Big Lies and Little Lies

by Michael Rubin

Karl Rove has an excellent column in today’s Wall Street Journal refuting the notion that Bush lied about Iraq’s WMD. The intelligence was faulty, but the intention among both Republicans and Democrats was noble. The big lie has been among Democratic partisans who seek to turn national security and a real problem with faulty intelligence into a political football.

The narrative that “Bush lied about Iraq” is only one instance of a narrative based on falsehood. Another is the idea that in 2003 Iran offered a grand bargain. That story was peddled by Trita Parsi, an ambitious young congressional aide who has since built a career on the narrative that Bush spurned a grand bargain offer because evil neocons were bent on war; he successfully peddled that narrative to gullible and/or politicized journalists and columnists like Barbara Slavin, Glenn Kessler, and Nicholas Kristof. Parsi said his Iranian contacts told him the offer was genuine.

A couple years ago, however, Parsi launched a lawsuit against a critic. In the discovery phase of Parsi’s law suit, he released his e-mails. After he asked Javad Zarif, the Islamic Republic’s U.N. ambassador about rumors of the deal, Zarif responded (on March 30, 2006, 7:34 a.m.): “I guess we need to talk. I was not the Iranian official who received the proposal. I got it from the Foreign Minister, who asked me to comment and prepare a reply, and told me that it had come through an intermediary from Armitage. The claims and counter claims about the source of the proposals and motivations of the intermediaries remain a mystery for me.” So, there you have it. Trita asked for information, got an answer, and changed the answer 100 percent to peddle it to journalists and advance his agenda. In a milieu where journalists believed the problem lay more in the White House than in Tehran, Parsi knew how to sell snake-oil.

In reality, and as basic fact-checking would show, Armitage had nothing to do with it. It seems that the Swiss ambassador passed his own proposal to both the Americans and the Iranians, telling each it had come from the other. The Americans had ample reason to know the offer was not Iranian. Indeed, even Armitage, who very much was a proponent of engagement, saw through the fraud. But Slavin, Kessler, and Kristof — and then, by diffusion, Dennis Ross, John Limbert, and Gary Sick — chose to embrace Parsi’s falsehoods.

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