Glenn Greenwald
Jan. 15 2016
The Intercept.com

When news first broke of the detention of two U.S. ships in Iranian territorial waters, the U.S. media — aside from depicting it as an act of Iranian aggression — uncritically cited the U.S. government’s explanation for what happened. One of the boats, we were told, experienced “mechanical failure” and thus “inadvertently drifted” into Iranian waters. On CBS News, Joe Biden told Charlie Rose, “One of the boats had engine failure, drifted into Iranian waters.”

Provided their government script, U.S. media outlets repeatedly cited these phrases — “mechanical failure” and “inadvertently drifted” and “boat in distress” — like some sort of hypnotic mantra. Here’s Eli Lake of Bloomberg News explaining yesterday why this was all Iran’s fault:

Iran’s handling of the situation violated international norms. … Two small U.S. sea craft transiting between Kuwait and Bahrain strayed into Iranian territorial waters because of a mechanical failure, according to the U.S. side. This means the boats were in distress.

Lake quoted John McCain as saying that “boats do not lose their sovereign immune status when they are in distress at sea.” The night the news broke, Reuters quickly said the “boats may have inadvertently drifted into Iranian waters” and “another U.S. official said mechanical issues may have disabled one of the boats, leading to a situation in which both ships drifted inadvertently into Iranian waters.”

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