I've spent the last two days puzzling over Sy Hersh's latest New Yorker
piece about the prospect of war with Iran. There's no question in my mind that the Cheneyites want to be the "real men" who go to Tehran. Fourthbranch Cheney may have lost the skirmish
inside the Administration on North Korea, but it's clear the country with the oil in it is the bigger prize, and in a way, has always been the focus.
I know there's a lot of talk about Israel going ahead with an airstrike
, but Hersh doesn't buy it, and neither do I. Fourthbranch doesn't believe they have the firepower
needed to penetrate the deeply embedded facilities he thinks the Iranians have, and he figures the US would be blamed for any attack anyway, so why not go ahead with it. Furthermore, the Israelis are doing too much talking
about this, telegraphing the fact that they don't want to actually do it. If they were serious about attacking, nobody at the New York Times
would get briefed about preparatory maneuvers.
About 13 years ago, while working on a British TV magazine program, I found myself spending a couple of days with Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls/the Notorious B.I.G. (I swear, I still have the tape, but it’s analog.) This extended interview took place at the time when Tupac Shakur was yelling from the rooftops that he was going to kill Brooklyn’s greatest rapper, and getting plenty of publicity and selling records by doing so. Biggie wasn’t particularly alarmed. He’d been a hustler in Bed-Stuy for too long to take seriously threats that are broadcast. In far more colorful language, he said words to the effect of “On the streets, when someone is telling anyone who’ll listen that they’re going to kill you, you don’t have to lose any sleep over it. You’re not going to hear about it beforehand when the real killer comes.”
Exactly. (Yes, I know, Biggie was eventually, tragically, murdered — but his point is proven by the fact that his killers had nothing to do with Tupac.)
So Fourthbranch wants to take the shot himself (Israel's even asking them to do it for them
, which is the point of all the talk). And if you're someone like Sy Hersh who thinks that is abhorrent, that it would be deeply destabilizing and catastrophic to this country's national security, you do whatever you can to stop it. So he's been reporting about the imminent possibility of an attack, in the hopes that the presence of the articles will become a deterrent. He's revealed that the weapons have been moved into position, the exercises prepped, the bombing routes checked. He knows he can't rely on the Democratic Congress, obviously; as this latest article shows, the only people who have been standing in the way of war with Iran are at the Pentagon.
A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.” Gates’s comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates’s answer, the senator told me, was “Let’s just say that I’m here speaking for myself.” (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator’s characterization.) [...]
Admiral Fallon acknowledged, when I spoke to him in June, that he had heard that there were people in the White House who were upset by his public statements. “Too many people believe you have to be either for or against the Iranians,” he told me. “Let’s get serious. Eighty million people live there, and everyone’s an individual. The idea that they’re only one way or another is nonsense.”
When it came to the Iraq war, Fallon said, “Did I bitch about some of the things that were being proposed? You bet. Some of them were very stupid.”
Hersh is basically writing what he hopes are self-negating columns. He wants the very act of publishing, of making transparent all these efforts to bomb Iran and the pushback, to deter the Administration. This is pretty much Spencer Ackerman's take
, and so far, so good.
However, what Hersh is putting up front in this piece is that the war has actually already begun:
Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.
Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.
The reason for the Finding, which is yet another hideous example of playing with fire (we're arming and training Sunni fundamentalist Baluchis from the same region as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?), is that the normal blueprint for ginning up a war in the Middle East hasn't worked. Cheney initially took the Iraqi pre-war marketing plan, with neocons in high places
going to battle on the op-ed pages and TV, articles about Iranian perfidy strategically placed, and the like. Didn't cause more than a ripple, and after the NIE showing Iran discontinued their nuclear program years ago, dead on arrival. It should be known that the NIE itself, finally released after years of delay and attempted suppression
, is now a fading memory in the national consciousness. It's a wonder we got it out at all:
The onetime undercover agent, who has been barred by the CIA from using his real name, filed a motion in federal court late Friday asking the government to declassify legal documents describing what he says was a deliberate suppression of findings on Iran that were contrary to agency views at the time.
The former operative alleged in a 2004 lawsuit that the CIA fired him after he repeatedly clashed with senior managers over his attempts to file reports that challenged the conventional wisdom about weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Key details of his claim have not been made public because they describe events the CIA deems secret [...]
"On five occasions he was ordered to either falsify his reporting on WMD in the Near East, or not to file his reports at all," (his attorney Roy) Krieger said in an interview.
So Plan B was launched - to start a dirty war inside Iran, using enemies of the Iranian government, in the hopes that they can spark an event that the Administration can credibly call an act of aggression. They had to get the go-ahead from the Gang of Eight in Congress, which buckled (again). But they authorized a very different program than Fourthbranch ended up implementing:
Under the Bush Administration’s interpretation of the law, clandestine military activities, unlike covert C.I.A. operations, do not need to be depicted in a Finding, because the President has a constitutional right to command combat forces in the field without congressional interference [...]Emptywheel
“This is a big deal,” the person familiar with the Finding said. “The C.I.A. needed the Finding to do its traditional stuff, but the Finding does not apply to JSOC. The President signed an Executive Order after September 11th giving the Pentagon license to do things that it had never been able to do before without notifying Congress. The claim was that the military was ‘preparing the battle space,’ and by using that term they were able to circumvent congressional oversight.
has more on this aspect of the White House evading oversight so they can set the fuse for a casus belli
. Clearly they want to "prep the battle space" and garner just enough support to go over the heads of the wavering generals and launch the attack of their dreams. And the fact that just talking about this stuff enough raises the price of oil
makes it a win even if they lose.
Here's how Fourthbranch tried to get to Hersh
the last time he foiled one of his dastardly plans:
...it's May, 1975, and Seymour Hersh of the New York Times has just broke the story of a secret submarine mission inside Soviet territorial waters.
Here's Dick Cheney's handwritten notes on how the Ford administration might proceed next: "go after Hersh papers in his apt."
I don't know what it'll be this time. But it's clear to me, as we approach July 4th, that there's no better patriot in this country than Seymour Hersh, taking on the job of 236 Democrats in the House and 50 in the Senate, trying to hold off this insanity for a few more months before transitioning into a new Adminstration which will hopefully recognize the broad consensus
for negotiation and diplomacy with the Islamic Republic as opposed to the folly of war.
Labels: CIA, covert operations, Democrats, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, intelligence, Iran, Israel, National Intelligence Estimate, nuclear weapons, Robert Gates, Seymour Hersh, William Fallon