'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, January 17, 2005

A Global Free-Fire Zone 

Various commentators are treating the new Seymour Hersh New Yorker article as a big story to some degree but -- and maybe I'm imagining this -- I detect a certain amount of reluctance in the promotion of this article on the part of the liberal blog establishment, as though bloggers know they're supposed to view the article as important but can't muster up much enthusiasm.

As far as the mainstream media goes, we get apologists for the Bush administration like Wolf Blitzer actively playing down the importance of the story, insinuating basically that Hersh was reporting on contingency plans and that, you know, there are contingency plans for lots of things. And maybe liberals tacitly buy into that line. I think within the liberal blogosphere there is a misunderstanding about what is important in this story.

Hersh makes two primary claims in "The Coming Wars"; one is about Iran, the other is not. He claims that the Pentagon and the Pentagon civilians are serious about attacking Iran this year in much the same way they were serious about attacking Iraq in 2003, only this time secretly, using special forces and covert ops, etc. He quotes a "former high-level intelligence officer" who says

We're not dealing with a set of National Security Council option papers here ... They've already passed that wicket. It's not if we're going to do anything against Iran. They're doing it.

Hersh fleshes out the intelligence officer's allegation that "they're doing it" by reporting that some covert recon missions have already taken place in Iran.

Most discussion of "The Coming Wars" that I have read focuses on this claim. It comes down to Seymour Hersh, his unnamed sources, and their shocking revelations. Believe them or not -- and given Hersh's track record I'm inclined to -- the really scary theme of the article is its explication of the way in which this alleged Iran operation got underway.

Hersh claims that the Pentagon fought a war with the CIA and that the Pentagon won a total, uncontested victory. He claims that Rumsfeld has consolidated power to such a degree that he will be able to do as he pleases anywhere in the world without Congressional oversight, as one Pentagon adviser put it:
"It's a finesse to give power to Rumsfeld--giving him the right to act swiftly, decisively, and lethally ... It's a global free-fire zone."

The whole thing's ironic -- the way one used to carry out black operations was through the CIA. That was the point of the CIA. But after the scandals of the 70's, CIA clandestine military operations on foreign soil were forced to report to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Now the CIA is the cautious dinosaur the Pentagon is supposed to be -- because we've come full circle, because we have an administration in place that is so corrupt, that is so scornful of democracy and public transparency, that cares so little for the fundamental principles upon which our government was founded, that it is willing to cast aside the notion of separation of powers and the checks and balances that had made quasi-secret organizations like the CIA necessary actors in the business of covertly breaking international law in the first place. Hell, now they can just do it with the army.

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