Hard-left anti-war reporter Seymour Hersh, who tried so hard in 2004 to get President Bush defeated with the Abu Ghraib scandal, and was given many media opportunities to make his case, had another great week in the media this week with his New Yorker article suggesting Bush wanted to drop bunker-busting nukes on Iranian nuclear sites. As usual, the article was larded with anonymous sources that no one can check or evaluate for political motives.
In interviews on network morning TV this week, no challenge to Hersh’s reporting genius emerged. Both hyped his Pulitzer (is that required before he accepts the invite?) On CBS Monday, MRC's Mike Rule found co-host Hannah Storm didn't challenge Hersh's methods or conclusions, just asking instead for wisdom from the oracle. Notice how many times she promotes him by saying "You say" and repeating his publicity points:
Hannah Storm: "Is the White House secretly planning to go to war with Iran? Well, in this week's 'New Yorker' magazine, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh writes while the U.S. is publicly advocating diplomacy, it is covertly planning for a possible major air attack to stop Iran's nuclear program. Seymour Hersh, good morning."
Seymour Hersh: "Good morning."
Hannah Storm: "What would it take to trigger a strike against Iran?"
Seymour Hersh: "Well, the President has said a couple of things. One, he said once they even get the knowledge, the actual just mental knowledge of how to make a weapon, that's a red line. But he more specifically, he says when they begin to begin a pilot program for producing enriched uranium, which the Iranians have said they will start doing later this spring, perhaps May or June."
Hannah Storm: "Military planners you say have little choice but to consider using tactical nuclear weapons. Why is that?"
Seymour Hersh: "Well, when you give the President a range of options, what you do is you say, hey, here's what we can do, Mr. President. We can do nothing. We can guarantee we can take out the main facility in Iran is an underground bunker that, called Natanz. We want to get rid of it. To guarantee its demolition we have to use a tactical nuke. But the real option, of course, is a bombing option."
Hannah Storm: "Is there a lot of debate over this nuclear option? Because you say that a couple of weeks ago the Joint Chiefs wanted to walk back that option and the White House said no."
Seymour Hersh: "A lot of debate. Nobody in the pentagon seriously thinks that it could be, it's an impossible option, and they wanted to get rid of it. And, as you say the White House said no. And as I write, they are going to come back to the President, with a formal recommendation that they take this, this plan, this option out of the plan. And if it doesn't happen some people are willing, claim they will actually resign over the issue."
Hannah Storm: "So if that's a formal recommendation, if that happens, as you say that it might, does that mean the President will have to take that option off the table?"
Seymour Hersh: "People think so. You can't cross, if the Joint Chief of Staff come to you and they say this is, this is a no go, he has to stop. He can't overrule the military."
Hannah Storm: "You say that while the Bush Administration is publicly advocating diplomacy, that there are clandestine American forces in Iran right now. To what extent?"
Seymour Hersh: "They're on the ground, they're collecting intelligence. They're talking to the various minorities, the ethnic minorities inside Iran that oppose the government and they're also getting ready to pick targets. One of the way we bomb to ensure accuracy is we use J-Dam, we use laser guided bombs. And, in order for the bombs to be accurate, men on the ground have to be there to paint the target, they have to put a laser beam on it, so we have to get those guys in place. It's all part of the planning, the obvious planning for an offensive if we decide to have one."
Hannah Storm: "Do you think that the administration has given up on diplomacy? Are bilateral talks just out of the question?"
Seymour Hersh: "Bilateral talks certainly are. You know, one of the great mysteries, to me anyway, is why isn't there more pressure on this President to talk to the Iranians? They want to talk. He has refused to. But certainly, there are people in the White House who simply believe that any diplomacy is simply a stall. Iran really wants to get a weapon. Which, by the way, it does. And, they believe that as long as Iran is talking they're secretly going very fervently to get a weapon on the side."
Hannah Storm: "Seymour Hersh, thanks for your time this morning we appreciate it."
On ABC Monday, MRC's Brian Boyd revealed that "Good Morning America" fill-in host Barbara Walters made Hannah Storm look hard-boiled:
Barbara Walters: "Well, now to the report that's creating a worldwide furor. According to an article in the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine, the Bush administration is planning a nuclear military attack on Iran. The objective: to prevent Iran from developing its own nuclear weapons and to destabilize the Iranian regime, that is, overthrow the president. Earlier I spoke with the author of the article, Pulitzer prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh.
"Well, Mr. Hersh, these are very strong accusations. At what stage is this possibility of bombing Iran and how serious is it?"
Seymour Hersh: "Well, it's out of the contingency planning stage. Contingency is what we always say, we plan for every contingency. My people on the inside say essentially they've gone into the operational planning, which means they're going to give the White House a set of fixed operations and the White House will then pick one and then you get what they call a 'warning order.' And the, of course, the military begins to plan and staff that specific operation and then, of course, you get an execute. So we're moving along. This is not just something that's normal routine planning. That it is not. It's much more intense."
Walters: "Weeks, months, years?"
Hersh: "It's up to the President. This President has decided that there's a red line that Iran will not be able to cross, which is enriching a small amount of uranium. And once it does that, and the Iranians say they're going to do that, I think that the people in the military are very apprehensive about what he will do next."
Walters: "Let me be specific, Mr. Hersh, you're talking about nuclear bombs. Are you talking about bombs that as I understand it might be underground somehow? Are you talking about bombs that are being dropped from the air that destroy cities? What are we talking about?"
Hersh: "We're talking about a specific kind of a bomb known as a B61, a bunker-buster. It's dropped, it penetrates deep and it gets things as much as 75 feet below ground. It's designed for that. It's a specific weapon. The target they would use is not near a city. It's about 170-180 miles away from Tehran, but the point is nobody wants to even include that bomb in the planning. And the fight is over the fact that the White House will not let this get out of the plans.
"And as I wrote in the article, this is very serious stuff for some of the senior people in the military. They think this kind of planning is crazy and they want it out."
Walters: "You know all of your sources are anonymous but you quote a former defense official saying, 'A sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.' That sounds like what we said about Iraq? This is the same sort of thinking, is that what you're saying?"
Hersh: "Well, what I'm saying essentially in this article, this is really, the people I talked to, senior people in and out of the government, this is really not about the worry about whether they enrich a little bit of uranium. This is about this President and his Vice President wanting regime change. They want that government out of there."
Walters: "And is something that you think is likely to happen?"
Hersh: "I think what motivates the people that talked to me about it and to get the kind of controversy we have now, is a fear that, yes, it would happen. That this President seems to believe that it's his mission in life, his mantra if you will, he's messianic about it, that he's going to do and I quote somebody as saying this 'what no Democrat and no Republican would be willing to do.' He has the courage to do it. He has a mission in life."
Walters: "Would we send troops?"
Walters: "No. This is bombing and they're hoping then that the Iranian people rise up and get rid of the president?"
Hersh: "La La Land."
Walters: "The thinking is that Iran will just sit back and let this happen when they've been talking about, for example, destroying Israel?"
Hersh: "The thinking is that we will hit Iran and tell the leadership, this is one argument I've heard, we'll hit hard one day and tell the leadership if they do anything to respond it's lights out. In other words, the targeting includes hundreds and hundreds of various targets around the country of course."
Walters: "Wow, Mr. Hersh, this is very scary business, but we thank you for being on this morning and discussing it with us."
For a better idea of how a journalist could challenge Hersh's methods of anonymity, there's CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "Late Edition" last Sunday, who at least forced this exchange:
HERSH: Unless something specific is told to the White House that you've got to drop this dream of a nuclear option -- and that's exactly the issue I'm talking about -- people have said to me that they would resign.
BLITZER: Do you want to name names?
HERSH: Are you kidding?
BLITZER: I'm giving you the opportunity.
HERSH: No. You know why? Because this is a punitive government right now. This is a government that pretty much has its back against the wall, as you've been saying all morning, in Iraq.
And in the military -- you know, one thing about our military is they're very loyal to the president, but they're getting to the edge.
There's more on the Hersh's Bush-the-nuking-nut tour.
-- Hersh was on NPR Wednesday.
-- He was an anti-war natural for Chris Matthews, who wants Cindy Sheehan to run for Congress. did Chris Matthews:
-- Hersh was on hard-left Pacifica’s morning show “Democracy Now” with Amy Goodman. Some weird lines here, like “They're all good Muslims, but they're secular.” And did he just misspeak about the dead here on Iran?
America is very, we're pretty much opaque on Iran. We haven't been there diplomatically in, you know, 25, 26 years, since the Shah’s days. Most people think the Ayatollah Khomeini, who’s the supreme leader, probably controls the nuclear option, although certainly the Revolutionary Guards, in which the Iranian president is a major player, have something to say…”