Skip to comments.The Hersh File
Posted on 01/23/2005 5:59:35 AM PST by F14 Pilot
Tony Blankley thinks that Sy Hersh probably committed espionage with his latest article in The New Yorker, in which he breathlessly speaks of secret commando teams and joint American-Israeli efforts to target Iranian nuclear facilities. My pal Roger Simon rather suspects that Hersh was simply used by the Bush administration to make the mullahs even more nervous than usual. Hersh himself seems to think of himself as a seer, a prophet of upcoming military actions by the United States against a collection of terror-supporting enemies, starting with Iran. This is clear enough from his title, "The Coming Wars."
I have usually ignored Hersh's articles and books over the years, because there were so many errors in them that I could never figure out what, if anything, was true. Better to ignore him altogether than get sucked into a morass of confusion. And of course, Hersh has long specialized in stories that are severely damaging to the American mission. He almost never seems to think we have real enemies, he invariably takes the side of anti-American critics, and it never seems to occur to him that there are people in the government who are desperately trying to do the right thing. Real life is full of paradox, indecision, and error, with rare moments of decisiveness and coherence. But Hersh's world is black and white, there are clear winners and losers, and policy is driven by a handful of willful men and women who know where they want to go and how they want to get there.
I think thats plain crazy.
Still, "The Coming Wars" is ostensibly about Iran, so I thought it behooved me to take a look. But it was classic Hersh incoherence, almost from the beginning. Early on he says that he spoke to current and past defense and intelligence officials, but shortly thereafter he says, "The Defense Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on this story."
There was apparently no editor at The New Yorker who noticed that you cant have it both ways. For if "the Defense Department" wouldnt comment, then how could Hersh have spoken to current Defense officials? In fact, Hershs claim they wouldnt talk to me is not true. Prior to publication, senior Defense Department officials told Hersh that he was dead wrong on several counts something he might have mentioned, unpleasant though it is.
Internal inconsistency has always been one of Hershs trademarks, and "The Coming Wars" abounds with other examples. The most hilarious comes when his sources fess up that "the core problem is that Iran has successfully hidden the extent of its nuclear program, and its progress." I think thats right, and it follows that we'd have to be very careful about planning any operation against the Iranian nuclear program. But Hersh doesnt think in straight lines, because he somehow manages to claim, with a tone of utter confidence, that "(Hershs intelligence sources) believe that about three-quarters of the potential targets can be destroyed from the air, and a quarter are too close to population centers, or buried too deep, to be targeted." Once again, you really can't have it both ways: If the Iranians have hidden the program from us, we can't possibly know which ones can be hit from the air, because we just dont know. Thats what "successfully hidden" means.
I entirely agree with Roger that of course any rational administration would be going all-out to get all the information about the Iranian nuclear program. And I entirely agree with Tony Blankley that any journalist who reveals details of our quest for that information should be relegated to the lowest levels of Hell, whether the real thing or the legalistic equivalent. Guantanamo, maybe? No, no, only kidding, hoHo. But I don't think we need worry too much about Hersh's revealing the darkest secrets of American intelligence, because he doesn't have them. He can't even write a logically consistent paragraph.
Anyway, if you actually indulge your masochistic strain and read the whole thing, you will discover that this isn't really an article about American foreign policy. Its an overwritten and hyperventilated assault on Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, for, according to Hersh, crushing the CIA in the interagency battles over control of certain kinds of intelligence operations. The big quote (from "a former senior C.I.A. officer"): "For years, the agency bent over backward to integrate and coordinate with the Pentagon," the former officer said. "We just caved and caved and got what we deserved. It is a fact of life today that the Pentagon is a five-hundred-pound gorilla and the C.I.A. director is a chimpanzee."
Anyone familiar with Washington knows what that quote is all about. It's a classic "cover your a**" line, combined with a touch of "apres nous, la deluge." The guy is saying that things were manageable, but just barely, when he was there, but then he and his cohorts made the terrible mistake of cooperating with the Defense Department, and they got the shaft. So if anything goes wrong henceforth, the CIA is blameless; it's all Rumsfelds fault.
Like so much in the Hersh piece, this claim is ridiculous. If anything, Rumsfeld has been irresponsibly timorous in this, as in all other interagency battles. He famously refused to let DoD employees go work on the National Security Council Staff, thereby guaranteeing that the NSC would be manned by State Department and CIA professionals whose instincts would be different from those of Defense professionals. Rumsfeld meekly ceded total control over all investigations of WMDs in Iraq to the CIA. His intelligence czar, Stephen Cambone, has a hard-earned reputation as the CIAs Pentagon poodle. Nobody thinks Cambone is a threat to CIA's influence. There is indeed a battle of sorts going on over how much latitude our military forces should have in wartime, and its a serious question, far removed from the sort of drivel Hersh presents. The actual discussion stems from several cases in which the Pentagon had to get approval from the CIA and from State as well before proceeding with intelligence operations, even though time was of the essence. In some of those cases, approval either did not come, or it came too late. Those who want our commanders to have greater autonomy are not contrary to Hershs brief trying to circumvent congressional oversight or well-defined legal parameters. They are, rather, requesting clearer definition and a more efficient system.
But the funniest of all of Hershs little gags is the suggestion that aggressive self-assertion by the Pentagon which he perceives behind DoD and White House concerns about some aspects of the sweeping intelligence reform just passed by Congress will somehow diminish "competitive intelligence." It is precisely the opposite. The misconceived "reform" provides for greater centralization, and thus much less competition among the elements of the intelligence community. For CIA officials, past or present, to whisper the opposite is simply one more example of the deceptive character of those officials.
And of S. Hersh, their unconvincing mouthpiece.
SH is one of the unfortunate consequences of a free press. As always the only disinfectant for such insects is light.
"Hersh was simply used by the Bush administration to make the mullahs even more nervous than usual"
This is toooooo funny if this is true. They hoist Hersh on his own petard!! I love it!!
seen this before?