Invading Iran

Sy needs to fill in the blanks
April 13, 2006 9:27:40 AM

Seymour HershFew investigative reporters have compiled the track record or amassed the career longevity of the notoriously cranky Seymour Hersh — who these days is churning out national-security scoops for the New Yorker. Now, the 69-year-old Hersh is making headlines — and provoking swift White House reaction — with his April 17 New Yorker story setting the table for potential military action against Iran. The piece features the eye-catching thesis that the Bush administration is again hankering for regime change and at least contemplating the prospect of using tactical nuclear weapons.

It’s fascinating and frightening stuff, written in Hersh’s singular style: straight-down-the-shaft linear prose with lots of anonymous quotes from grizzled insiders and tough guys. But reading “The Iran Plans” can be as frustrating as it is enlightening. Hersh portrays an administration — already militarily and politically bogged down in Iraq — using the same philosophy driven by the same people to repeat the same policy in Iran. In that case, two huge questions come to mind.
First, can it really be true that the situation in Iraq hasn’t given this administration a little more reason to pause, to view the virtues of multi-lateralism more warmly, and to question its ability to control events and manage the spiraling fallout from a major military operation? Is that possible?

Second, how will the great mass of American people — now giving Bush the lowest grades of his presidency and giving Capitol Hill Republicans the willies about the 2006 midterm elections — react if and when key administration figures start making belligerent noises about attacking another country in the Middle East on the basis of fears about its ability to acquire WMD and use them against us?

Hersh doesn’t fill in those very important blanks. And if he can’t finish the job, then New Yorker editor David Remnick should assign someone to do a companion piece looking at the political and philosophical questions raised by Hersh’s reporting. The venerable sleuth can always raise your pulse rate and blood pressure. But somebody needs to add some much-needed context.


Sy Hersh has been catching it from all sides since his story broke. I thought that when all the elements of the story were weighed it had the ring of truth. Firstly, the administration's response to events surrounding Iraq hasn't been just spin and bluster. The true believers really do feel that a few "tactical errors" should not take away from the the validity of their grand geopolitical scheme. It would be unwise to underestimate the foolhardy hubris of this crew. In the run-up to the war in Iraq, no one really thought that they would take us to war without giving serious consideration to the considerable doubts about their reasons and methods. They obviously did and without any chagrin will just as handily sweep aside objections to this latest foreign adventurism. Oh, it is quite possible. Secondly, the 2006 elections present only a small problem to the administration in their pursuit of the Iranian mission. The great mass of the American people will behave very much the way they did when they were bombarded with all the alarmist rhetoric concerning Saddam. The talking points for the demonization of the Iranian leadership are already floating about. The Bush administration has been working the IAEA enough to give the veneer of multi-lateralism to their effort and the peek behind the curtain that Hersh has given us isn't enough to throw them off track. They will doggedly pursue Iran because it really is the "money" shot to their Mideast gambit. Sometime early this summer the Republicans will come to a point when they must decide how to play the Iranian issue in the upcoming elections. They will make a choice between using it to rally voters around them or to wait until after the '06 election to play their hand in Iran. In full recognition of the audacity of Rove & company, I'm still betting on after the election. I just don't see it as Hersh's responsibility as an investigative reporter to fill in these speculative blanks. Just as with his early reporting on Abu Ghraib, he shouldn't be expected to answer for us the moral and philosophical questions about what we, as a country, present to the world. I don't think it is a mischaracterization to say that the great mass of American people, even after his reporting, accepted torture as an expedient means to our end. I don't think Sy Hersh would have made that choice and it is not his fault we did.

POSTED BY penheaded AT 04/13/06 6:50 PM
"The venerable sleuth can always raise your pulse rate and blood pressure. But somebody needs to add some much-needed context." Part of Hersh's credibility, somewhat paradoxically, comes precisely from his refusal to generalize or strategize from the story he is reporting. He delivers a picture of what is going on in the military, and leaves wider conclusions to others.

POSTED BY skirdhu AT 04/14/06 8:04 AM
Mark, I am sure that there are, and have been for some time, "contingcy plans" for Iran as thereare, cnstantly changing, for many parts of the world. I believe that Hersh has sized on these and hyped them wau up to give them theappearance of action that is at this time being seriously contemplated by the Bushies. I have NEVER felt comfortable with Hersh's reporting, and was almost burned by it once at The Atlantic.

POSTED BY Robert Manning AT 04/15/06 5:58 PM

Login to add comments to this article


Register Now  |   Lost password





Copyright © 2007 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group