Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker’s Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative journalist, has a new article warning that there is “a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning” for war with Iran inside the Bush administration. He reports that the administration has switched its rationale for war, from a broad bombing attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities to “surgical” strikes against Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere.
In today’s press briefing, reporters questioned White House spokeswoman Dana Perino about Hersh’s article. Perino refused to address the substance of the piece, instead dismissing Hersh’s journalism and credibility:
Every two months or so, Sy Hersh writes an article in The New Yorker magazine and CNN provides him a forum in which to talk about his article and all the anonymous sources that are quoted in it.
Unwilling to accept her talking points, reporters continued to pepper Perino with questions. “We are pursuing a diplomatic solution with Iran,” she repeatedly insisted. One reporter shot back, “That’s what he [Bush] said before we went to Iraq, too.”
It’s no wonder that Perino is unwilling to discuss the facts in Hersh’s piece. As Bill Kristol noted, Hersh’s revelations are “scar[ing] people away” from a “limited and credible military option against Iran.”
QUESTION: Dana, can I follow on that? This weekend, The New Yorker magazine came out with an article claiming that this summer the president, or at least the White House in general, asked the Joint Chiefs to redraw plans to attack Iran. Is that true?
PERINO: Look, you know, I’m glad you brought it up. Every two months or so, Sy Hersh writes an article in The New Yorker magazine and CNN provides him a forum in which to talk about his article and all the anonymous sources that are quoted in it.
PERINO: Look, the president has said that he believes there is a diplomatic solution that we can use to solve the Iranian problem. And that’s why we’re working with our allies to get there.
QUESTION: That’s what he said before we went to Iraq, too.
QUESTION: But what’s the — can you answer as to the substance of whether or not the White House asked? I mean, if it’s not true, then you can say Sy Hersh is wrong and CNN was wrong to air it. You can say it.
PERINO: We don’t discuss such things.
PERINO: We don’t discuss such thing. What we have said and what we are working toward is a diplomatic solution in Iran. What the president has also said is that as a president, as a commander in chief — and any commander in chief would not take any option off the table — but the option that we are pursuing right now is diplomacy.
QUESTION: But the article very specifically said that this summer in a video conference, a secure video conference, with Ambassador Crocker, the president said that he was thinking about, quote, hitting Iran, and also that…
PERINO: I’m not going to comment on that. One, I don’t know. I wouldn’t have been at that type of meeting. I don’t know. I’m not going to comment on any possible — any possible scenario that an anonymous source continues to feed into Sy Hersh. I’m just not going to do it.
QUESTION: Why should anybody believe that the president wants a diplomatic solution. He said that before he went to Iraq. PERINO: Because he’s sought a diplomatic solution in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein defied the U.N. Security Council 17 times.
QUESTION: Well, the history we’ve learned since suggests otherwise.
PERINO: That the president didn’t — that Saddam Hussein defied 17 U.N. Security Council resolutions?
QUESTION: No. The president was intent on going to war in Iraq in any case.
PERINO: No, the president has pursued a diplomatic option. He went to the U.N. Security Council, and then we proceeded.
QUESTION: Would he consult — would he tell Congress before he attacked Iran — before he attacks Iran?
PERINO: We are pursuing a diplomatic solution with Iran.