Sunday, April 16, 2006

# Posted 9:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HERSH PART 2: THE SUBSTANCE. In the post below, I explain why I'm still writing about Seymour Hersh two whole weeks after his latest unnamed-source broadside at the administration. Now, I want to take a closer look at the substance of his recent article in the New Yorker.

But first, one more note on why I'm interested. I have generally taken it for granted that liberals recognize that Bush & Co. recognize that a military conflict with Iran in the next few years must be avoided at all costs. I have taken it for granted that liberals recognize that Bush & Co. reconize that our military is stretched to its limit and must rest and rebuild before any conflict with Iran.

But then I read these two comments from Kevin Drum (with whom I disagree so often precisely because I enjoy reading his blog so much and respect him considerably):
1. What's important isn't the existence of the contingency plans [for bombing Iran]. Rather, it's the fairly obvious fact that the Bush administration is publicizing them as part of a very public PR campaign in favor of a strike against Iran.

2. Connect the dots. "Promoting regime change from within" = the Iranian exile community. The Iranian exile community = source of dubious intelligence about Iran's nuclear program. Iran's nuclear program = excuse to go to war. Why change a winning game plan?

3. Hersh's piece is based almost entirely on anonymous sources, so take it for what it's worth. But it warrants reading regardless. It may or may not be a bluff, but the PR campaign for an air strike against Iran is clearly moving into high gear.
What I expected from Kevin was an argument that the Bush administration, despite its bull-headed inability to admit past mistakes, has embraced precisely the kind of multilateral strategy that Democrats wanted to deploy against both Iran and Iraq from the get go.

Against this background, I think it's interesting to consider the substance of Hersh's article. As Patrick pointed out before, any discussion of Hersh's work gets weighed down quickly under an avalance of "if"s.

In spite of such uncertaintly, I think there is an important distinction to be made between the facts that Hersh alleges and the states of mind about which his sources speculate. As it turns out, there are very few of the former and very many of the latter in his article about Iran.

The key facts that Hersh alleges are as follows:
One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites...

The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, [the former senior intelligence official] added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran—without success, the former intelligence official said. “The White House said, ‘Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.’ ”...

The matter may soon reach a decisive point, [the Pentagon adviser] said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran.
This is Hersh's basic narrative about the nuclear option. A plan exists. The Joint Chiefs sought to take the plan off the table. The White House refused. The rest of the details only serve to support the uncertain validity of this account.

While it may seem amazing to some that the White House wants to keep the nuclear option on the table, it's hard to know what the real significance of this alleged fact is. Is it just a matter of prudent planning? Or an indication of a reckless, even deranged mindset?

Hersh makes the case for the latter by providing us with speculations about the President's state of mind that are rather outlandish:
A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon...said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”...

One military planner told me that...“People think Bush has been focussed on Saddam Hussein since 9/11,” but, “in my view, if you had to name one nation that was his focus all the way along, it was Iran.”...

Speaking of President Bush, [a senior member of the House Appropriations committee] said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”
And here is the paragraph with which Hersh's article closes:
The [high-ranking] diplomat [in Vienna] went on, “There are people in Washington who would be unhappy if we found a solution. They are still banking on isolation and regime change. This is wishful thinking.” He added, “The window of opportunity is now.”
Let's summarize: Bush supposedly believes none of his successors can be trusted to handle Iran. Bush has been secretly obsessed with Iran even though everyone thinks he was obsessed with Iraq. Bush is an unstable Christian fundamentalist. Bush prefers war and regime change to negotiation and disarmament.

If some of these supposed insights into Bush's state of mind came from people who worked closely with the President or had regular interaction with him, I might rate them as being a marginally credible sort of speculation. Instead, they come from a "consultant", a "planner", a congressman and a "diplomat".

Nonethless, it is these speculations about Bush's state of mind that have transformed Hersh's thin factual [?] narrative into an international sensation. Thus, the question we should be asking is not how truth there is to Hersh's reporting, but whether he has reported much of anything at all.
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This is off topic, but did you watch Meet the Press on sunday. When the muslim guy mentions sodomy the camera quickly switched to the Catholic priest.
Is Patrick Belton still writing for Oxblog?
Anon, if you scroll down a bit you will find the answer to your question.
David, your points do make a case for a large FUD component to Hersch's article. What has struck me most readily, however, is the resonance this has with particular groups in the opposition party's funding base.

Those I've spoken with are nearly hysterical about it, and they're *not* laughing! The real non-nuclear alternatives for the adminstration won't appear until at least 2008, when the Iraqi Army's got tighter security in place, and a minimal logistics base of their own.

Much of the current maneuvering by Iraqi agents of Iran in Iraq's political negotiations seems to be about delaying the day when a large US force is rested, trained, and free to head East from Basra, Kirkuk, and points in between. In the meantime, those here who can get the money flowing to the opposition party don't seem to have many scruples about terrifying their funding base just as we start into the 2006 election season.

Why should this be a complex article to explain, since it's so easily refuted as a decision-making tool in the fashion you showed. It keeps pressure on Bush, while building a warchest for September and October 2006.


Tom billings
I think it is all because of the jews and their israel loving compatriots. Thoughts?
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