Tuesday, May 06, 2008
CounterProductive CounterPunch Story on Iran
At least one high profile war critic sounds alarmed by a recent revelation that Mr. Bush signed a “secret finding” against “the Iranian regime” six weeks ago. I’m frankly less than agog about it.
In a May 2 CounterPunch article, Andrew Cockburn wrote that Bush has launched a “covert offensive” on Iran that is "unprecedented in its scope." The “directive covers actions across a huge geographic area – from Lebanon to Afghanistan.” The directive, according to Cockburn, also permits an expanded range of actions, “up to and including the assassination of targeted officials.”
Wow, I thought as I read it. That’s some scary sounding stuff. Then, out of habit, I rescanned the piece to note who Cockburn’s sources on the secret finding were, and here’s what I found: “those familiar with its contents.”
Great. Caesar’s. Ghost. Credibility wise, that kind of thing puts Cockburn and CounterPunch on an even footing with Michael R. Gordon and the New York Times.
Lie, Lie Again
Judith Miller, Michael R. Gordon and others at the NYT helped the Bush administration spread the disinformation that sold the Iraq invasion to the American public by citing “facts” certified by anonymous “officials.” On September 8, 2002, NYT ran the infamous Nigergate story that heralded “Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.” To substantiate this explosive assertion, Miller and Gordon directly or indirectly quoted unnamed officials more than 25 times. We now know, of course, how tragically wrong those officials were.
One would think that America’s newspaper of record, the bastion of the so called “liberal” press, would have learned its lesson about allowing the Bush administration to use is at a black propaganda platform, but no. In February 2007, Gordon began citing “proof” certified by anonymous officials that Iran was directly involved in operations directed against American troops in Iraq. Those assertions have yet to be validated by hard evidence, but as recently as April 26, 2008, NYT reiterated the entire laundry list of Bush administration allegations against Iran supported by an eye-watering 30 citations of unidentified officials.
By now the rest of the mainstream media has followed NYT’s lead. Anonymous propaganda placement in the “news” has become the accepted standard, and the traditional fourth pillar that once protected our access to the truth is now the largest and most resilient wall in big brother Bush’s Rovewellian echo chamber.
It’s a tragedy of our era that so much of the alternative media, handed a golden opportunity to pick up the baton that the establishment has so callously dropped, has chosen instead to adopt the standards of check out line tabloids.
As a reasonably discerning consumer of news who is somewhat knowledgeable in national security matters and has been following and writing about the Iran issue for years, I’m predisposed to accept the kind of information Andrew Cockburn presented. Thanks to the way he presented it, however, I’m now inclined to reexamine every assumption I have regarding Bush and Cheney’s long-standing strategem to entangle America in open hostilities with Iran.
For starters, I don’t know what “covert offensive” means exactly, and I strongly suspect that neither Cockburn nor “those familiar” with it know exactly what it means either. Whatever it means, I don’t see how its scope could be all that “unprecedented.” All that covert stuff Matt Helm and Smiley’s people did against the Soviets for a half-century was a robust precedent to go about trying to exceed.
I would be shocked to learn that we aren’t already conducting covert operations of one kind or another from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and I don’t know how much more covert operating we can do in that part of the world. Our satellites are already in space, and they don’t have much else important to do than spy on brown people. All of our special force types and undercover Arabic and Persian speakers are already gainfully employed by now I’d guess, and folks like that don’t grow on beanstalks.
Cockburn seems to want us to get excited that this Lebanon-to-Afghanistan offensive may involve assassination. H.G. Wells’ bells, fellow citizens, we’re already assassinating people in Somalia with freaking cruise missiles. We’re doing the same thing in Pakistan with Hellfire missiles fired from pilotless spy planes; the folks who pickle off the missles are dweebs sitting at consoles in an Air Force base in Nevada.
The door to this barn has been open for a long, long time. That the horses are gone shouldn’t be news to anybody.
Cockburn also says that during the January naval confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz, the American on scene commander “was about to open fire” on Iranian speed boats, and only “desisted” when “Fallon personally and explicitly ordered him not to shoot.” His source for this bombshell was “CENTCOM staff officers.”
A lot of officers work on the CENTCOM staff. If the ones who told Cockburn about the hold fire order were Navy captains who were directly involved with the operation, they probably knew what they were talking about. If they were the Army captains who pinned the stars on Fallon’s collars and shined his shoes every morning, they probably didn’t. Call me cynical, but I have a preconceived notion about which kind of captains talked to Cockburn about the Hormuz incident and which kind wouldn’t give him the time of day if he bought them a pitcher of beer.
As with the term “covert offensive,” I don’t know what Cockburn means by “was about to open fire.” If he means that the commander had his weapons loaded and manned, big deal. I can’t imagine a U.S. warship transiting Hormuz any other way these days.
It’s a huge story if Fallon told the commander not to shoot even in self-defense; that would violate the core tenet of U.S. rules of engagement that defines self-defense as both an inherent right and responsibility of the unit commander. It would mean Fallon committed a George W. Bush class overreach of his legal authority.
If on the other hand Fallon simply reminded the commander that he had no supplemental ROE or mission tasking that required him to fire except in self-defense, Fallon was acting in a wholly prudent and suitable manner.
But I can’t tell from Cockburn’s story what was really going and neither can anyone else because it’s questionable whether his sources know their facts from their elbows and it’s darn near certain that Cockburn doesn’t know his.
That’s a shame, because there’s probably something to Cockburn’s story, but he way he told it—incendiary allegations accompanied by murky sourcing and rail thin amplifying details—makes it sound like tinfoil conspiracy theory and cable news sensationalism.
Cockburn’s piece reflects poorly on the entire anti-war movement and the earnest work of investigative journalists who are unearthing credible information about the abuses of power practiced by the Bush administration.
If this is the best he’s got, he should just zip it.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword .
"So we can play war…"
"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly
"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist
View the trailer here.
at 10:13 PM