Rubbish in, rubbish
out”.

Peter Fray

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