Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sy Hersh on Democracy Now

Sy Hersh on Democracy Now:
"SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, it’s interesting. One of my favorite paragraphs in the story -- it’s unsourced -- but it describes a meeting within the last two years that Elliott Abrams called. Elliott Abrams, as some may remember, was a key player. He was in the Reagan White House in the National Security Council.

And what happened is, twenty-some-odd years ago, Ronald Reagan wanted very much to stop what he saw as the revolutionary government of Nicaragua, the Sandinista government. He thought they were pro-communist. It’s a little bit like the Chavez issue today. And the CIA began supporting a group of opposition people known as the Contras, a pretty violent bunch of people. Congress authorized an amendment called the Boland Amendment. The congressmen just -- they passed an amendment saying no money for the Contras. So instead of adhering to that, the government then -- if you remember the name Ollie North and the National Security Advisor John Poindexter -- set up a sort of a Rube Goldberg scheme to sell arms through Israel to Iran. The Iranians were our bitter enemies at that time. We were only seven years from the overthrow of the Shah and the capture of our embassy people. If you remember, they were kept for more than a year. So, and the idea was to generate profits that would -- the sale would generate a lot of profits that would be used to fund the Contras. Well, this, of course, blew up in everybody's face. There were sort of inconclusive hearings in the Senate. A few people were charged, I don’t remember. Nothing much came out of it. They never got to the bottom of it. Nobody wanted to go after Reagan. It was ’87, etc., etc., whatever happened.

So two years ago, Abrams, who’s still now in the government, even more important than ever, very conservative -- Elliott Abrams -- pro-Israel, etc., etc. He convened a meeting of all of those people in the Bush administration who had been connected to Iran-Contra. It was like a reunion, somebody said to me. And they did a “lessons learned.” What was the good thing? Well, the good thing is you could do things outside of Congress, who would stop you, those bad guys in Congress. You could do things for the good of the nation. That was the plus.

The negatives were pretty extreme, because, of course, it got blown. Let's see, the negatives included, you don't trust your friends, you don't trust the uniformed military, you don't trust the CIA, and you don't let it be run by the NSC, by somebody like Poindexter. You move it into the Vice President's office, Cheney, Cheney’s office.
No. Israel would never attack Iran. The best they could do is fire some missiles from the Indian Ocean. They have submarines with cruise missiles. No, that’s not nearly enough. What’s a small attack? A major attack, if you’re going to do one, would have to come from the Americans. And Cheney has said internally he will never let the Israelis do it, it’s much better if we do it. But that I feel reasonably rational, I can say with some confidence. I can’t say anything at all about what the President will or will not do.

There are people inside the military -- there’s two aircraft carrier groups in the region right now. One is inside the Straits of Hormuz, which is that narrow straits where all of the oil passes through, going from the Middle East to Asia. And it’s such a narrow channel that the US Navy never even had a carrier go into the Straits of Hormuz, because they’re accompanied by five or six ships, destroyers, etc., and they don’t have much maneuverability. They’re very vulnerable to attack. And I’m told by people that there will be two more carriers sent this spring to relieve the two ships, fleets that are there now. And they will all be kept there for a little while. One off Oman, one in what they call the North Arabian Sea, NAS, one in the Indian Ocean, and one in the Straits of Hormuz. And once those four groups are out there, you’re dealing -- you’re talking about an enormous amount of firepower.

And it’s at that point some people inside the military are worried about what the President might or might not do. I don't think he’s going to do anything next year. It’s an election year. And he’s got to spend -- you know, he’s not an old man. He doesn't want to be hated by the Republican Party all the rest of his life. He’s damaging it enough now. But in ’08, he’s got to be careful. He’s got to give the Republicans a shot at the presidency. And the way he’s carrying on right now, he’s helping the Democrats. So, if he does it, it’ll be this year. And, you know, people worry about spring. And if he is in a position where he can authorize something on short notice, and you could with carriers all over the place -- there’s an awful lot of planes. They carry -- the carrier squadrons have destroyers with cruise missiles that can fire. You can hit a lot of things in Iran if you want."

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