Monday, August 14, 2006

Sy Hersh: White House helped plan Israel's war. Are we surprised?

Big, big news coming from the single most influential investigative journalist in America.

The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preĆ«mptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

“The big question for our Air Force was how to hit a series of hard targets in Iran successfully,” the former senior intelligence official said. “Who is the closest ally of the U.S. Air Force in its planning? It’s not Congo—it’s Israel. Everybody knows that Iranian engineers have been advising Hezbollah on tunnels and underground gun emplacements. And so the Air Force went to the Israelis with some new tactics and said to them, ‘Let’s concentrate on the bombing and share what we have on Iran and what you have on Lebanon.’ ” The discussions reached the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he said.

“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”

If, knowing what we know now, they still decide to go ahead with a military option against Iran, they’ll be courting disaster. This particular conflict isn’t the U.S. vs. Iran, at least not directly. It’s not even Israel vs. Lebanon. It’s Israel vs. Hezbollah. From a strategic standpoint, Israel’s goal of shutting down Hezbollah’s rockets has been an utter failure. Washington has to recognize this. And, at least, some of them do:

According to Richard Armitage, who served as Deputy Secretary of State in Bush’s first term—and who, in 2002, said that Hezbollah “may be the A team of terrorists”—Israel’s campaign in Lebanon, which has faced unexpected difficulties and widespread criticism, may, in the end, serve as a warning to the White House about Iran. “If the most dominant military force in the region—the Israel Defense Forces—can’t pacify a country like Lebanon, with a population of four million, you should think carefully about taking that template to Iran, with strategic depth and a population of seventy million,” Armitage said. “The only thing that the bombing has achieved so far is to unite the population against the Israelis.”

So it’s not just random blogger CarbonDate seeing these things, it’s their own people who recognize this. If I know these creeps at all, they didn’t have a Plan B for Iran, either. They planned on this strategy working. But it’s not.

The consultant added, “Israel began with Cheney. It wanted to be sure that it had his support and the support of his office and the Middle East desk of the National Security Council.” After that, “persuading Bush was never a problem, and Condi Rice was on board,” the consultant said.

Makes sense. Go to the man in charge.

There’s much, much more at the link. I suggest you click on it and read the whole thing. It’s a real eye-opener.

The White House is denying it, of course:,1,3102351.story?coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=1&cset=true

WASHINGTON — The White House on Sunday vigorously denied a report in the New Yorker magazine that the Bush administration had worked with Israel to plot military action against Hezbollah as part of a long-term plan to target Iran, a longtime supporter of the Shiite Muslim militant group.

"The piece abounds in fictions," White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said in an e-mailed response to a request for comment. He also assailed reporter Seymour M. Hersh's use of unnamed sources, saying it was "hard to imagine that the story would meet any major news organization's standards for sourcing and verification."

Ha, ha; what, like FOX News, your old employer Tony? Look, if you want to dispute the accuracy of the piece, that’s fine and expected. But seeing Tony Snow assailing the journalistic integrity and professionalism of the guy who broke the story of the Mai Lai massacre and Abu Ghraib is a bit much to stomach.

National security advisor Stephen J. Hadley said in an e-mailed response: "The suggestion that the U.S. and Israel planned and coordinated an attack on Hezbollah — and did so as a prelude to an attack on Iran — is just flat wrong."

“And coordinated.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe the claim was ever made that the U.S. was involved with coordinating the attacks, only planning them. Of course, Hadley knows that. This sort of straw-man denial is SOP for these guys.

Sooner or later they’ll be backed into a corner where they can’t deny that this happened. Then they’ll go from denying it to justifying it, much like they did with the Valerie Plame outing.

More later.

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