Seymour Hersh is badazzzzzzzzzzz

I will admit to a knee-jerk skepticism when it comes to widely revered white dudes, a class of people I almost never like outside of pop culture, so it follows that where a shocking number of others see a bold, life-long iconoclast giving a corrupt, subservient media what it deserves, I see an arrogant, self-infatuated creep — one of the public sphere’s official liberal “outsiders” —  hurling lame insults at a reporter politely asking perfectly reasonable questions. I don’t fault Hersh for having a short fuse in the wake of a minor smear campaign, but I don’t see why the interviewer, Isaac Chotiner, who I’m fairly sure hasn’t written any of the hit pieces on Hersh, is obliged to do penance for them.

I also couldn’t help noticing  how the fearless giver of no shit and prolific sayer of “fuck” was all diplomacy here when asked to comment on The New Yorker‘s stellar contribution to the original OBL raid disinformation campaign. He must have been in a better mood. It can’t be that The New Yorker, in addition to being an accomplished conduit for imperial propaganda, has also for years been freelancer Hersh’s biggest client.

But all of the above is less bothersome to me than ostensible reds in social media uncritically whooping it up over Hersh claiming revered white dude immunity via childish insults, and their enthusiasm for the story that’s put him back in the news in the first place. Feel free to believe that I’m just being a contrarian again, because, as a pathological narcissist living in his mom’s basement, there is truly nothing I crave more than being badmouthed with straw men and smears for months at a time.

But an alternative theory, one for which there is decidedly more evidence, is that I grow increasingly weary of credulous adults uncritically choosing sides in dust-ups between varying factions of the ruling class and its security apparatus.  Put another way, if it ain’t anticapitalist, it ain’t worth a fuck, no matter how many times it gives the poodles on Team Frick the finger. I was a liberal once, but I am apparently bereft of all residue to which these little Bad Dad/Good Dad spectacles call. I also have none of the cultish faith in the subversive power of information these dramas presuppose, particularly information imparted by journalists reliant on anonymous sources within the military, intelligence and diplomatic communities.

Perhaps I don’t know my own motivations, but for whatever reason, Hersh’s story smells funny to me for the following reasons:

It really is old news. Hersh, himself, in the midst of calling for reform of the media establishment, said the OBL raid story was a lie in 2013. Why didn’t he write the full report then? Security expert R. J. Hillhouse told most of the newsworthy details in 2011. This is important, because it provokes an obvious question, why the fuss now? And why hasn’t Hersh even mentioned Hillhouse anywhere? The timing suggests some agenda other than service to the truth is in play, and I’m going to assume it’s an agenda in which I have no stake.

Secondly, for all of Hersh’s anti-establishment bluster, his story corroborates the official story in broad strokes: Bin Laden was holed up in Abbottabad; he was killed in a raid by Navy Seals; and his body was unavailable for inspection by the public.  So the news here, really, is that the intelligence apparatus and its proxies remade the story as a Psy Op, the way they do everything. Except for the true Obama believers and the kill-happy nitwits on the right, the official story smelled like bullshit from day one, as all official stories do. So why should I give a fuck about the details now, especially given that they come almost entirely from a single, seemingly omniscient “retired senior intelligence official” cited over 60 times.

Third, of the three governments discussed in Hersh’s story — the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — the US comes out smelling the best, by far. Hersh’s “blockbuster” threatens to create far bigger difficulties for officials in Pakistan — over conspiring with the US to kill Bin Laden — and for Saudi Arabia, whose payoff to Pakistan Hersh claims was rooted in fear that OBL would talk about Saudi involvement in 9/11. Hersh also does quite a lot of fear-mongering around Pakistan’s nuclear capability, both in his piece and in interviews.

Finally, there is Hersh himself, who, while I grant has done an exceptional amount of extremely valuable journalism — relatively speaking — has had a lifelong dependence on inside sources inhabiting the shadiest regions of empire and its clients. The problems with this should be obvious and harken back to my misgivings about agendas, but let’s let Noam — commenting on a different story — spell it out:

[Hersh] is a terrific reporter and I am sure that he is reporting exactly what was told him, but his sources are intelligence officials and diplomats, unnamed, and their task is not to tell people the truth. Their task is to tell people what they want them to hear, maybe true, may not be true, but you got to understand that any report by any reporter from an unidentified intelligence or diplomatic source is reporting what they want you to believe. OK, maybe what they want you to believe is correct, maybe they have some other reason and so on, but you always have to understand that.

Anyway, enjoy the show, but go easy on me for once again declining to suspend disbelief the way one does for cartoons and comic books. And keep those Gary Webb comparisons coming. Savvy knowing knowers pretending to know things never ceases to entertain.

h/t to @imlikenew for usefully feeding my doubts.

UPDATE (link to this update)

Just like Gary Webb, LOL. I think old Sy is gonna land on his feet as he always has, Gary Webbing and all! From a recent interview Hersh did with The Real News:

On Seal Team 6:

these are good people, this is the, sort of the cream of the crop of this, the special forces.

On US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Torture, killings, mur–I mean, a lot of very bad stuff that, you know, I–one could argue that America had to get that bloody in the war on terror. That makes sense to me. But there was an awful lot of not so much smart stuff.

On why Obama went public with a mission that was intended to be a secret:

He went public because I’m sure that he got tremendous pressure after they realized they’d killed him to go–to not wait ten days or seven days. You–you know, you’ve got a Republican guy, Bob Gates, in the, running the Defense Department. He’s involved. You’ve got a lot of guys that like to brag, and the military are always full of guys that yap. You can’t be sure you, in a week or ten days, you can hold the secret. So go.

On whether or not Obama deliberately lied:

I don’t know whether he knew that what he was writing was inaccurate or not. I just don’t know. Because often a president is confronted, you know, he’s dealt with what he gets. I have no information about that…this was a speech that was just written by the political guys, as I’ve been told, emphatically.

On the impact of his story on President Obama:

I’m a, I–you know, I support, you know. Just as a human being, I voted for him twice, and I think he’s the smartest president we’ve had probably since Lincoln. You know, he’s a pretty amazing guy. And I do end up, by the piece, by saying look, the Obama of 2011 a year before reelection, you know, some black dude wants to be elected twice in America, you’ve got to be kidding me. I mean, you know, I could understand reaching out and doing what you can. And the President we have now, who is hanging tough in Iran is a different person, and telling the Republicans to go stick it where the sun don’t shine. This is a different person. So you have to say that. But there’s no question then, I hope we can get a–we won’t get a statement from him. We won’t get a real statement from the White House because it’s an embarrassment. It wasn’t the best day in the sun.


Chelsea Manning is *not* on Twitter

The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux is no Gary Webb

The Friends of Glenn

Oligarchs Approve the Snowden Debate. I Guess We’re Winning

Dr. Rosen and The Snowden Effect

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79 Responses to Seymour Hersh is badazzzzzzzzzzz

  1. A Really Small Farm says:

    Is NPR even covering Hersh’s re-revelation anymore? Already old news again.

  2. mickstep says:

    If OBL really was holed up in Abbottabad, which I am far from convinced of, I am sure he was held there secretly as the necessary pretext for the continuation of the occupation of Afghanistan at the behest of the US security establishment.

    I’m quite convinced the whole Afghanistan episode was primarily about control of the heroin industry. If someone is going to get that drug money, it might as well be the CIA, right?

    • Tarzie says:

      Entirely plausible that drug trafficking is among the incentives.

      • mickstep says:

        How did yields poppy yields increase 4000% since the US invaded? the only explanation is the use of “Green Revolution” techniques, hell, I bet they made a killing importing a load of John Deere combine harvesters.

      • Tarzie says:

        Cockburn said that there is nothing the CIA hides more vigilantly than its participation in drug trafficking. So it would make sense to float a slightly unflattering story to affirm the important details of the official story.

      • mickstep says:

        I don’t think there is a drugs market on Earth the CIA doesn’t have its grubby mitts on, or doesn’t at least have designs for.

      • Tarzie says:

        Yeah, why wouldn’t they? History certainly provides plenty of evidence.

      • jason says:

        sorry i’m too lazy to verify the exact percent, but +/- 90% of global heroin makes it out of afghanistan on taliban donkeys, carts, and trucks, not the big airplanes at bagram, right? where do black budgets come from? i know a portion of budgets are classified, but why even bother with the fig leaf of congressional review? letting some heroin slip into gaza or yemen or moscow, well, even a congress critter might cringe at that. lots of precedent as you said, vietnam, opium wars, etc. more or less, ditto columbia & cocaine.

      • mickstep says:

        Jason, I have no idea how most of the heroin makes it out of Afghanistan, but I doubt any statistics you have heard on how the transport is done can be trusted.

        The CIA is hardly going to advertise you it is all done using a CIA shell company called Freedom Air Logistics, or has largely passed on the task to private military contractors.

        Donkeys is the natural cover story.

      • Tarzie says:

        Mick, I think Jason was being facetious.

      • mickstep says:

        Ah right, thought the comment seemed oddly disjointed, ha.

      • jason says:

        yes, a disjointed comment. apologies. no doubt some tiny percentage of afghan heroin is making it out of the country on taliban donkeys/”mules”. to lahore or wherever in the ‘hood. can’t say i blame them.

    • Tarzie says:

      It just occurred to me that there is one problem with this theory and that is that even with OBL dead, they’ve been able to remain in Central Asia. But, of course, it could be that they didn’t want to take any chances.

      • mickstep says:

        Well he was kept alive for most of the occupation.

        While the US is still deployed in Afghanistan, and especially it’s private mercenaries are still there, the official occupation is over.

      • Tarzie says:

        Well he was kept alive for most of the occupation.

        True and that surely bought time.

      • Jeff Nguyen says:

        Perhaps, and I’m spit-balling here, those who calibrated the public’s resistance to American foreign policy found that the general public doesn’t care a whole lot about what the military does in Central Asia, interior Africa or anywhere in the Middle East as long as American body bags aren’t coming home en masse, there is no draft and the antiwar movement is suppressed. As long as those conditions are met, then it’s bombs away, especially when the global powers fight their wars through proxies such as ISIS/AQ/ALEC. They can simply use the local “help” to fight their battles for them.

      • Tarzie says:

        I think that’s definitely true. But where does Hersh’s story fit in all that? I mean, if there’s an agenda behind having this discussion now — which seems likely — what minds is it aiming to confuse or change?

      • Jeff Nguyen says:

        The fact that mainstream news sources are corroborating parts of his account is problematic for Hersh. Dog whistling maybe? Perhaps we’re not be the intended audience.

    • Jack-Off-Spades says:

      Much of the US presence in Afghanistan actually revolves around it relation to China, Russia, India, Iran and the Central Asian region. Basically the US is trying to subvert Russia, China and Iran by redirecting South Asian oil politics away from them and putting the power in the hands of US potentates in Central Asia. These are all obvious significant major players, and the US certainly doesn’t want India to drift too far into China’s orbit trying to isolate, which has also been happening in the far eastern side of China with the South China Sea dispute.In order to do this the US needed approval for the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline project, construction of which is beginning this year in Turkmenistan.

      Other things include the over a trillion dollars in mineral wealth that Afghanistan sits on being apart of the eurasian mineral belt. The local influence of Iran in the country, the US obviously isn’t concerned about Pakistans influence inside Afghanistan since it’s useful to the US. Asian politics in general, asia was always the most difficult continent to get and maintain a foothold in. I’m sure I’ve missed a number of things as well and that the heroin industry is also a factor though. Like Tarzie said “there is nothing the CIA hides more vigilantly than its participation in drug trafficking.”

      • Tarzie says:

        Yeah, great summary of the interests involved. Bottom line is they had all kinda reasons for keeping OBL alive, or “alive” as the case may be.

    • babaganusz says:

      If someone is going to get that drug money, it might as well be the CIA, right?

      precisely, the “at least it’s Burroughs taking Nike’s ad money” playbook.

  3. Your point is well taken – whatever Hersh is saying (and Hillhouse before him), is ultimately the word of inside sources. What’s interesting about the spectacle, and you’ll have to pardon the naiveté in this statement, is that it seems closer to the truth. No, it doesn’t threaten power in any real way, and it confirms the basic features of the original story (Bin Laden was there, the SEALs killed him), but it also complicates several ancillary aspects of the legend. Aside from the fact that everybody lied (no shit) and that the SEALs are glorified mob hit men (the SOFREP bros have been puffing their chests about honor code around this killing for years), the issue of the “trove of documents recovered from the scene” actually presents some real trouble for the explainer crowd. 1) This is the part that deserves most attention from people who want to troll NatSec Intel community. If everything is falsified, but being used to justify policy then 2) False information is being used dictate policy. (big shocker, but it means more work to find a fall guy) 3) if memory serves, gotta check back with Alexa O’Brien’s feed, but it seemed like these OBL docs were used in Manning’s trial to justify AQ use/value of leaks, right? Might this be grounds for mistrial?

    In the end, the whole thing could be a circlejerk, yes, but hypothesizing about who Hersh’s sources are in the Intel world, several possible motives come to mind. Did Brennan make enemies in Mil/SpecOps community? Or is this whole thing related to some sub-rosa game with the Saudis over a number of issues (see, for example the misguided faith in the “release the 28 pages!” movement and its hero Bob Graham).

    Who knows, spewing a lot of speculation, but sometimes these games are fun. Sometimes a little bit gets revealed when varying factions fight with each other. Again, pardon the naiveté.

    Said it before but that poor old man they put in front of the SEALs in Abbottabad probably thought he was gonna get a hot meal.

    • Tarzie says:

      Thanks for this. You add some nuance that my post lacks, though I think we mostly agree, that the real story is what scores are being settled here. Of the surface details, the Manning thing sticks out to me as the most important one and probably warrants more investigation on my part.

      I don’t think it’s a circle jerk by any means. I just reject the idea that it’s something other than various elites working disparate agendas.

  4. banjolinbuddha says:

    Largely agree with this (despite my amusement at Hersh’s crankiness) – my first thoughts after reading the story were in a similar vein:

    I think you nail it in describing this as people picking sides – it’s the classic limited hangout in that it sets the boundaries from which you either argue that it’s conspiracy theory, or that it’s not – true or false, etc. To me there’s not a better form of propaganda than the form that sets itself up as the ALTERNATIVE to propaganda.

    Think of it in this form:

    Tarzie: “The sun is green”
    Banjolin: “Bullshit, I have good sources that tell me the sun is blue.”

    Now the argument isn’t about reality vs falsehood, just which falsehood should be the generally accepted theory moving forward. It also reminds me of formal logic, where the logic of an argument has nothing to do with it’s veracity – false premises can produce logical consistency just as easily as true premises.

    Anyway, you know all this, but fascinating stuff.

    • Tarzie says:

      To me there’s not a better form of propaganda than the form that sets itself up as the ALTERNATIVE to propaganda.

      YES! Beautifully put. Which is why it makes no sense for the owners of the narrative to not attempt to control the counternarrative also. This is why blind faith in the professional renegades is so mind-numbingly stupid and childish.

      • banjolinbuddha says:

        “This is why blind faith in the professional renegades is so mind-numbingly stupid and childish.” Exactly – I harp on this all the time, but the idea that anyone with the access that Hersh or Chomsky or Greenwald etc have could possibly ALSO be working to undermine the system that grants them that access is stupid and naive.

  5. Richard Estes says:

    “Third, there is Hersh himself, who, while I grant has done an exceptional amount of extremely valuable journalism — relatively speaking — has had a lifelong dependence on inside sources inhabiting the shadiest regions of empire and its clients.”

    You hit the nail on the head, but it is worth noting that Hersh’s sources appear to be primarily people in the military and intelligence community who have objected to US policy after 9/11. There is a clear thread of these kind of disclosures in his articles since that time. Hence, his emphasis upon the perils of these covert operations in regard to endangering allies and existing geopolitical relationships. His story about Syria and the gas attack a few years ago is a classic example.

    Accordingly, the subtext that runs through Hersh’s articles is a narrative about how the US empire is being imperiled by these covert cowboy antics. At the risk of sounding pedantic, you could call him and his sources Metternichean, 1815 Congress of Vienna types. While his disclosures provide factual information that leftists can put to good use, they have to be used with care to avoid falling into the trap of substituting conspiracy theory for radical left, anti-capitalist analysis.

    For that reason, I don’t pay that much attention to him anymore. I tend to get lost in the weeds when I do, and forget why I was reading him in the first place.

    • Tarzie says:

      This is great Richard. Undoubtedly there is a “moderate” faction in empire out to save empire from itself. I find that when I look closer at whistleblower events, frequently it’s score-settling or agenda-influencing between rivals. That’s where a lot of the pre-Snowden NSA whistleblowing seems to have originated. Conflict over teams and tools. There may be good in it. There may be truth. But if there is, its incidental.

      I don’t pay that much attention to him anymore. I tend to get lost in the weeds when I do, and forget why I was reading him in the first place.

      Likewise. His appeal for reform in media in the Guardian some years back left me cold, equal parts self-serving and starry-eyed. Fucker’s been writing for the New Yorker for years.

      • banjolinbuddha says:

        “worth noting that Hersh’s sources appear to be primarily people in the military and intelligence community who have objected to US policy after 9/11”

        THIS is really interesting as this is also how I’d describe most of the whistleblowers we’ve seen come out the last few years (Binney & Snowden in particular come to mind).

      • banjolinbuddha says:

        haha you edited your comment making mine redundant 😉

      • Tarzie says:

        haha you edited your comment making mine redundant 😉

        If I did it was completely unintentional. Hadn’t read yours at the time. A little redundancy never hurt anyone. And I said pre-Snowden. I think Snowden is in a different class. Something is going on there besides an attempt at reform. Just generally I think there are multiple agendas. How could there not be, with so many players and stakes so high?

      • banjolinbuddha says:

        no i know it wasn’t, as it happened right as I hit post on mine – regardless, agree

      • banjolinbuddha says:

        Completely agree that this isn’t just a simple two choices narrative – and I think you’re right about Snowden, but I find it interesting that Snowden & Binney and others all put on this same earnest “this is not what this country is all about!” face, when anyone who pays any attention to what intel agencies have been doing since the 50’s knows that’s bullshit, it’s EXACTLY what this country is all about.

        Who knows, I can see there being factions that are making power plays, factions that want to re-image the CIA, whatever. I think the question that really needs to be answered is WHY the intel agencies decided that post-9/11 a PR blitz was necessary? Maybe i’m reaching here, but it feels like there’s been a drastic ratcheting up of all sorts of intel agency propaganda in the last decade and a half. Beyond simply normalizing/numbing us to intel agencies as actors, I’m not sure what the point is. But you’ve got Scahill airing out military clandestine ops, Snowden doing the same for NSA, Hersh pushing on CIA, etc etc.

        Preparation for abandoning all pretense of democracy? Who knows.

      • circadianwolf says:

        “WHY the intel agencies decided that post-9/11 a PR blitz was necessary?”
        I think a part of it is just the increase in media exposure in general – the internet + the expansion of 24-hour news media, along with changing labor trends and the expansion of the digital precariat and our mass of expendable time to be consumed with “content”, means a much larger group of Americans/Westerners are literate in world events (to a degree) compared to previous decades. Information inundation (related to the worship of information itself as tarzie discusses) is a larger trend than just imperial propaganda (although I suppose one could ask whether the latter is driving the former, which would leave you with the original question still, but I think e.g. the labor trends aren’t driven by propaganda but larger forces of capital).

      • Tarzie says:

        I don’t think every little subgrouping within Empire’s upper strata go about this shit as methodically as you suggest or that they’re convinced a certain amount of propaganda to provisionally mollify/stir up the rubes is entirely unnecessary. I also don’t think each of these subgroups regards the GWOT as a great fraud for achieving a bunch of different aims that have nothing to do with national security. I imagine a lot of people doing the wet work of empire believe the GWOT is exactly what it purports to be, so some of the messaging is aimed at these people. The projection of US power takes a tremendous number of people. It won’t work if they’re all cynics.

        I also think that any discussion of motives has to take into account the enormous amount of pork the GWOT produces. All Congress people surely want a piece of the action. Shit gets sold and then it gets used and presto you have militarized, federalized police force without anyone even necessarily aiming for that, and a bunch of other things. Surely some sales pitches need to be made for this to happen. 9/11 was a great opportunity for the intel apparatus to consolidate power and lucre.

  6. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Hersh pulled the same shit with his Syria reporting on the chemical weapons attacks in 2013. He was playing more “who knew what when and who is blaming who when” with his “anonymous deep throat” intel sources (stuff most people already knew) but failed to acknowledge that it was Obama admin/Saudis who were responsible for the attacks and not Al Nusra or the Syrian government.

    The people analyzing and reporting the crimes and tactics of U.S. imperialism generally don’t have “high level” or really any sources inside the government. I would just assume these kinds of sources and informants referenced by people like Hersh, Scahill, Greenwald, or whoever are imperialists. That means you automatically have to assume psy op or organized propaganda run. If there are any anti-imps with that kind of high level access, they’re not talking to Seymour Hersh or Glenn Greenwald – they’re collecting information for anti-imp governments or groups that would benefit from the kind of intel to which they have access.

    • Goldfish Training Institute says:

      I should clarify my second paragraph and say those who are actual anti-imperialists and report from that perspective don’t have the kinds of high level sources we’re talking about here.

  7. Nell says:

    Speaking strictly for myself, the most significant part of Hersh’s story is the part that’s been multiply corroborated — that the information on bin Laden’s location came through information given to them and not through torture of a courier. Getting that established makes clear that the vile Zero Dark Thirty project to promote and “justify” torture by connecting it with a popular assassination is entirely a fabrication.

    Agreed that the story coming out now must be some intra-elite dispute, that I really have no interest in or useful ideas about. But I am glad to see the public demolishment of a clear CIA & White House effort to promote and popularize torture — and note that another part of the original US plan per Hersh’s story was to set things up so that they could say that bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike. That would have been a two-fer, getting to justify both torture *and* drone attacks via the “sucess” of killing the hated symbol of the September 11 attacks.

    • Tarzie says:

      That Zero Dark Thirty was a Psy Op was plain for all to see long ago, and even if it weren’t, it would simply be one of a thousand Hollywood pitches for imperial crime. Also, if the argument for torture hinges on whether or not it works, anti-imperialists lost the argument a long time ago.

      The underlying idea here, that the lying the administration did is some horrifying surprise, is simply silly. Empires empire. Intel apparatuses intel apparatus. They should never be uncritically believed. Nor should the Hershs and the Greenwalds.

      • jason says:

        the “sail on oh mighty ship of state” bit is in the last paragraph of hersch’s article already. “obama deserves credit for…” what? wtf are you talking about now? iran?

        i live in babylon on the potomac here…and well, fuck it, maybe a few tru believers deep in the bowels of HUD & Ed will take notice and think about a thing or two. i doubt it. lose the butter with no back up bread? probably not. info or the lack thereof is not the issue.

      • Tarzie says:

        info or the lack thereof is not the issue.


        Good observation about the kudos at the end.

  8. Nell says:

    People like me, and most of the readers here, saw Zero Dark Thirty as a psy-op from the beginning. Certainly it’s not a horrifying surprise to me, or you. But it is progress when a particular psy-op is shown to be one as publicly as it was this week — it increases the number of people who won’t uncritically believe what the intel apparatus puts out in the future. The lies and horror of the U.S. assault on Viet Nam and the region are what made me into a critical observer (and an anti-imperialist), and someone who not only never uses pragmatic arguments against torture, but objects when others do. I don’t uncritically believe Hersh or any other reporter, and have not been part of the cheerleading one way or another. I commented in order to try to convey what I see as the value in this particular story coming out.

    • Tarzie says:

      I appreciate the clarification and apologize for being too dismissive.

      But like I said in my post, I reject the idea that information has subversive power all by its own self, so I dislike observing and evaluating these revelatory events, not on their inherent merits, but for their speculative educational impact on the rubes. If you think the Hershs and the Greenwalds can inadvertently overcome the fact that US-ians know absolutely nothing of their own history, by telling stories about the present far less damning than what is already in the public record — and which disinform in other ways — I believe you are sorely mistaken. Much better, I think, for radicals to just call bullshit on the whole nine yards, rather than straining to see the tiny merit in these stupid, repetitive little dramas, as if under some perennial obligation to do so.

      • babaganusz says:

        I reject the idea that information has subversive power all by its own self

        rather than straining to see the tiny merit in these stupid, repetitive little dramas, as if under some perennial obligation to do so

        hear, hear. this is the stuff that gives “taking _____ seriously” lip-service the skewering it richly deserves.

    • Richard Estes says:

      “Certainly it’s not a horrifying surprise to me, or you. But it is progress when a particular psy-op is shown to be one as publicly as it was this week — it increases the number of people who won’t uncritically believe what the intel apparatus puts out in the future.”

      Yes, I do believe that this is worthwhile, and we can appreciate this without attributing unrealistic ideological qualities to Hersh’s work, but whether the result is transitory or permanent is hard to say.

      One of the interesting things about Zero Dark Thirty is that it was outdated by the time it was released. Not that many people believed that there were threats that justified torture anymore, regardless of factual validity of it. In that respect, ZDT is the The Green Berets of its time, with Jessica Chastain in the John Wayne role.

      • Tarzie says:

        Not that many people believed that there were threats that justified torture anymore

        Not asking this to contradict you, but what is this based on? I thought polling after the torture report showed majority support for torture.

        and we can appreciate this without attributing unrealistic ideological qualities to Hersh’s work

        Perhaps, but we can’t do it without ascribing technical merits that Hersh’s piece doesn’t have. The fact remains that he has a single source — a retired senior intelligence official — for almost all the details.

        Also singling out Zero Dark Thirty as unique minimizes the extent of CIA involvement in the film industry.

      • Richard Estes says:

        Great update!

        As for your question, it is more about the threat than the torture, people here support torture, more than just about anywhere in the world, but they don’t perceive a threat that justifies it anymore, or, at least, it’s pervasive use. Hence the need to intervene in places like Syria, Yemen and the Ukraine indirectly and more covertly and the political acceptance of those elected officials who have condemned the practices of the Bush/Cheney “war on terror”.

        Of course, it’s reformist, much like Hersh’s journalism and Obama’s executive order, but I’m just answering your question. I could say more about Zero Dark Thirty, but you’re right, overemphasizing it has the consequence of obscuring the CIA capture of US film and television production, so I will let it go.

        As for the impact of Hersh’s disclosures, it has been known for a fairly long time that torture either played no role in the discovery of Bin Laden. To the extent that his article reinforces that understanding, it is hard for me not to see that as positive, regardless of the technical merits of his reportage, but, for me, the more serious question is what, if anything, positive comes out of it?

        If it just provides more fuel for the fire of conspiracy theorists, it doesn’t help the left at all, it increases the political nihilism that makes any kind of political organizing difficult. Yeah, the government lies, so what? That was the basis of my comment about getting lost in the weeds with Hersh, his articles lead me into the world of bureaucratic conspiracies and concealment. There’s nothing there that would encourage anyone to envision the world differently, and attempt to make that vision real.

      • Tarzie says:

        There’s nothing there that would encourage anyone to envision the world differently, and attempt to make that vision real.

        Yes, especially given that after years of reporting on things as horrifying as My Lai, MK Ultra and Abu Ghraib, he still obviously believes that the ostensible reasons for the GWOT are legit and that atrocity is even warranted, if it’s not stupid. That’s the essence of the co-opting left: reconciling horror with compliance. He’s a heat vampire extraordinaire.

        As for conspiracies, the more I look at this and discuss it, the more it looks like an attempt by the security apparatus to discipline Pakistan, for whatever reason. If you look at Hersh’s essay and interviews, it seems very likely. It’s Pakistan certainly being dragged through the mud here, with none of the understanding qualifying language Hersh generously applies to the Seals, Robert Gates and Obama. Even the CIA gets a pass for wanting to conceal the walk-in: standard procedure.

  9. Nell says:

    Well, they certainly are repetitive! I wasn’t thinking so much of the impact on the rubes as on friends who follow events closely but aren’t as inclined to call bullshit on the whole nine yards as I am. Some of them seem less mystified and put off by my usual response to events after a significant revelatory episode like this one. But the effect is often temporary, which is at least partly due to the fact that, as you say, information by itself isn’t what changes people.

  10. thombrogan says:

    That was some revolting stuff in the update.

    I’m very grateful that I was led here by Arthur Silber’s website and further that he elucidated the whole point of “intelligence” for criminally naïve people like me.

    Really enjoy your writing style and work you do to shovel against the permissible tide.

  11. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Airing out the dirty laundry of intelligence and special ops is an ingenious tactic in imperialist grassroots. Use legitimate grievances people have about the government to bolster your message. Blur the distinctions. Inject the demands of the people into pro-imperialist propaganda. It’s not as if there aren’t enough imperialist stooges like Hersh Greenwald Snowden and other assorted patsies to do their dirty work.

    This technique goes along with the softer non-violent imperialist practices we’ve seen since the empire began crumbling. Iraq and Afghan changed a lot of thinking among the imperialists. Those invasions and occupations were just too goddamned expensive, and they didn’t work. They needed a new way to control countries for neoliberal capitalism without the expense (and overt bombing which would bring too much dissent). You do that by using the people themselves – color revolutions, non-violent protests, funneling money to Islamicists or neoliberal NGOs or NeoNazis or other destabilizing groups and stirring up a toxic stew of factions, religious v. secular groups, varying demands, etc. Libya, Syria, now Ukraine. You can disintegrate a country from within, you don’t need shock and awe anymore. You keep your hands clean and it doesn’t cost as much.

    It’s the same tactic, only used in the media. Keep your hands clean by using Snowden, Greenwald (who himself is backed by an NGO finance capitalist), Scahill, Hersh, and anybody else who can reach the liberal imperialists and keep them corraled. Appeal to their own arguments about how wrong all this shit is. It provides the cover for the imperialist messaging.

  12. ernie says:

    You are implying that Pakistan will suffer instability, smeared, If it’s a score settled.

    It all seems petty, an office backbiting conspiracy. The uninformative mildly new information. The uncertain phrasing. The lack of any explosive evidence, merely an old man from ISI on deep background. Very hard to follow who is who.

    The question of Manning’s trial and how it plays into Osama’s Wikileaks reading is curious.
    That wasn’t even mentioned by Hersh or any of the other media, however. The media’s response and amplification has done more for this story and Hersh than the story itself. The whole spectacle reeks of a media orchestration. Hersh is not a placed agent working alone.
    And Amtrak blew it all away.

    I’ve thought about how interested Americans are in the GWOT and the case of Zero Dark Thirty. Hollywood refused to reward it when it wasn’t turning out all that popular. Americans (“The Rubes”) who approve of the GWOT do so out of patriotism or spite, not any lack of information. US liberals who opposed GWOT under Bush were just as misinformed then as now.

    I don’t have a pointed thesis like other commenters here. All of them have very interesting perspective on this story. These were just some thoughts swirling.

    • Tarzie says:

      Swirling thoughts are good thing. You raise some good issues.

      While I agree there’s nothing of substance in the way of info or evidence, I’m disinclined to think that the retired senior intel official responsible for over 90% of Hersh’s “blockbuster”, would take such pains for an internal squabble. It also doesn’t matter whether or not this has any impact on people in US, because the more I look at it, the more the intended audience appears to be some faction in Pakistan. According to Hersh, the government has already called for an investigation based on his story. That’s a pretty big impact all by itself.

      It’s a mistake to see media events like these as succeeding or failing base on their initial impact, or to attempt to glean their purpose from how successful they are. The ruling class is always building a story that it drums into people’s heads by repetition. This is just one of the first iterations. That’s how marketing works.

      • ernie says:

        I don’t feel so disgusted with Hersh because I don’t expect much from him. When he soft pedals the issue of his best employer, TheNewYorker, not publishing this latest hot take, it seemed natural that he doesn’t bite the hand that feeds him. I’m wondering where all this is headed, when willl it become something I can put hooks into. If it’s just one piece of propaganda, then I can expect either the tone is the real message or there is more Osama news coming back to haunt us. I guess it’s a little entertaining but it’s a lot of creeps.

      • Tarzie says:

        Yes of course Hersh doesn’t bite the hand that feeds him. That was my point. Showboatingly candid when it doesn’t cost him anything, painstakingly diplomatic when it does. Like all the people he is supposed to be such a refreshing departure from. He could have surely said, y’know I really wasn’t crazy about that first New Yorker piece, but the reporter worked with what he had. Instead he dressed down the interviewer for even asking.

        Disgust is entirely beside the point. I don’t write this stuff to get the measure of people’s worth. Disgust is a by-product and people I expect nothing from provoke it as much as people from whom I expect better. My disgust is less for Hersh, though, than people who habitually refuse to see these people for what they are.

        You may never be able to put hooks into this, but you might get closer to understanding it if you entertain the possibility that whatever swill is being sold here, you’re not the intended buyer. To me it’s meaningful that the senior intel official and the Pakistani sources hurl much more mud at Pakistan and Saudi Arabia than at the US. Pakistan gets it particularly hard in the face, depicted as taking bribes from Saudi Arabia to keep Bin Laden safely hidden away then conspiring with the US to murder him. In other words, limitlessly corrupt.

      • babaganusz says:

        Disgust is a by-product and people I expect nothing from provoke it as much as people from whom I expect better.

        ain’t humanity a laugh-riot?

  13. Hieroglyph says:

    “And the President we have now, who is hanging tough in Iran is a different person, and telling the Republicans to go stick it where the sun don’t shine. This is a different person.”

    I guess this is sorta an aside, so maybe best not to put too much weight on it. Still. If I understand it right – and maybe I don’t – Hersh is giving Obama a little praise for not invading Iran. Standing up to Republicans to boot. Is this where we are? Giving out praise for NOT invading somewhere, and sticking to the Nuremberg principles of non-aggression. This wouldn’t seem to me to be terribly praise-worthy. Leaders should never order pre-emptive invasion, after all. It should be a no-brainer, a default position: don’t invade anyone. But that’s not the default position in America anymore. Maybe I’m being too harsh on Obama then? I don’t know. I suspect Iran is the weird end-game in the dark day-dreams of these neoliberals, and the timing is just wrong, something Obama can do little, if anything about. As ever, who knows? But it is telling that Nuremberg principles are now, it seems, just for losers.

    As to the single source Hersh is relying on, scepticism is warranted. I stopped watching Democracy Now for several reasons, one of which was the fact that ‘ex’ CIA types were often interviewed. There is no such thing as ex-CIA, unless they are dead. These people were doing their job – which is working for the CIA. Why DN were interviewing them was a mystery.

    Aslo – wasn’t OBL just a shady financier with links to several Governments, including the US? The evidence against him was always somewhat thing, which is I guess why they shot him, rather than return him for trial. Wonder if Deep Throat mentioned that, too?

    • Tarzie says:

      Giving out praise for NOT invading somewhere, and sticking to the Nuremberg principles of non-aggression. This wouldn’t seem to me to be terribly praise-worthy.

      To me either, but you know how we’re purists around here.

      These people were doing their job – which is working for the CIA. Why DN were interviewing them was a mystery.

      I feel kinda the same way. I think people that look at this stuff less critically always see the official sources for people like Hersh or DN as dissident factions within the apparatus operating in good faith, whereas I am completely won over to Chomsky’s view that even when they tell the truth, there’s a reason why.

      which is I guess why they shot him, rather than return him for trial. Wonder if Deep Throat mentioned that, too?

      I think the story Hersh gives says Pakistani cooperation was contingent on killing him, which is an awfully nice alibi for the States. Gonna have to reread it. Sounds fishy, certainly. There is absolutely no way the US would have let Bin Laden stand trial.

    • Richard Estes says:

      “I stopped watching Democracy Now for several reasons, one of which was the fact that ‘ex’ CIA types were often interviewed. There is no such thing as ex-CIA, unless they are dead. These people were doing their job – which is working for the CIA. Why DN were interviewing them was a mystery.”

      DN appears to exist to give a leftist gloss to people who are easily proven not to be leftists. One need only look at the number of appearances for Gore Vidal and Chalmers Johnson. While both had many worthwhile things to say about the US, Vidal characterized the pre-14th Amendment US fondly and Johnson was an isolationist analogous to Pat Buchanan, absent the racism and homophobia.

      This perpetual dressing of anti-establishment figures in the garb of leftism is a real problem, more important to me than whether they are overt or covert agents of US capitalism. Of course, Greenwald is the most compelling contemporary example, a self-described, publicly proclaimed libertarian who makes a living off a liberal to left audience. If you can’t distinguish your allies from your enemies and street corner bystanders, you aren’t going to get very far politically.

      • Tarzie says:

        I can’t really agree with the embargo you think DN should put on people who either aren’t leftist or your idea of one. I certainly don’t see everyone who comes on DN as of the left. I think Goodman herself is a liberal more or less. I don’t think leftists need to restrict their discourse to leftists. Gore Vidal considered himself a socialist and whatever his faults were, I think a lot of what he wrote was extremely useful. Same for Chalmers Johnson. I honestly don’t know what you’re prescribing here, but it sounds kinda limiting to me. I find DN’s general conformism and dearth of real radicals a bigger problem.

        Greenwald is the most compelling contemporary example, a self-described, publicly proclaimed libertarian who makes a living off a liberal to left audience.

        He denies this and I think with some basis. He claims he never said he was a libertarian and if you look at what he’s advocated over the years he seems best described as a hybrid of libertarian and liberal, which is I think what more and more people describing themselves as left these days are. Greenwald refuses to categorize himself as anything, on the grounds that these labels are largely meaningless. Source.

        Greenwald’s contribution to normalizing these hybrid politics as left, even radical, is among the things I find so pernicious about him. It narrows the spectrum by being incompatible with a more traditionally radical politics. He clearly has complete contempt for traditional radicals and he and his followers habitually reframe traditional radical politics as “pseudo-radical” posturing when they come into conflict with it.

      • Richard Estes says:

        Apologies for droning on and on, but I agree with you about Vidal and Johnson, much of what they said was very useful as I suggested. I have a great appreciation for both, especially Johnson for his willingness to acknowledge that he was wrong about the Vietnam War. But I don’t think that either was left in a way that relates to contemporary anti-capitalist movements.

        I concede that I may be in error, but my perception is that there is a left tendency to equate anti-imperialism with anti-capitalism and uncritically embrace figures like Vidal, Johnson and Greenwald. Consistent with this is the tendency of some US leftists to defend Putin, Assad and the Iranian regime on the ground that they oppose US hegemony.

        Of course, they do, but all 3 are repressive and, in the case of Putin, crony capitalistic. Leftists should accordingly oppose both US expansionism and these regimes, as others do. In regard to Vidal, Johnson and Greenwald, the challenge is to extract from them what is helpful without necessarily seeing them as ideological allies. So, in this regard, my interest is not so much in asserting that DN should adopt more rigorous gate keeping standards, but, rather, a hope that listeners will carefully evaluate what they hear on the program. If they already do, great.

        As for Greenwald, I plead guilty to one count of blog comment posting exaggeration, although I doubt that he would support economic measures of income redistribution, if not property confiscation, that would be necessary to reverse the malign effects of 40 years of neoliberalism.

      • Tarzie says:

        I think this left you speak of that uncritically supports repressive anti-US regimes is largely an internet urban legend. A lot of leftists simply do not feel obliged to trumpet messages about official enemies that the US propaganda machine has more than covered. I also think imperialism is an area where a tactical lesser-evilism makes sense.

        To say the US should not enforce a No Fly Zone over Syria does not equate to support for Assad except to people who are either smearing or performing their virtuous lefty consistency. Not my kinda people. I’ll take an Assad-loving tanky any day, if such a thing exists. In any event, I don’t think there is much that affects outcomes less than how lefties feel about Putin or Assad or any other foreign policy matter. Which is why I find the way lefties dress each other down over this shit mostly ridiculous.

        I don’t see anyone who cares enough about capitalism or imperialism to bother to equate them. I see both anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism being very successfully erased from the post-Occupy left, with tremendous assistance from celebrity lefts like Greenwald. I don’t think Greenwald *is* anti-imperialist any more than he’s anti-capitalist. But there’s a common equation for you: handwringing over drones = anti-imperialist.

        Of course lack of support for income distribution does not equate to libertarian. I think libertarian-liberal hybrid is much more accurate for a politics that appears to be anti-austerity to some extent. In any event, my main disagreement was over his own self-description. You’re not the first person to tell me he describes himself as a libertarian. It’s quite common and I am very curious why that is.

      • Richard Estes says:

        I didn’t support US/EU intervention in Libya, nor do I support it in Syria. I’m at a loss why Qaddafi was removed, he was very cooperative with the US, Italy and the UK.

        But I’m not convinced of the lesser evilism that you suggest. Putin’s Russian Republic is unabashedly capitalist, the problem for the US seems to be that it refuses to accept a subordinate position. Iran will soon have access to G-20 foreign direct investment and Syria assisted the US in Iraq, if I remember correctly. Can’t one can criticize these regimes without recycling US propaganda against them?

        Your assessment of Greenwald is incisive, it is indeed a leap of faith to assume that he is anti-imperialist and I agree that he has played a prominent role in the domestication of the post-Occupy left. I also agree that one can oppose income redistribution without being a libertarian, just look at the Democratic Party.

        As you say, Greenwald’s hybridity is pernicious, and points toward a danger on the anti-authoritarian left. For example, anarchism has an allure because it balances egalitarianism with individuality within a collective social structure. In other words, no vanguard and no proletarian dictatorship. While I believe that this is a necessary evolution, there is a peril that these values can be manipulated so as to transform anarchism into a movement that diminishes the importance of class and provides a lifeline for survival to the middle class if things get really bad.

        For me, the appeal of Greenwald’s hybridity could be part of a process by which this takes place, the emergence of figures that present the prospect of a left that limits itself to the recovery of lost bourgeois power.

        Oh, why did I think Greenwald was a libertarian? Sadly, I must admit that it was probably because some Democrats told me so.

      • Tarzie says:

        Can’t one can criticize these regimes without recycling US propaganda against them?

        Yes certainly. But generally I think left agony over foreign policy is pointless, and straining to distinguish oneself from those who might endorse Putin particularly so. If there’s any area where what lefts think matter, it isn’t foreign policy. And even if what we thought did matter, we’d still have 0 influence over Putin or Assad. So it’s kinda like when Israel says “what about [whomever].” A legit answer is, I am not, by way of my government, subsidizing [whomever], which is among the many reasons why I can’t possibly do anything about them.

        Not gonna engage on the peril of anarchism — this week’s reserve of patience for that is used up — except to say that the relationship of anarchism to Greenwald escapes me entirely and you needn’t spell it out for me. I marvel that state lefts are lately so often going on about the perils of anarchism. Putting aside that this is certainly a conversation that can wait until anarchists or state socialists have any fucking influence at all, that is truly as self-unaware and ahistorical as it gets where movements going sour are concerned. As to the present, looks to me like social democrats — including the ones that call themselves socialists — have done the heavy lifting on erasing class from our discourse. It’s already a fait accompli by my lights and anarchists very obviously had nothing to do with it.

      • mickstep says:

        “Putin’s Russian Republic is unabashedly capitalist”

        I don’t think that is the case, perhaps it is abashedly capitalist. Unabashed capitalism would have privatized everything and sold it off to foreign multinationals, like under Yeltsin. They certainly wouldn’t have doubled down on their system of dashas (free land for any citizen who wants it to grow vegetables) as opposed to selling all their farmland off to large agro corporations.

        An anarchist utopia Russia is not, but they have certainly resisted the privatize everything for short term profit fire sale fever that has swept Europe.

      • Richard Estes says:

        Just to be clear, I am supportive of anarchism and the anti-authoritarian left as I see the participants in these efforts as the most effective people seeking plausible alternatives to capitalism. But, precisely because of that, I am fearful of the prospect that there will be efforts to capture these movements and lead them away from their original intention.

      • babaganusz says:

        “tanky”? i suspect i missed a memo.

      • Tarzie says:

        slang for unapologetically stalinoid marxists.

      • babaganusz says:

        You’re not the first person to tell me he describes himself as a libertarian. It’s quite common and I am very curious why that is.

        perhaps one of G’s retorts about how the Cato Institute gathers from a broad palette, via a round or two of Telephone.

  14. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    I’m at a loss why Qaddafi was removed, he was very cooperative with the US, Italy and the UK

    Economic nationalism.

    Syria – secular nationalism

    Yugoslavia – social democracy

    1980s Afghanistan – PDPA, leftist government

    The correct orientation for me is to support Putin against U.S. imperialism. But then I’m a Leninist. 🙂 My ultimate #1 goal is to see U.S. imperialism destroyed. Yeah Russia is a large regional bourgeois capitalist state. Nobody’s going to argue that this brings its own set of problems to the working class in RF. But the #1 threat in the world today is not Putin. It’s not Assad and it’s not the Iranian leadership. It’s U.S. imperialism.

    And you can see this confusion among anti-imperialists. Confusion about “aren’t we supposed to hate on Russia and hate on Putin because ‘repressive regime.'” Because Russia is capitalist. Because Putin’s a bourgeois leader. (Sorry I don’t go in for “crony” capitalism just because to me it’s all capitalism, dressing it up as crony, disaster, creative, corporate, whatever capitalism always seemed like liberal apologism for it.)

    You don’t have to like Putin, but he and his country have been provoked with this serious threat of imperialism coming into his backyard and throwing a coup.

    I actually have a lot of respect for Assad. This guy’s been fighting to keep his country together for four years against imperialists. He continues to have the support of a majority of Syrians. He’s offered numerous concessions to the imperialists including changing their constitution and having multi-party elections. Of course it’s not enough for the imperialists because it was never going to be enough. They don’t want concessions, they want his head on a platter. They’re also having conniptions because of Russian aid and partnerships with Syria and Iran.

    But I’m in the tarzie camp on this. I hear enough anti-Putin commentary in the mainstream media. The anti-Assad commentaries, the anti-Iran comments. We’re bombarded with it. Christ how has Putin survived this long given the supposed savagery, butchery, and authoritarian dictatorial rule he’s been purported to engage in. The man must have a food taster.

    Unfortunately for the U.S,, the sanctions haven’t turned the people of RF against Putin. His popularity is at an all-time high since 2008 so there may not be a “spontaneous” color revolution on the horizon to get him out of office. Too bad, I guess we won’t be seeing any doctored photos in the MSM of Russians starving in the streets.

    My allegiance is against U.S. imperialism. With the people of these countries to exercise their right to self-determination and with their leaders to protect their sovereignty against imperialism.

    • Tarzie says:

      Thanks GTI. I stop short of admiring Assad or Putin, but with you generally. US imperialism is the worst thing in the world geopolitically speaking.

      For laughs:

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        Oh wow. How do people respond to this stuff? LOL.

        It’s difficult with these new global alliances. Putin and Assad are no doubt engaged in some counterrevolutionary shit, there’s repression and oppression of the working class. But grabbing Ukraine is a huge danger to Russia and the working classes everywhere. Destroying Syria contributes to more profits and superprofits and hurts oppressed people everywhere. The alliances between Russia, Iran, Syria, China, and DPRK are scaring the imperialists.

        ETA: I opened a twitter account to follow you and a couple other closed twitter feeds. (@redswimmer99). Do I just tweet to you to start seeing your comments?

      • Tarzie says:

        You have to follow me.

    • mickstep says:

      I’m going to take my anarchist hat off for a second.

      While I’d hold my respect for Assad, as he happily tortured people for the US empire’s benefit. I do respect Putin’s resistance to imperialism, I think without Putin’s leadership the life of an average Russian would be serfdom and he has clearly turned that shit around.

      If I was a Russian, I would vote for him, but my ideals lie elsewhere, in committee based democracy and sustainable agriculture.

      • piman says:

        “If I was a Russian, I would vote for him”

        Putin, the rich man, ex secret-police boss, the butcher of Grosny, elitist with autocratic tendencies. You would take your anarchist hat off and vote for this man? That’s some tactical alliance (or whatever it is).

        What I see are pages and pages of comments starting with the “we’re countering western propaganda” line. That they talk to themselves is painfully ignored. A few comments in someone will mention land reform as if this was something other than a concession, a consolidation of power over the real money. RT is linked, then Vinesaker, then Russian sources are credited with more substance than our own propagandists. Grozny was the CIAs fault. LGBT rights are quantatively better in Russia – here’s a link to RT. Soon you have a friggin love fest of bollox that amounts to propaganda for Putin.

        I have learnt much reading Tarzie, Mickstep and GTI so I am questioning my position but my idiotically simple worry is:

        How can we ever hope to overcome the rule of murderous elites by applauding murderous elites?

      • Tarzie says:

        I can’t offer any guidance. I’m not terribly knowledgable. Putin has always seemed like creep to me. My anarchist hat is on a little tighter, but again, I’m not that knowledgable.

      • mickstep says:

        I am just trying to empathise with the Russian position and his clear overwhelming popularity over there, in comparison to the complete lack neoliberalist opposition here I can see why they would vote for him when the alternative is the neoliberalist takeover every country in the EU is experiencing.

        It doesn’t offer much hope, I agree.

  15. babaganusz says:

    The New Yorker‘s stellar contribution

    …photoillustration by John Ritter

    born to coincide.

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