The Pentagon's Hersh Rhetoric

The Pentagon is doing its best to knock down Seymour Hersh's report in the latest New Yorker that covert U.S. teams are already in Iran scouting targets for the next exciting installment of the "global war on terrorism" (or "GWOT," as the boys in brass apparently call it).

But like a failed test of the missile defense system, the DoD's protests notably miss the heart of Hersh's claims.

Hersh, quoting his usual assortment of high-level and unnamed sources, reports that under a new regime of secret rules, Don Rumsfeld has won the authority to orchestrate black-bag ops "against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia," free from the congressional oversight to which CIA activities are subject. And Iran is the first stop:

    The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear, chemical, and missile sites, both declared and suspected. The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids.

But covert operations aren't the only options. "The Pentagon's contingency plans for a broader invasion of Iran are also being updated," Hersh continues, although he notes that these plans would have to be revised even if immediate action were not contemplated, given that the U.S. now has a ready launch pad for invading Iran: Iraq.

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For those looking for the fingerprints of the neocons, Hersh adds: "The immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least temporarily derail, Iran's ability to go nuclear. But there are other, equally purposeful, motives at work. The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership."

The Pentagon, dogged by Hersh's work from the heady days of My Lai to the icky events at Abu Ghraib, said in a statement from spokesman Larry Di Rita, "Mr. Hersh's article is so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed."

When it comes to Hersh's report that Doug Feith, one of the top neocons at DoD, is cooperating with Israeli officials on the plans to slam Iran, Di Rita accuses Hersh of "building on links created by the soft bigotry of some conspiracy theorists." (Israeli military intelligence says it believes Iran might have da bomb by 2007.)

Then it gets personal: "By his own admission, Mr. Hersh evidently is working on an 'alternative history' novel. He is well along in that work, given the high quality of 'alternative present' that he has developed in several recent articles."

Oooo, snap! But Di Rita finishes with a big dodge: "Mr. Hersh's preference for single, anonymous, unofficial sources for his most fantastic claims makes it difficult to parse his discussion of Defense Department operations."

Not really; Hersh says we have teams in Iran looking for targets for acts of war. Seems like a yes or no would do.

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