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Boardman writes: "These network stories are examples of fake news at its most dangerous, when it plays into the dishonest manipulations of an administration beating the drums for a war against Iran that has no reasonable basis. Not only do the networks and mainstream media generally fail to question the administration's rush to war, they also fail to do basic journalism by independently confirming whether a particular story is true or not."

The story of the 'oil tanker attacks' appears to have been mostly or entirely false. (photo: AP)
The story of the 'oil tanker attacks' appears to have been mostly or entirely false. (photo: AP)

RSN: Tanker Attack Was Imaginary, but US Says Iran Did It

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

18 May 19



– ABC News on-screen headline, May 13, 2019


–CBS News on-screen headline, May 13, 2019

hese network stories are examples of fake news at its most dangerous, when it plays into the dishonest manipulations of an administration beating the drums for a war against Iran that has no reasonable basis. Not only do the networks and mainstream media generally fail to question the administration’s rush to war, they also fail to do basic journalism by independently confirming whether a particular story is true or not.   

The story of the “oil tanker attacks” appears to have been mostly or entirely false, as any news organization could have known from the start by exercising basic skepticism. Or the story could have been pimped as terrorism, as did, asserting on May 13 that: “A special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards marine force carried out the sabotage on 4 Saudi oil tankers outside Fujairah port.” No evidence, anonymous sources only, and wrong number of Saudi tankers.

The first report of something happening in or near the emirate of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) came from the Lebanon-based Al Mayadeen TV, saying that seven to ten oil tankers were burning in the port of Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman (outside the Strait of Hormuz leading to the Persian Gulf). There is no evidence that any tankers were burning there. Available satellite images show no smoke, explosions, or anything else to support the claim of an accident or an attack.

A few hours later, a new story surfaced. On May 12 at 7:38 pm, the UAE foreign ministry issued a statement carried by the state news agency WAM with the headline: “Four commercial ships subjected to sabotage operations near UAE territorial waters, no fatalities or injuries reported.” The report in its entirety offered little detail: 

ABU DHABI, 12th May, 2019 (WAM) -- Four commercial ships were subjected to sabotage operations today, 12th May, near UAE territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of Fujairah, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, MOFAIC, has announced.

The Ministry said that the concerned authorities have taken all necessary measures, and are investigating the incident in cooperation with local and international bodies.

It said that there had been no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels and that there had been no spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel.

The MOFAIC statement said that the carrying out acts of sabotage on commercial and civilian vessels and threatening the safety and lives of those on board is a serious development. It called on the international community to assume its responsibilities to prevent such actions by parties attempting to undermine maritime traffic safety and security.

The Ministry also described as ‘baseless and unfounded’ rumours earlier today, 12th May, of incidents taking place within the Port of Fujairah, saying that operations within the port were under way as normal, without any interruption.

There’s not much here. What sort of “sabotage operations” occurred? Who carried them out? What damage was there, if any? Who were the four ships? When was the sabotage discovered? What’s really going on here, if anything?

The next day the Saudi Press Agency chimed in with a statement from the Minister of Energy that “confirmed that … two Saudi oil tankers were subjected to a sabotage attack in the exclusive economic zone of the United Arab Emirates, off the coast of the Emirate of Fujairah.” The minister claimed structural damage to the two tankers but did not make them available for inspection. Satellite and surface images showed no damage to either tanker.

That’s about all that was known on May 13 as ABC News went on the air acting as if the story was factually clear and larger than supported by any evidence. The lead-in to the story was flush with news-hype and propaganda technique: “we begin with that attack overseas on Saudi ships and oil tankers. One about to head to the U.S. This comes in the wake of that warning about threats from Iran.” Fundamentally dishonest. There were two Saudi tankers, no Saudi “ships.” The other two tankers were from the UAE and Norway. There was no certainty that there was any attack (and there still isn’t). Saying that one tanker was about to head to the US was not only irrelevant, but provocative. It was on its way to Saudi Arabia to load oil bound for the US (according to the Saudis). Putting the misreported “attack” in the context of “that warning about threats from Iran” is pure propagandistic parroting of US government scare-mongering.

But that was just the lead-in to veteran reporter Martha Raddatz – surely she’d bring some sane perspective to bear, right? Wrong. She made it worse, talking in a tone suitable for a “they-just-attacked-Pearl-Harbor” report. Somberly treating the alleged attack as a matter of fact, Raddatz framed it with a conclusion supported by no evidence whatsoever:

This comes at an extremely tense time in the region with the U.S. warning just days ago that Iran or its proxies could be targeting maritime traffic in the oil rich Persian Gulf region. Although we do not know who carried out this morning’s attack on these ships, we know four were sabotaged off the coast in the Persian Gulf and it caused significant structural damage to two Saudi oil tankers. One of the Saudi ships was on its way to pick up Saudi oil for delivery to the U.S. Last week the U.S. urgently dispatched a carrier strike group, B-52 bombers and Patriot missile battery to the region after it said there were unspecified threats to American forces in the region. Iran’s news agency this morning saying the dispatch of the warships was to exaggerate the shadow of war and frighten the Iranian people. But this is a very dangerous development.

Could Sarah Huckabee Sanders have said it better? 

Posing as a journalist, Martha Raddatz ratchets up the Trump administration’s scare campaign based on nothing more than fear tactics. She’s so busy trying to scare us, she doesn’t even get the geography right. The alleged attack didn’t happen in the Persian Gulf. The four ships that were supposedly attacked were in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of the UAE. Almost all the rest of what Raddatz reports as “fact” comes from government press releases.

And that’s not the most shameful part for Raddatz and ABC News. Worse than botching facts large and small is the willingness of such mainstream media players to team up with elements of the US government seeking war with Iran at almost any cost.

CBS News coverage was little better, not only putting the action in the Persian Gulf, but upping the number of ships “attacked” to six. CBS did manage a small saving grace, concluding: “Whatever the case, the tensions here have only risen since President Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, brokered between Iran and world powers.”  

Well, yes, THAT is the crux of the mess. The US unilaterally tries to pull out of a multilateral international agreement that all other parties say is working and we’re supposed to take the US seriously? Seriously? At this point, any reporter who accepts a government press release as authoritative should be summarily fired. At this point, that is inexcusable malpractice. Iran has abided by the nuclear deal, all the inspectors affirm that. The other signatories – China, Russia, GB, France, Germany, and the EU – all affirm that. But they don’t stand up to the US effectively. They allow the US to bully them into joining the American economic warfare against Iran.

Over the next several days after it broke, the “oil tankers attacked” story slowly collapsed. Fact-based skepticism started to catch up with the official story. The UAE kept reporters from getting too close to the ships, which showed no serious damage. An anonymous US official blamed Iran, based on no evidence. US military officials in the Persian Gulf region stopped answering questions about whatever it was, referring questioners to the White House.

At this point, if the oil tanker attacks were either a warmongering hoax or false flag operation, it’s not going to have the same success as the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898 or the provocations of US warships in the Tonkin Gulf in 1964. There’s even an off-chance that a suspicious Congress and an even more suspicious public will manage to slow the rush to war, or even stop it. There are signs of some increased media wariness, also known as detachment. Perhaps the most hopeful signs are the leaked anonymous stories that the president really, really doesn’t want to go to war, which of course he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to, if he knows what he wants.

Another leaked story had it that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton are confident that they can lead Trump by the nose into the war they want with Iran and that Trump’s too stupid to understand what they’re up to. If Trump sees that, it might give peace a chance.

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William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+31 # DongiC 2019-05-18 20:06
Trump & Co are getting desperate. Maybe, it's all those damned subpoenas. Trump may need a war to deflect growing public animosity. He's preparing for action against Iran, a suitable fall guy. How obvious can the sappy Americans get. Gosh, they are worse than amateurs.
+35 # RICHARDKANE.Philadelphia 2019-05-18 20:42
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyru is about to be indited on corruption. He is determined to change the rules on a sitting Prime Minister. Suddenly Trump is turning the heat on Iran, Suddenly there is minor acts of Sabotage on Saudi Ships that seem designed not to kill anyone. Earlier Trump suddenly tilted US Middle East policy to make Netanyahu shine right before Netranyahu barely won a tight election.
+12 # janie1893 2019-05-19 00:33
Each major media network wants to be the first to break the news that American action has ended the world as we know it!!
+20 # futhark 2019-05-19 01:30
When substitute teaching in high school history classes, I usually make a point of looking at the account given of the "Gulf of Tonkin Incident" that was used by the Lyndon Johnson administration to get popular support and Congressional funding for the disastrous Vietnam War. I am happy to report that recent textbook accounts on this issue admit that this was a bogus ploy on behalf of the military. It is good that the next generation is growing up to be more savvy about flimflam news stories being used to ramp up the violence engulfing our planet and distracting us from the real issues of climate change and sustainable energy production that are the actual threats.
+24 # jcdav 2019-05-19 05:59
AH, shades of the bay of Tonkin false flag operation, or, wait a minute, actually like the battleship Maine in Havana harbor in 1898. We are indeed reliving the 1890's--Golden age indeed.
+16 # vt143 2019-05-19 06:49
#gulfoftonkin20 19
+23 # Texas Aggie 2019-05-19 07:44
The worst part is that the war mongers who are trying to get us into a war with Iran aren't even bright enough to come up with an original excuse. They're using the Gulf of Tonkin excuse with nothing original added. You have to wonder how well a war is going to go with mental midgets like that in charge.

How well did the Iraq debacle go with supposedly intelligent, experienced people in charge?
+1 # laborequalswealth 2019-05-21 07:43
Nope. The worst part is not one of these murderous cowards has ever even heard a shot fired in anger. Just a pack of sniveling chicken hawk bullies.
+10 # Kootenay Coyote 2019-05-19 08:17
Propaganda; sorry, 'disinformation ', as it's now euphemisticly labelled. Gulf of Tonkin, anyone?
+10 # Salus Populi 2019-05-19 09:32
The best thing Iran could do at this point, though it is highly unlikely to do so given sovereignty and national pride, is to invite both the Russians and the Chinese to position a battalion of soldiers in Tehran, with a lot of fanfare. This, combined with addresses by the heads of the two states, would put the Boltons and Pompeos, who are basically cowardly bullies, on notice that attacking Iran will lead to World War III. And keep in mind that since the March 2018 Putin state of the nation address to the Duma, the U.S. has every reason to believe that despite the imbalance in money spent on the military, Russia now has weapons that are at least a decade ahead of those of the U.S., including hypersonic missiles that none of the U.S. shields can deflect.
+10 # PABLO DIABLO 2019-05-19 10:35
"The American people have got to know their President is not a crook". --- R Nixon
"I don't want war". --- D Trump
+9 # yolo 2019-05-19 13:55
Trump also wanted out of Syria yet he was dragged back in when propaganda was used to claim Syrian government forces had used chemical weapons. It was determined to be a staged false flag attack done by rebel forces backed by Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Britain and the US. The same forces in the middle east which want the US to intervene in Iran will find ways to create an attack to force Trump to do their bidding. Trump is a pawn like Bush before him. Events he can't control, will occur and he will react predictable by blaming Iran, when the reality will be Iran will gain nothing by attacking US assets, and will have had nothing to do with the attacks it will be blamed for.
+6 # crispy 2019-05-19 20:46
Trump strongly believe the way to be re-elected is to be a WAR PRESIDENT. He predicted Obama was going to do it. He was wrong; democrats do not do this but every republican president since Eisenhower has done it!
+1 # WBoardman 2019-05-20 19:05
May 20, a week after the alleged "attacks" and
still no detailed information.

Apparently at least three of the tankers remain
at anchor off Fujairah.
0 # RussellB 2019-05-30 17:20
And where is the Democratic Party in all of this? Anybody hear any comments from the folks who want to be our next president?

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