David E. Weisberg

Roger Cohen of the NY Times peddles anti-American fake news

It comes as no surprise that Roger Cohen, op-ed writer for the NY Times, is not overflowing with praise for Pres. Trump’s decision to end U.S. participation in the Iran nuclear deal.  In a piece headed “Trump to Iran: America’s Word is Worthless” (May 8, 2018), he characterizes Pres. Trump’s decision as “grotesque,” “absurd,” “empty,” “scurrilous,” “Orwellian,” and a symptom of “Iran derangement syndrome.”  Mr. Cohen disapproves.

Moreover, it happens that Mr. Cohen is a Jew who takes great pride in regularly broadcasting his disapproval of other Jews.  Therefore, it goes virtually without saying that among the villains of the op-ed piece—in addition of course to Mr. Trump—are certain Jews.  Mr. Cohen writes:

“Trump was led to this decision not by any serious calculus about the deal, but by his susceptibility to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi fury at Iran, the pressure of conservative American Jews who support him and his iron principle that whatever Obama did must be bad.”

One wonders how Cohen knows what led Trump to his decision—did Trump confide in Cohen?  Did Trump tell Cohen that consideration of the best interests of the U.S. played absolutely no role?  That would be news.  Regardless, Cohen knows that, in large part, Jews are to blame.

In addition to the colorful collection of pejoratives and culprits catalogued above, Mr. Cohen furnishes a list of all the benefits the nuclear deal supposedly offers to the U.S. and the world at large.  According to him, the deal would provide a “bulwark against a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race,” and it also “had immense value in itself because it kept Iran much further from the bomb[.]”

We can debate whether the positive points Mr. Cohen makes are valid or not, but there is one factual issue that definitely is not a matter of opinion: the issue headlined in the title of his op-ed.  That is, does the decision to withdraw mean that “America’s word is worthless”?  Here are Cohen’s own words on that subject: “America has made a mockery of the value of its signature on an international agreement. The world will take note.”

What is remarkable about the foregoing assertion is the fact that there is no “signature” by any representative of “America” on the Iran nuclear deal; the “agreement” was never signed by the U.S., Iran, or any other country or entity; and in fact the so-called “agreement” is not an agreement at all.  And we know all this is true because the U.S. Department of State, under the Obama administration, stated unequivocally that it is.

In 2015, Mike Pompeo, who is now Secretary of State but was then a member of the House of Representatives, wrote to the State Department to inquire about the legal status of the Iran deal. The State Department responded, in a letter dated Nov. 19, 2015, as follows (using the formal terminology for the Iran deal): “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document….  The success of the JCPOA will depend not on whether it is legally binding or signed, but rather on the extensive verification measures we have put in place[.]”

Thus, we have it directly from Pres. Obama’s State Department that (1) the Iran deal is not a treaty, (2) the Iran deal is not an executive agreement, (3) the Iran deal is not a signed document, and (4) the Iran deal is not legally binding.  Notwithstanding all of that, Mr. Cohen asserts that Pres. Trump has made a “mockery” of America’s “signature” on an “agreement”.  Clearly, the only observable mockery is in Mr. Cohen’s relationship to accuracy.

Mr. Cohen resorts to the phrase “Iran derangement syndrome” in characterizing Pres. Trump’s decision to withdraw.  Because he has resorted to that faux-psychiatric terminology, I submit that it could be said, with much greater accuracy, that Mr. Cohen’s op-ed is a manifestation of “Trump derangement syndrome.”  In fact, Cohen is so susceptible to that disorder that, with a morbid compulsion to trash anything and everything connected with Trump, he ends up peddling anti-American fake news.

The claim that Trump has made a mockery of America’s signature on an international agreement is just that: anti-American fake news.  Iran and other countries that wish to harm the U.S. will be spinning that exact same “mockery” line.  But, if Mr. Cohen had done a just a bit of research, he would have learned that, according to Obama’s State Department, America never signed any legally-binding agreement at all.

Whether it was wise or unwise to withdraw from the Iran deal is a question open for debate.  But only an enemy of America or an ill-informed journalist obsessed with trashing Trump would assert that the president has made a mockery of America’s signature on an international agreement.  Mr. Cohen is not an enemy of America; he is, however, an ill-informed journalist.  The world, or at least some small part of it, will take note.

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at:
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