June 15, 2009
It's fast congealing into conventional wisdom that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole re-election through fraud and that the so-called "green revolution" of Mir-Hossein Mousavi--which was based in the country's intelligentsia and middle class--got robbed.
But a strong case can be made that the large turnout, which was estimated at about 85 percent, was the key to a genuine landslide for Ahmadinejad, who is viewed as a friend of more traditional Iranians from the working classes and among the rural peasants.
That is the assessment expressed by Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty in a Washington Post op-ed citing their findings from extensive polling across Iran in mid-May that detected roughly the same 2-to-1 margin in favor of Ahmadinejad that emerged from the final tallies.
However, Ballen and Doherty reported that "our survey indicated " that Azeris favored Ahmadinejad by 2 to 1 over Mousavi."
Their poll also undercut the widespread media assumption about Internet-savvy youth backing Mousavi. They found that only 1 in 3 Iranians have access to the Internet and the "18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all age groups."
Nevertheless, the rush to the "fraud" judgment among much of the U.S. news media is shaping the political realities that now confront both Washington and Tehran. One of the snap media judgments has been that Ahmadinejad's "theft" of the election proves that hardliners in Israel and neoconservatives in the United States were right all along about the impossibility of dealing rationally with Iran, that President Barack Obama was the "big loser," and that force is the only option to employ against Iran.
It also has been curious to see U.S. news organizations care suddenly about legitimate elections when most of them ignored, ridiculed or covered-up evidence that George W. Bush stole the U.S. presidential election in 2000 and possibly in 2004 as well.
In Election 2000, Florida--a state controlled by Bush's brother Jeb and Jeb's cronies--was the scene of widespread election irregularities. Then, when a recount was attempted, the Bush campaign sent well-dressed hooligans from Washington to Miami to stage a riot aimed at intimidating vote counters. Finally, Bush got five partisan Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the counting of votes and award the White House to Bush.
Yet, the U.S. press corps was extraordinarily passive about this well-documented election theft. Even when it became clear that Al Gore won the popular vote and would have carried Florida if all legal ballots had been counted, major U.S. news organizations, including the New York Times and CNN, misrepresented the facts to protect Bush's "legitimacy." [See Consortiumnews.com's "Gore's Victory."]
Similarly, serious irregularities in Election 2004, especially in the key state of Ohio, were never seriously investigated by the mainstream news media, which instead mocked Internet sites (including ours) and citizens groups as "conspiracy theorists" for citing some of the bizarre vote tallies favoring Bush. [For details, see our book, Neck Deep.]
Yet, when an election occurs in another country and an "unpopular" leader appears to win, an opposite set of rules apply. Anyone who doesn't immediately accept the assumption of voter fraud is naïve; every "conspiracy theory" is cited respectfully while contrary evidence is downplayed or ignored, for instance the assumption about the Azeri vote that Ballen and Doherty debunked with their poll findings.
Another irony is that Iran's religious leaders now have ordered an investigation of the fraud allegations in a country not known for its democratic institutions. That is more than Americans got in 2000 and 2004.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.