It is quite remarkable how the US claim, supported by allies in Europe, that Iran was behind last week’s bomb attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman has been greeted with so much public scepticism, not just in Europe but also in America.
Part of that is due to the less than persuasive video evidence provided by the US State Department which showed alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guards removing what was claimed to be an unexploded Iranian limpet mine from the side of one of the tankers.
The world was asked to believe that removing the mine was evidence of having planted it in the first place when it might also have been consistent with Iranian claims that its forces had arrived to help the tanker crews escape. Removing the unexploded mine might therefore have been a legitimate part of that rescue mission.
The other reason of course is that the claims of Iranian responsibility came from the Trump administration and it just so happens that a few days before the Gulf bombing CNN published an analysis of Trump’s fibs which concluded that the US president lies more often each day than most people wash their hands.
The report claimed: ‘In his first 869 days as President, Donald Trump said 10,796 things that were either misleading or outright false, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. Do the math and you get this: The President of the United States is saying 12 untrue things a day.’
So by this point the Trump White House has less than zero credibility with many Americans and even less amongst Europeans.
Deeper down in the psyche of many people on either side of the Atlantic is a scepticism born of the lies told to justify and launch the US invasion of Iraq. Readers will, hopefully, remember that the Iraq war was premised on the claim from the George W Bush White House that Saddam Hussein was secretly manufacturing ‘weapons of mass destruction’, i.e. nuclear bombs, and had to be stopped before he killed millions.
That was, of course, a lie and the damage to American credibility when that became clear was immense. It was compounded by the fact that Iraq was not the first deception played on the world to justify US warmongering.
Way back in the 1960’s, Lyndon Johnson invented North Vietnamese attacks on US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin to escalate the war in Vietnam. It took years, and the leak of the Pentagon Papers, to reveal the truth and raise the suspicion that dissembling in high places to justify war was by this point institutional.
So there is a history – a tradition if you like – of American administrations lying to spark or intensify wars. Thankfully, the sceptical reception given to the Gulf of Oman incidents suggests that we may have reached a point where that sort of thing no longer works as well.
Bush’s adventure in Iraq was in no small measure facilitated by the American media, The New York Times in particular. This time round there has been some flag-waving by my American colleagues but also a healthy dose of scepticism as well.