FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Two Months Later, Hersh and the New Yorker Strain to Catch Up With CounterPunch

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Late last week the New Yorker released a 6,000 word story by Seymour Hersh under the vague title, “Preparing the Battlefield”. The lead paragraph ran as follows:

“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.”

Beyond the assertion in the second paragraph that secret ops against Iran by US military and CIA are being “significantly expanded”, that was about it so far as hot news was concerned. There’s actually incredibly little detail in the 6,000 words about the actual Finding. Most of the rest of Hersh’s essay led the reader in discursive fashion  through comical interludes of zero political consequence, fairly stale news, (such as the scale of differences between the White House and Admiral Fallon) and lengthy cites from Col. Sam Gardiner about the internal political situation in Iran. As traditional in Hersh’s pieces, there was a quote from Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. officer.

The comical interludes consisted of quotations, relayed with apparent seriousness by Hersh, from Democrats tying to rationalize the fact that the leaders of their party, now in a majority in Congress, had meekly signed on to Bush’s request for up to $400 million in secret funding.

Here’s a sample of whining and mumbling from Rep David Obey: “I suspect there’s something going on, but I don’t know what to believe. Cheney has always wanted to go after Iran, and if he had more time he’d find a way to do it. We still don’t get enough information from the agencies, and I have very little confidence that they give us information on the edge.”

And here’s another from an unnamed Democratic whiner: “A member of the House Appropriations Committee acknowledged that, even with a Democratic victory in November, ‘it will take another year before we get the intelligence activities under control.’ He went on, ‘We control the money and they can’t do anything without the money. Money is what it’s all about. But I’m very leery of this Administration.’ He added, ‘This Administration has been so secretive.’”

As Hersh’s hodge-podge narrative got play over the weekend, CounterPunchers read his supposed disclosures with an impatient and knowing sigh. They, after all, had learned of the Finding back on May 2, when Andrew Cockburn disclosed its contents here, with a good deal more pep and hard information, under the headlines, Democrats Okay Funds for Covert Ops SECRET BUSH “FINDING” WIDENS WAR ON IRAN”.

Here the first 256 words of  Andrew Cockburn’s CounterPunch exclusive, a brisk narrative against Hersh’s 6,000-word boustrophedonic plod, but – as is instantly apparent – far more informative:

Six weeks ago, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime that, according to those familiar with its contents, “unprecedented in its scope.” Bush’s secret directive covers actions across a huge geographic area – from Lebanon to Afghanistan – but is also far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted under its guidelines – up to and including the assassination of targeted officials.  This widened scope clears the way, for example, for full support for the military arm of Mujahedin-e Khalq, the cultish Iranian opposition group, despite its enduring position on the State Department’s list of terrorist groups.
Similarly, covert funds can now flow without restriction to Jundullah, or “army of god,” the militant Sunni group in Iranian Baluchistan – just across the Afghan border — whose leader was featured not long ago on Dan Rather Reports cutting his brother in law’s throat. Other elements that will benefit from U.S. largesse and advice include Iranian Kurdish nationalists, as well the Ahwazi arabs of south west Iran.  Further afield, operations against Iran’s Hezbollah allies in Lebanon will be stepped up, along with efforts to destabilize the Syrian regime. All this costs money, which in turn must be authorized by Congress, or at least a by few witting members of the intelligence committees.  That has not proved a problem.  An initial outlay of $300 million to finance implementation of the finding has been swiftly approved with bipartisan support, apparently regardless of the unpopularity of the current war and the perilous condition of the U.S. economy.

There are interesting differences between Andrew Cockburn and Hersh’s stories, not least on the matter of assassinations. CounterPunch’s story, in the lead, cites “assassination of targeted [Iranian] officials”, as part of the purview of the Finding. More than 1,100 words into his story Hersh gestures tactfully to  “potential defensive lethal action by U.S. operatives in Iran”. In other words, if President Ahmadinejad suddenly detected a CIA operative about to stab him and drew out his revolver, the operative would be entitled, in self defense, to kill Ahmadinejad first. That’s the way the Agency is. Punctilious to a fault.

Actually, it’s at this point, after the hokum about “potential defensive legal action” that Hersh detonates a real bombshell. He admits in print that someone got the story before him, something he disdained to do in the case of My Lai, initially excavated with incredible courage by the late Ron Ridenhour. Nor, in the case of Abu Ghraib has Hersh been keen to correct admiring interviewers and remind them that this was a scoop of CBS News. But in this New Yorker he writes: “(In early May, the journalist Andrew Cockburn published elements of the Finding in Counterpunch, a newsletter and online magazine.)”

He probably felt he had to. Hersh had called Andrew Cockburn’s home phone in Washington DC in early June, clearly peeved to have discovered that the  Finding had been described in detail on May 2 in CounterPunch. (By then it was not exactly a closely guarded secret, except to the traditional, near-dead U.S. press. At the time Hersh called, just under a million readers around the world had clicked directly onto the story on our site.) We would not go so far as to surmise that Hersh learned of the Finding from our story. But we do infer that Hersh’s stated informant on what was in the Finding, referred to by Hersh three times as “a former senior intelligence official”, as “the person familiar with the Finding” and as “the former senior intelligence official” knew less than what Andrew Cockburn’s source told him and thus what CounterPunch readers learned in timely fashion, and had their knowledge further enhanced by Andrew Cockburn’s follow-up story on May 30, “Rough Sledding for Bush’s Covert Iran Findingwhich disclosed, with pertinent detail, something readers of the New Yorker will not have learned, that  “So far, according to former officials with knowledge of the finding, the results have been in line with most other U.S. initiatives in the region, i.e. the strengthening of Iran.”

ALEXANDER COCKBURN can be reached at alexandercockburn@asis.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail