big deal!

Posted on Sunday 29 June 2008

Preparing the Battlefield
The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.
by Seymour M. Hersh

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program…

Senior Democrats in Congress told me that they had concerns about the possibility that their understanding of what the new operations entail differs from the White House’s. One issue has to do with a reference in the Finding, the person familiar with it recalled, to potential defensive lethal action by U.S. operatives in Iran. (In early May, the journalist Andrew Cockburn published elements of the Finding in Counterpunch, a newsletter and online magazine.)

The language was inserted into the Finding at the urging of the C.I.A., a former senior intelligence official said. The covert operations set forth in the Finding essentially run parallel to those of a secret military task force, now operating in Iran, that is under the control of JSOC. Under the Bush Administration’s interpretation of the law, clandestine military activities, unlike covert C.I.A. operations, do not need to be depicted in a Finding, because the President has a constitutional right to command combat forces in the field without congressional interference. But the borders between operations are not always clear: in Iran, C.I.A. agents and regional assets have the language skills and the local knowledge to make contacts for the JSOC operatives, and have been working with them to direct personnel, matériel, and money into Iran from an obscure base in western Afghanistan. As a result, Congress has been given only a partial view of how the money it authorized may be used. One of JSOC’s task-force missions, the pursuit of “high-value targets,” was not directly addressed in the Finding. There is a growing realization among some legislators that the Bush Administration, in recent years, has conflated what is an intelligence operation and what is a military one in order to avoid fully informing Congress about what it is doing…
Seymour Hersh must know everyone in Washington. His articles are like a conduit into the dark passages of the Bush/Cheney White House. This one explores their continued pugalism and obsession with Iran. I’ve quoted only a taste, and would recommend a full reading for anyone remotely interested in their plans while they’re still in office and beyond. I’ll not bother to re-report on his story of the wheelings and dealings the Administration is going through in their attempts to manipulate and destroy the Iranian government. Hersh does a fine job of that all by himself.

I will comment only on a few things. When Bush, Petraeus, and Cheney go to great lengths to document that Iranians are involved in the resistance in Iraq, they leave out that we are heavy into covert operations in their country – including assasinations – appropriating millions for the effort secretly. But the most striking facet of this article to me is the Cheney inspired and led modus operandi. Hersh gives us a clear picture of how Cheney undermines our command by separating off areas that get moved out of the military chain of command – and remain under the control of the Vice President. Likewise, areas of responsibility are shifted around in bizarre ways to avoid Congressional Oversight. Using peculiar command structures and jury-rigged lines of authority, multiple loopholes allow their covert operations in Iran to be opaque to Congress. Admiral Fallon, recently retired prematurely, was in command of CENTCOM, but had no control over the special operations in his command area. And these covert plans include assasinations inside of Iran of specified people.

Three things:
  • Seymour Hersh deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. The Pulitzer isn’t big enough.
  • Impeachment was the right thing to do. Congress missed its chance.
  • Cheney remains the most dangerous man on the planet.

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