Sunday, April 16, 2006

Seymour Hersh: Bush is on a Messianic Mission to 'Save Iran'

Despite the soothing assurances that the conflict has been exaggerated, the current tensions between the US and Iran just keep on mounting. The Iranians have been unyielding and unapologetic about their nuclear development, and President Ahmadenijad keeps on delivering inflamatory speeches in which he proclaims Iran's readiness to beat back any potential US attack. At the same time he's been raising the ire of Israel and the 'West' by talking about wiping it off the world map and expressing doubts about the Holocaust.

Presumably, Ahmadenijad thinks he's calling the Bush administration's bluff. After all the US military is bogged down in the grinding guerilla war and anarchy that has engulfed Iraq, and there's little sign of the situation improving. Add to this their commitments in Afghanistan and it's not hard to see that the US military apparatus has it's hand full. On top of that, the most reliable analyses are that Iran is probably several years away from developing any sort of nuclear weapon. In light of these factors, is the US military really willing and able to carry out a campaign against Iran at the present time? Ahmadinejad seems to be betting that the answer is no. When you can 'get away with it', why not increase tensions and 'stand up' to US pressure? Conflict with the US will likely strengthen the hold of the conservative forces that Ahmadinejad supports. Arguably, the increased tensions between the US and Iran following the Iraq invasion led to Ahmadinejad's election in the first place. Why not foment the clash that feeds the theocracy while the Goliath is paralyzed? It might sound like a 'clever' strategy, but maybe it's time for Mr. Ahmadinejad to reconsider that approach.

Recently the New Yorker published the latest eye-popping piece of investigative journalism from Seymour Hersh. Sy Hersh is the renowned journalist who was the first to expose the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq, as well as the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. Hersh's controversial article claims that the Bush White House has drawn up plans to launch a sustained bombing campaign, combined with covert operations, in order to destroy Iran's nuclear capacity and weaken its government. The ultimate goal of these military plans is to neutralize the Iranian threat by 'freeing' Iran from its oppressive theocracy. Hersh's article is based on interviews with several unnamed high level sources within the White House, military, and congress. Some of the sources describe Bush as 'Messianic' about the coming military campaign against Iran. One of the more shocking allegations is that the White House's extensive military strategizing has even included the possibility of using nuclear weapons to destroy some of Iran's underground military facilities. Predictably, the Bush administration has repudiated the article, calling Hersh's work 'ill informed' and 'wild speculation'.

Here's a link to a Wolf Blitzer interview of Sy Hersh (you need a Windows Media Player to view the video). Blitzer more or less gets Sy to give an 'executive summary' of the article. Here's a link to the transcript of the interview if you can't view the video.

US military folk in the know have seconded Hersh's sentiments on the situation. Here's a link to a CNN interview with former US Airforce Col Sam Gardiner. In it he expresses his opinion that an attack on Iran is likely, as well as describing how extensive a US bombing campaign would 'have to be'. In an article from June of last year, the former marine officer and Iraqi weapons inspector Scott Ritter claimed that clandestine US operations against Iran were already underway. Hersh himself reported about the existence of US-led covert operations in Iran over a year ago.

All of this definitely doesn't sound like promising news for the doves out there. I've heard some postulate that the Hersh 'leak' is just part of some elaborate head fake on the part of the administration. Get Hersh to report that the attack is imminent and Iran will start to capitulate to US demands out of desperation. While this doesn't sound totally implausible, I'm inclined to give Hersh much more credit than that in terms of verifying the legitimacy of his sources. The wide variety of his sources reporting different but converging information also makes a 'faked leak' seem unlikely. Finally, what Hersh reports appears to be completely in line with the Bush administration's previous track record. After all that has happened does anyone doubt that Bush and his cronies are not capable of carrying out this attack? This administration has shown an eagerness to use military force to achieve their objectives. I wouldn't bet on them not using their favorite tool in Iran.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.

From Dwight Eisenhower's famous 1961 speech warning against the power of the military industrial complex.


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