Hersh’s Journalistic Bomb—Muffled by Indifference
In his March 5th New Yorker piece, The Redirection, Hersh lights off the explosive accusation that the Administration’s new policy may benefit our enemies in the war on terrorism.
Seymour Hersh is an investigative journalist based in Washington, DC. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters. He won a 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International reporting, exposing the My Lai massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War. Hardly a lightweight or a partisan, Hersh received the 2004 George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting, given annually by Long Island University to honor “contributions to journalistic integrity and investigative reporting.” This was his fifth Polk Award, the first one being a Special Award given to him in 1969.
His critics say Hersh makes too frequent reference to anonymous sources, implying that some of these sources are unreliable or even made up. Countering that, David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, maintains that he is aware of the identity of all of Hersh's unnamed sources, telling the Columbia Journalism Review that
"I know every single source that is in his pieces.... Every 'retired intelligence officer,' every general with reason to know, and all those phrases that one has to use, alas, by necessity, I say, 'Who is it? What's his interest?' We talk it through."
In his March 5th New Yorker piece, The Redirection, Hersh lights off the explosive accusation that the Administration’s new policy may benefit our enemies in the war on terrorism. He writes;
The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney.
What a surprise that Dick Cheney has a taste for the clandestine. What a yawn. Which is exactly how it has been received by America’s nearly toothless investigative reporters, busying themselves instead with endless coverage of Britney Spears and American Idol.
Congress is equally emasculated, no matter its recent reversal of control. Hersh writes;
A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. “We haven’t got any of this,” he said. “We ask for anything going on, and they say there’s nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, ‘We’re going to get back to you.’ It’s so frustrating.”
Congress, on the rare occasions when it shows courage instead of partisan witch-hunts, has the power of subpoena. The press, on the rarer occasions when it leaves popular culture (such as Dana Priest’s Walter Reed piece) has, if it will use it, the power of legwork and a huge number of public and private individuals willing to cooperate.
Those contacts have historically been (as in Deep Throat) and will continue to be , anonymous. That charge discredits them not a whit, if they are properly cross-checked and held to the usual standards of journalism. Hersh continues;
The Bush Administration’s reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are
involved in today’s dealings.
Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion.
“One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”
If these revelations of the unwillingness of a paranoid vice president to depend upon the linchpins of American democracy are not explosive, for God’s sake, what is?
We cannot trust our friends? And yet Cheney argues to set up and fund alliances with the sworn terrorists this administration purports to fight ‘on behalf of America’s security.’
The CIA, that Cheney would (illegally) keep in the dark, is charged with ‘obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations, and persons, and reporting such information to the branches of the Government.’ Had it been paid attention to, instead of subverted by the Vice-President in 2002, we would not now be improperly in Iraq.
The uniformed military has thus far been far more loyal to the concepts of American effectiveness in the conduct of war than has the present administration. No prior administration has fired and retired so many flag officers—Truman was pilloried for relieving just one, general Douglas MacArthur.
It (the illegal run around Congress and the unconstitutional usurpation of checks and balances) has got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office. For sure. There is no other constitutionally empowered authority who would so eagerly derelict his sworn duty.
Hersh continues, in another noteworthy section of The Redirection;
I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in (john) Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State.
‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’ ” (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.) Negroponte stayed on as Deputy Secretary of State, he added, because “he believes he can influence the government in a positive way.”
Well, someone is going down that road and it sounds like it is the Vice-President, allied with a former convicted (and presidentially pardoned) felon--Elliott Abrams. There are countless illegalities currently being considered and, in some cases, implemented within the executive branch of the federal government.
It’s certainly arguable that impeachable offenses are being committed. It’s certainly likely that foreign deals, armaments, clandestinely (and illegally) acquired monies are being spread throughout the Middle East in direct support of entities sworn to the destruction of America. We've gone this wayward route before, arming Afghan insurgents against Russian forces, only to face those arms ourselves and paying a tragic price.
That the perpetrators, these co-conspirators against the checks and balances inherent in American government, share a thin hope that they are enabling offsetting powers deep within Islam is a wildly dangerous example of Cheney’s celebrated ‘darker side.’
Seymour Hersh’s explosive article has just blown a huge hole in the mostly abandoned road of journalistic responsibility . . . and injured no one . . . awakened no one. Indeed, it seems hardly to have been noticed. Cheney, Saudi Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams--the Iran-Contra plotter, who subsequently plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully withholding information from Congress--are at it again.
In what may be a treasonous enterprise, they continue to give the United States Congress the finger.
Senator Joe Biden is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Joe got pretty hot on the floor of the Senate last week, raging about administration policy in Iraq. A favorite on the Sunday talk shows, Biden is also running as a presidential candidate.
Where are you on this one, Joe?