Looking at the Times this morning I almost fell into the trap. The headline read: “Iran’s Efforts to Stir Afghan Violence Worry U.S.” For a moment I almost forgot that you can’t ever just relax and read the newspaper. You always have to remember that the people that pay for our newspapers are the people who profit from our wars. Iran may be up to no good, but one almost gets the impression from reading this article that the cause of violence in Afghanistan is a few agents from Iran, not the thousands of bombs we ourselves are dropping.

“Just hours after it was revealed that American soldiers had burned Korans seized at an Afghan detention center in late February, Iran secretly ordered its agents operating inside Afghanistan to exploit the anticipated public outrage by trying to instigate violent protests in the capital, Kabul, and across the western part of the country, according to American officials.”

First of all, exploiting tension in other nations is something every nation does. We certainly are masters of the practice. Secondly, the story is going to be based on secret U.S. sources, and the Times is more than willing to spin the whole story uncritically through those eyes. For example, they spin Iran’s warning that it would defend itself if attacked by Israel as a “threat.” If you’re not paying attention that “spin” will seem like factual reporting.

“For the most part, the efforts by Iranian agents and local surrogates failed to provoke widespread or lasting unrest,” the officials said. “Yet with NATO governments preparing for the possibility of retaliation by Iran in the event of an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, the issue of Iran’s willingness and ability to foment violence in Afghanistan and elsewhere has taken on added urgency.”

So we can’t see any proof that Iran’s efforts were successful, but the fact that they would defend themselves if attacked, and that they are making efforts to gain allies in the region adds “urgency” to the situation.

Here’s a sampler platter of the rhetoric of the article:

“The most visible rioting that American officials say bears Iranian fingerprints”

“Iran has denied any government-backed effort to foment unrest in Afghanistan, but American officials see a pattern of malign meddling…”

“Amateurs are tougher to detect and catch. It caught our surveillance off guard. We were looking for pros. They went below the radar.” (So now Iran is sending amateurs?)

I would be surprised if Iran isn’t doing mischief, but what the Times isn’t sayng is we are doing mischief on a much greater scale. To tell the entire story through secret sources from one side is not reporting, but propaganda. A newpaper has some obligation to be a mirror so a nation can seek sanity, not a mouthpiece of the national delusions. When another nation looks like a terrorist and a criminal for wanting to do the same things your nation is doing, it is time to take stock. If newpapers will not seek truth, who will?