Wednesday, January 19, 2005

IF YOU'RE AN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, you know you're on to something if your reporting is attacked by *all* sides. The Christian Science Monitor reports that Seymour Hersh's article in The New Yorker has triggered a storm of protest from the governments of 3 countries: the United States, Pakistan, and Iran. The Pentagon says that Hersh's claims are "constitutionally specious" (whatever that means); Pakistan says it knows nothing about Iran's nuclear program and is not helping the United States find Iran's nuclear installations in return for the U.S. ignoring Iran's sales of nuclear technology to Iran; and Iran is outraged at Hersh's statements that the Bush administration is running reconaissance missions in Iran to identify military targets. In fact, Iran is convinced that the Bush administration deliberately supported and promoted Hersh's article to scare Iran off of its nuclear ambitions with the threat of an invasion.

In the blog world, Juan Cole writes that Hersh's revelation about the Bush administration's plans, or at least strong desire, to invade Iran, are quite believable. He also stresses that Bush's decision to give the Pentagon authority to run covert operations in the Middle East and South Asia has everything to do with his and Rumsfeld's belief that if Defense runs the operations they don't have to report to Congress. I think this point cannot be emphasized too much. Rumsfeld and Bush are deliberately and consciously trying to get around the legal requirement for the CIA to report on its operations to the Senate Intelligence Committee. And as Juan implies, until someone catches on and raises a ruckus, they will get away with it.

Over at, George Paine puts the same actions in the context of the Bush administration's drive to consolidate control among the most right-wing of the neocons on Bush's staff. Bush transferred the authority to run covert ops from CIA to the Pentagon for the same reason that he made it clear Rumsfeld would stay on; for the same reason that Colin Powell resigned and Condoleezza Rice was given his job.

Kevin Drum says it's possible to make a valid argument that old, pre-9/11 reporting requirements need "revisiting and updating," but those changes should be publicly debated. I agree about the public debate; I don't agree that there is any rational argument for allowing the U.S. government to run secret military operations without having to tell anyone. I don't like the idea of governments being able to do that.

I also don't share Kevin's feeling that, in conducting airflights over Iran to identify military targets for a possible attack, the Pentagon is just doing what any responsible defense organization should do. The point here is that the United States is refusing to cooperate with the European Union's efforts to work out a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions. The Bush administration is planning a military option when it hasn't even attempted to go along with a nonmilitary option. It couldn't be more clear that the White House *wants* war, deeply believes in war, and does not really trust any solution to world conflict that does not involve violence. And this at the same time that Condoleezza Rice is talking, in her confirmation hearings, about the great need for diplomacy and mending fences.

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