Monday, April 10, 2006

Seymour Hersh's Blockbuster

Good investigatory reporting has an outside chance to make a difference.

It may be too much to say that it can change history; perhaps good and timely journalism has only a shot at nudging history.

Seymour Hersh has done that before with his historic breaking of the My Lai Massacre story in 1969, a Pulitzer Prize winner. His investigatory spotlight also lit up the Abu Ghraib prison story. His critics argue he has been more wrong than right. No one is right all of the time. But Hersh's track record is that some of the time, he has been very, very good in getting his story right. That should motivate us to focus on some of the highlights of his 7,000 word piece in the New Yorker.

  • Bush is ready to go to war to save Israel which has not yet been attacked and which can defend itself.
  • Bush has a messianic drive to save Iran from itself.
  • A preemptive attack on Iran will unify its disparate political elements.
  • Proliferation of nuclear weapons to Iran may be only Bush's pretext for regime change.
  • We may already be at war with Iran if we have clandestine troops within its borders.
  • The use of tactical nuclear weapons for a preemptive war is a thinkable proposition for contemporary civilian war planners in the Pentagon. (Only a very few of my readers will remember how we debated with Herman Kahn in the 1960's the merits of his theory of tactical nuclear war.)
  • Ironically, one of the few brakes on this war mongering juggernaut (while Congress remains in GOP control) may come from the ranks of the professional military officer corps in the Pentagon.
  • In contemplating an air war to be waged against Iran, there does not seem to be any serious contingency planning for the most obvious repercussions: Iranian ground attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan; Hezbollah revivals on steroids throughout the Middle East; unification of the regional Shiites and Sunnis against us; dispersal of Iran's uranium outside her borders into the hands of whatever terrorists who get lucky.
If it is true that Bush and Cheney need a semi-conscious, semi-alert public and a comatose media in order to work their war-mongering machinations, Sy Hersh's blockbustering reporting might have nudged history a little by waking up both of them.

I submit that even if none of Hersh's nightmares materialize, he will not be discredited: not as long as there is a possibility that preemptive war was deterred or delayed by preemptive journalism.