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Jewish World Review Jan. 26, 2005 / 16 Shevat, 5765

Michael Ledeen

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Hersh Predux


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Last week I noted that Sy Hersh, the celebrated New Yorker writer who specializes in getting things backwards, had been warning the world that secret Pentagon teams, in tandem with secret Israeli units, had been unleashed on the Iranian countryside to identify and target nuclear facilities. I also confessed that I rarely read Hersh's stuff, because so much of what he has written has proven wrong, and I prefer not to cloud my mind with material likely to be padded with disinformation. It's the same principle I apply to the evening network news and the New York Times: I'm better off without them.

Had I read more of Hersh, and did I not suffer from an onslaught of senior moments, I might have remembered that Hersh had written the same story before. I'm grateful to one of NRO's thoughtful readers for pointing me in a useful direction. Slightly more than three years ago (in the issue dated November 5, 2001), he wrote something for the New Yorker (lightheartedly labeled "FACT") called "Watching the Warheads." It's about Pakistan; and Hersh warns us that our hunt for Osama "has evolved into a regional crisis that has put Pakistan's nuclear arsenal at risk, exacerbated the instability of the government of General Pervez Musharraf, and raised the possibility of a nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India." And of course, Hersh darkly notes that the smart guys in Washington (the "government's intelligence and diplomatic experts") and the fools in town ("the decision-makers of the Bush Administration") are at odds over the matter. Indeed, it's led to "a serious rift."

That's one of the main themes of his more recent piece. The only difference is the target of opportunity. Then it was Pakistan; now it's Iran. Now, as then, according to Hersh's vision, Rumsfeld's guys are sneaking around: "In recent weeks an elite Pentagon undercover unit — trained to slip into foreign countries and find suspected nuclear weapons, and disarm them if necessary— has explored plans for an operation inside Pakistan." And then, as now, the Israelis are in it too: "The American team is apparently getting help from Israel's most successful special-operations unit, the storied Sayeret Matkal, also known as Unit 262, a deep-penetration unit that has been involved in...the theft and destruction of foreign nuclear weaponry."

The Israelis in this case were said to be helping our guys "at undisclosed locations," maybe in the United States. But it's the usual tandem. Do you think Hersh has a template for this story, and just changes the name of the country according to the evening news?

There's more along the same lines. Just as our spooks are uncertain about the precise locations of the Iranian nuclear sites, back in 2001 Hersh told us "the American intelligence community cannot be sure, for example, that it knows the precise whereabouts of every Pakistani warhead — or whether all the warheads that it has found are real." Which, by the way, raises a fascinating epistemological question, similar to "if a tree falls in a forest where no one can hear it, does it make a sound?" For Hersh would have us believe that our spies can both "find a warhead" and still be in doubt as to whether it's really a warhead. So what does "find" mean anyway?

Moreover, how is it that Hersh never seems to know that our European allies are quite helpful when it comes to nuclear questions? Why is it, for example, that we do not hear about the considerable assistance that we get from countries like Great Britain, Italy, and (sssshhh!) France. Only Israel. Just asking...

Moreover, in each of these stories, Hersh quotes some Washington potentates (ranging from his own anonymous insiders in "intelligence" to identified members of the opposition party in Congress) suggesting that the overall policy (then, Afghanistan, now, Iraq) is nuts. I had forgotten that Senator Biden — the ranking member of the appeasement-oriented Senate Foreign Relations Committee— had foamed at the mouth about our Afghanistan adventure. Hersh quotes Biden:

How much longer does the bombing continue? Because we're going to pay an escalating price in the Muslim world. We're going to pay an escalating price in the region. And that in fact is going to make the aftermath of our 'victory' more difficult...

If that's accurate, then I have to salute Biden for rare consistency. Unlike so many Democrats, who approved of the liberation of Afghanistan, the destruction of the Taliban, and the routing of al Qaeda, only to change their tune shortly after the liberation of Iraq, Senator Biden didn't want us to free any of the oppressed peoples of the Middle East. We can assume from the favorable treatment that Hersh agrees.

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Finally, Hersh's insiders always throw their hands in the air and proclaim that there's really nothing we can do about it. Today they tell us that we might just have to learn to live with a nuclear Iran. Back then, we hear from "a government expert" that "our nuclear strategy has to incorporate the fact that we might have a nuclear-armed fundamentalist government in Pakistan. Even if we know where the weapons are now [which we don't — ML], it doesn't mean we'll know where they are if the fundamentalists take over. And after Pakistan it could be Iran and Iraq...."

But not to worry. Most everything in the 2001 prophecy turned out wrong. Musharraf didn't fall, India-Pakistan relations have much improved, and the most obvious result of the liberation of Afghanistan is a happier country living in a remarkably freer polity. With free elections coming up in Iraq, and the Iranian people asking themselves why their neighbors are free while they are enslaved, it might well turn out that the entire vision of the Middle East was wrong.

Which would make the recent purge at CIA look pretty good. It would also make the oracle of the New Yorker look pretty silly. Yet again.


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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.

Up

01/24/05: The Hersh File
01/11/05: Circle Squared: Iran, Iraq, Syria
01/07/05: Not-So Great Debate: Torture and the war
12/31/04: Journalists at war
12/24/04: Values and Interests: The “insurgency” and the future of the Middle East
12/03/04: The End of the Left’s History: The world has moved on
11/30/04: Europe’s Ritual Dance: The Western counterpart of Iran’s deception
11/18/04: Porter’s Purge: What spymasters? 10/10/04: The War Cabinet: President Bush needs to reshape his top structure
10/08/04: Guardian Angels: Once again, our enemies save America
10/06/04: Iran, when? The war on terror cannot be won without addressing Iran
09/28/04: Know Thine Enemy: The beheadings are about them, not us

09/27/04: Iran, Impossible? Nope. The mullahs will go the way of the Evil Empire
09/21/04: Iranian Tales: An evil regime
09/01/04: An improbable molehunt
08/17/04: The Terror Masters Revisited: Let’s go to the videotape
08/16/04: The Iran-Iraq War, Again: Listen to the Iraqis (And, faster please)
08/11/04: Intelligence and Imagination: The only real 'fix' is good leadership and accountability
07/27/04: The Nature of the Enemy: Win first. Hearts and minds will come
07/26/04: The 9/11 Vision: Better, but not there yet
07/20/04: Are you sitting down? Iran is a terrorist state
07/13/04: The Great Intelligence Committee Report: Some mysteries remain unsolved
06/30/04: The Fears of the Terror Masters: If we want a peaceful Iraq we will have to confront the mullahs
06/29/04: The Iraqis and the Neocons: Arab democracy is a work in progress
06/23/04: Ready for $60-a-Barrel Oil?: The Iranian election strategy at work
06/15/04: Iran is making trouble, and finessing it is a dangerous strategy
06/02/04: Reagan Seen Plain: He changed the world 06/02/04: Quattrocchi's Killers: We are dealing with a truly international terror network
05/25/04: The Agency Rides Again: Angleton on Chalabi
05/24/04: Lying into the mirror: Misunderstaning the war on terror
05/18/04: Kristof’s Iran
04/19/04: The Iranian Hand: Regime change in Tehran is necessary for peace in Iraq
04/15/04: Dealing with the Libyans: Is Khaddafi about to cash out?
04/08/04: From Tyranny to Freedom: Democracy in Iraq has precedent
03/18/04: Drifting, Dangerously: We must support freedom
03/02/04: Once Upon a Spymaster, Part II: Returning to a conversation
02/24/04: The Great Iranian Election Fiasco: What actually happened; what we must do
02/20/04: Stalinist Mullahs: The Iranian regime is in open battle with its own people
02/11/04: The Jihadis' Primal Scream: Zarkawi's "Yaarrrhhh!"
02/04/04: Inelegant Lies: Making sense out of mullahs
02/03/04: Potemkin WMDs? Really?
01/27/04: The Jihad on Iraq: Bad analysis and bad policy
01/20/04: Our Moment of Vainglory: A p.c. mess
01/06/04: Aftershocks: The West must read the meter in Bam and Tehran
12/02/03: Managing Iraq: We can't continue this way
11/26/03: Back to the Angleton Files
11/25/03: The Turks, Italians & us — never again
11/06/03: Regional Struggle: Fighting narrow vision in Iraq
11/04/03: Unpunished Failure: What are we waiting for?
10/21/03: Curses: Diamonds and Naples
10/15/03: Into the Quagmire: Important days ahead for Iran
09/18/03: The Ayatollahs’ bomb: An invulnerability strategy
09/12/03: You can't make peace until the war is won
09/11/03: Ron Paul, dishonorable congressman
09/03/03: The Latest Horrors: Still organized
08/29/03: The Peace Trap: Back to the war, please
08/27/03: Angrier and Angrier: Self-deception, big-time
08/25/03: Iraq's terrorists have friends in high places
07/10/03: The Future of Iran: Armitage might want to rethink that "democracy" line
07/02/03: Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran?
06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
06/05/03: Academic Standards: A Middle East scholar has his way with the truth.
05/28/03: The Moment of Truth? U.S. policy could determine Iran's destiny
05/15/03: Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks
05/13/03: The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution
05/08/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen