Earlier this week, in an article called “Preparing the Battlefield,” the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh reported that late last year, “Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran.” On MSNBC today, Andrea Mitchell asked Hersh if the U.S. was “planning military action” against Iran or “planning to support Israeli military action?”
“Oh, you know, how the hell do I know,” replied Hersh. “What I can tell you is we’re loaded for bear. And we’ve been looking at it for three years.” He then said that Vice President Dick Cheney “privately” is against an Israeli attack because the U.S. will “be blamed anyway”:
HERSH: If Israel goes — I’ll tell you what Cheney’s says privately, and whether or not you, how I know this is, — what he says privately is, “we can’t let Israel go because, first of all, they don’t have the firepower, we do. We have much more firepower. And secondly, if they go, we’ll be blamed anyway.”
Asked by Mitchell if that meant Cheney wanted the U.S. involved, Hersh replied, “there you go.” Watch it:
Though Hersh says Cheney only conveys this view “privately,” he has made a similar argument at least once before in public. On Jan. 20, 2005, Cheney went on the “Imus in the Morning” show and discussed another Hersh article about U.S. war posture towards Iran.
“Why don’t we make Israel do it?” asked Imus. “We don’t want a war in the Middle East, if we can avoid it,” replied Cheney. But, he said, “Israel might do it without being asked,” leaving the world to clean up “the diplomatic mess afterwards”:
IMUS: Why don’t we make Israel do it?
CHENEY: Well, one of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked, that if, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards.
Asked by Mitchell if it was “possible this would happen before the election,” Hersh said he didn’t think so, but that what he thinks “means nothing” because “this could happen tomorrow, the president could have a bad hair day and say, ‘to hell with it, let’s go.’”
MITCHELL: But are we planning, is the United States planning military action — or is the United States planning to support Israeli military action?
HERSH: Oh, you know, how the hell do I know? I mean this is for, this is above my pay grade. What I can tell you is we’re loaded for bear. And we’ve been looking at it for three years, we’ve got the submarines ready, we’ve got the cruise missiles there, they’re on destroyers. Everybody knows what to do. The pilots know where to bomb. The plan’s all been done for probably six months or not. If Israel goes — I’ll tell you what Cheney’s says privately, and whether or not you, how I know this is, — what he says privately is, “we can’t let Israel go because, first of all, they don’t have the firepower, we do. We have much more firepower. And secondly, if they go, we’ll be blamed anyway.”
MITCHELL: So you might as well have the U.S. backing it up, or at least taking out the Iranian anti-aircraft…
HERSH: There you go.
MITCHELL: …force, so that Israel could then have an unimpeded way in. For, we’re not talking about a ground invasion, we’re talking about targeted airstrikes against what they suspect to be nuclear facilities, whether or not their intelligence is good or not.
HERSH: Well, that’s always…
MITCHELL: That’s another issue.
HERSH: That’s another issue. And one of the things you have to do, you do have to, as you said, take out their radar and their missiles, and some of those are dug in underground, so you might have to send a special unit of the marines, some of our Delta Force boys, we’ve got a lot of very competent guys. And certainly they’ve gotten a lot more competent in the last seven years to go take them out physically, you know.
MITCHELL: Do you think it’s possible this would happen before the election?
HERSH: No. No, I don’t think so. But what I think means nothing because this could happen tomorrow, the president could have a bad hair day and say, “to hell with it, let’s go.”
MITCHELL: I think he would take it a little more seriously than that, but…Sy Hersh.
HERSH: No, you know what I mean, in general we just don’t know. He still wants diplomacy, I do believe that, but diplomacy for this president is these guys giving up everything in terms of enrichment before we discuss it and that’s a non-starter too.
MITCHELL: Sy Hersh, on the case, on Iran. Thank you very much.
HERSH: You’re welcome.